International Energy Agency
One day after the SNB stunner roiled markets, overnight global markets have seen - as expected - substanial downward pressure, with the Swiss market slide resuming post open, while European stocks have seen some pressure despite what is now an assured ECB QE announcement next week. However, the one trade that can not be mistaken is the global rush into the safety of government paper, with every single treasury yielding less today than yesterday (the Swiss 10Y was trading below 0% at last check), except for Greek 10Y which are wider on deposit run fears. That said, with capital market liquidity absolutely non-existent even the smallest trade has a disproportionate effect on futures, and expect to see much more rangebound trading until the damage report from the SNB action is fully digested, something which will take place over the weekend.
If technology requires a complex society to build and maintain it, and our dreams and hopes are pinned on even more complex and useful technology in the future, but net energy from new oil plays is shrinking, then it might not be wise to pin all our hopes on technology. Perhaps there should be some other plans in the works too.
We are once more in the hands of Occam’s Razor, namely that oil prices are falling hard because demand is falling hard. The scale gives us insight into the nature of the slowing of the global economy, to which the US is a full part, meaning that comparisons only with past and serious downslopes is not a welcome development; nor should it be “unexpected.” Mainstream commentary seeks to reject this simple and basic argument because it cannot fathom, predicated on its penchant for nothing but parroting economic “authority”, that the world could fall so deeply into recession once more drowning not just in oil but also “stimulus.” Once you get past the idea that “stimulus” isn’t, logical sense is restored.
As the following snapshot from January 2009 shows, the 12 month, $25 contango back then was without precedent, and as a result there was an epic scramble by hedge funds, banks and various other speculators to store about 100 million barrels on tankers with the intention to sell later. Since the contango was so wide one could easily lease any number of VLCCs and still be profitable on the trade. In fact, a big reason for the renormalization of the crude curve back then was because so many funds jumped on this arb. Fast forward to today, because the "risk-free" contango trade is back.
Despite the widely held belief that 2015 will be the year in which a patient Fed finally begins to normalize rate policy, we believe the Fed has no possibility of withdrawing the stimulus to which it has addicted us. QE4 was always much more probable than anyone in government or on Wall Street cares to admit. A recession and a financial panic caused by sub $60 oil will significantly quicken the timetable by which the Fed cranks up the presses. When it does, oil could once again increase in price, along with all the other things we need on a daily basis. That should finally dispel any remaining illusions that the Fed could successfully land the metaphorical plane. More QE may minimize the damage in the short-term, but we believe it will keep us trapped in our current cocoon of endless stimulus, where we will slowly suffocate to death.
Deflation and the attendant risks caused by a sudden revelation about hidden debts will remain the chief concern for investors and policy makers in 2015
In space, no one can hear you scream... unless you happen to be Venezuela's (soon to be former) leader Nicolas Maduro, who has been doing a lot of screaming this morning following news that UAE's Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said OPEC will stand by its decision not to cut crude output "even if oil prices fall as low as $40 a barrel" and will wait at least three months before considering an emergency meeting.
Anyone who was hoping the market would rebound on last-minute news that the US government has gotten funding for another 9 months, will be disappointed this morning, when futures are finally starting to notice the relentless decline in crude, and with Brent down another 1% as of this writing following yet another cut in the forecast of Global oil demand by the IEA (the 4th in the last 5 months) and with Chinese industrial production also missing estimates (recall that the Chinese slow-motion hard landing has been said by many to be the primary catalyst for the crude collapse) which however pushed Chinese stocks higher on hopes of even more stimulus, the S&P is trading lower by some 14 points, the 10 Year is in the red zone at 2.12%, and the USDJPY is close to session lows. In short: Kevin Henry's "ETF" desk at the NY Fed will have its work cut out to generate one of the now traditional pre-weekend feel good, boost confidence stock market ramps.
We don’t see a whole lot of comprehension out there, so let’s try and link the obvious: employment to shale to plummeting oil prices to the debt the shale industry was built on (and which is vanishing). We know, people look at the US jobs report yesterday, and at the stock markets (Europe up some 2% across the board), and think salvation has landed on their doorstep, but the true story really is very different. We’ve been saying for weeks that lower oil prices would not be a boon but a scourge for the US economy, for several different reasons, and this is a big one. The losses to investors, the restructurings and bankruptcies, and perhaps even the bailouts, are a very much interconnected and crosslinked other. There’s no resilience – left – in a system like this, it bets all on red, and that makes it terribly brittle.
"This is a golden time window to acquire more strategic oil at lower costs," notes one Hong-Kong based analyst, as Bloomberg confirms what we have noted here and here, that China is emerging as the winner from OPEC’s battle with rival oil producers as the world’s biggest energy consumer stockpiles crude.
The oil industry is no longer what it once was, it’s not even a normal industry anymore. Oil companies sell assets and borrow heavily, then buy back their own stock and pay out big dividends. What kind of business model is that? Well, not the kind that can survive a 40% cut in revenue for long. Cheap oil a boon for the economy? You might want to give that some thought.
The precipitous decline in the price of oil is perhaps one of the most bearish macro developments this year. We believe we are entering a “new oil normal,” where oil prices stay lower for longer. While we highlighted the risk of a near-term decline in the oil price in our July newsletter, we failed to adjust our portfolio sufficiently to reflect such a scenario. This month we identify the major implications of our revised energy thesis. The reason oil prices started sliding in June can be explained by record growth in US production, sputtering demand from Europe and China, and an unwind of the Middle East geopolitical risk premium. The world oil market, which consumes 92 million barrels a day, currently has one million barrels more than it needs.... Large energy companies are sitting on a great deal of cash which cushions the blow from a weak pricing environment in the short-term. It is still important to keep in mind, however, that most big oil projects have been planned around the notion that oil would stay above $100, which no longer seems likely.
Russia finds itself in familiar territory after a controversial half-year, highlighted by the bloody and still unresolved situation in Ukraine. Nonetheless, the prospect of further sanctions looms low and Russia’s stores of oil and gas remain high. Shortsighted? Maybe, but Russia has proven before – the 2008 financial crisis for example– that it can ride its resource rents through a prolonged economic slump. Higher oil price volatility and sanctions separate the current downturn from that of 2008, but Russia’s economic fundamentals remain the same – bolstered by low government debt and a large amount of foreign reserves.
It was heinous. It was underhanded. It was beyond the bounds of international morality. It was an attack on the American way of life. It was what you might expect from unscrupulous Arabs. It was “the oil weapon” -- and back in 1973, it was directed at the United States. Skip ahead four decades and it’s smart, it’s effective, and it’s the American way. The Obama administration has appropriated it as a major tool of foreign policy, a new way to go to war with nations it considers hostile without relying on planes, missiles, and troops. It is, of course, that very same oil weapon.
Amid the recent weakness in stocks and strength in the USDollar, we are constantly reassured by talking heads that major stock market declines only happen during recessions. While that may be technically correct, perhaps it is worth pondering: "Did a recession cause the correction, or did the correction cause the recession?"