Canada's natural resources minister told delegates at the International Energy Forum in Kuwait that his country was on the cusp of becoming an "energy superpower." Canada ranks No. 6 in terms of global oil production, but much of its crude exists in the form of oil sands. European leaders are considering a measure that would classify oil sands as an environmental issue, prompting Canada to threaten to take the issue to the World Trade Organization. With the U.S. political system in a deadlock over Canadian crude, the Ottawa government is now working to convince the international community that the global market is in jeopardy if polices "discriminate against oil sands."
Every time we see oil prices go up we hear that it will cause inflation and/or the economy will go into the tank. The premise is wrong because that has never happened.
A few days ago, before the latest breakout in crude sent Brent to all time highs in GBP and EUR (and Asian Tapis in USD just shy of all time highs), we said that "we hope our readers stocked up on gasoline. Because things are about to get uglier. And by that we mean more expensive. But courtesy of hedonic adjustments, more expensive means cheaper, at least to the US government." This was due to recent news out of Iran "where on one hand we learn that IAEA just pronounced Iran nuclear talks a failure (this is bad), and on the other Press TV reports that the Iran army just started a 4 day air defense exercise in a 190,000 square kilometer area in southern Iran (this is just as bad). The escalation "ball" is now in the Western court." We were not surprised to learn that the "Western court" has responded in precisely the way we had expected. The WSJ reports: "The Pentagon is beefing up U.S. sea- and land-based defenses in the Persian Gulf to counter any attempt by Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. military has notified Congress of plans to preposition new mine-detection and clearing equipment and expand surveillance capabilities in and around the strait... The military also wants to quickly modify weapons systems on ships so they could be used against Iranian fast-attack boats, as well as shore-launched cruise missiles" Which means the escalation slider was just shifted up by one more level, as Iran will next do just what every actor caught in an Always Defect regime as part of an iterated prisoners' dilemma always does - step up the rhetoric even more, as backing off at this point is impossible. Which means that crude will go that much more higher in the coming days, as now even the MSM is starting to grasp the obvious - from the Guardian: "The drumbeat of war with Iran grows steadily more intense. Each day brings more defiant rhetoric from Tehran, another failed UN nuclear inspection, reports of western military preparations, an assassination, a missile test, or a dire warning that, once again, the world is sliding towards catastrophe. If this all feels familiar, that's because it is. For Iran, read Iraq in the countdown to the 2003 invasion." And the most ironic thing is that the biggest loser out of all this, at least in the short-term is.... Greece.
An explicit contagion path chart, since you probably won't get info like this anywhere else...
The bearish sentiment following Moody’s overnight catch-up move to S&P failed to have a long-lasting effect on sentiment today. Instead, better than expected German ZEW, together with another well bid Italian debt auction saw equities stage an impressive rally which in turn lifted indices into positive territory. As a result, Bund futures are trading back below the 138.00 level, while peripheral bond yield spread are generally tighter on the session. The risk on sentiment also boosted the energy complex which saw WTI crude futures climb back above 101.00 level (note: Brent March future expiry). Looking elsewhere, EUR/USD advanced above 1.3200 level after triggering stops. Of note, intraday option expiries are seen at 1.3220 and then at 1.3300 (large). USD/JPY is up after the BoJ announced that it will undertake additional monetary easing action and expand its asset-purchase fund by JPY 10trl, while touted buying by Russian names also supported the pair this morning.
Stocks advanced today after Greek lawmakers finally approved a new austerity package aimed at averting a default. As a result, it now looks like that the country will get the next bailout tranche and avoid failing to meet debt redemptions in March. The draft legislation published by the Greek government showed that the EFSF may provide EUR 35bln to help Greece buy back bonds held by euro-area central banks as collateral, while Greek finance minister said that EUR 70bln in bonds are to be issued in the swap and Greece needs to make debt swap offer by Friday Feb 17th at the latest. Credit metrics such as Euribor and Euribor/OIS spreads continued to improve, which in turn supported financial sector. Looking elsewhere, comments from Iranian President Ahmadinejad over the weekend who said that Iran will soon reveal "very big new achievements" in its controversial nuclear programme, together with comments from China’s Wen who said the country will begin to fine tune its economic policies in the Q1 of this year supported both Brent and WTI crude prices today. Going forward, there are no major macro-economic releases this afternoon, but both the BoE and the Fed are due to conduct another round of Asset Purchases.
For months now we have been following US naval developments and deployments in the Arabian Sea, which serve one purpose and one purpose only - to demonstrate US military strength in the Straits of Hormuz region and to keep Iranian 'offensive passions' subdued. Yet never has the US had a total of three aircraft carrier groups in the vicinity, always topping out at 2 in the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, most recently these being the CVN-70 Vinson and CVN 72 Lincoln, with a third boat present merely until a rotation in or out of the theater of operations was complete. That is about to change, and with it the prevailing price of Brent, which we are confident is about to take a new step wise price higher as the US makes it all too clear what the endgame is, because as Naval Today reports, the "US navy to deploy third carrier group to Persian Gulf", probably the CVN-77 George H.W. Bush which departed Norfolk two weeks ago according to the most recent naval update, or any other Norfolk-stationed aircraft carrier: there is a wide selection to chose from.
Why anyone thinks that any one of a group of highly interlinked and interdependent countries heavily reliant on EU trade & toursim in a severe economic downturn facing harsh auterity measures may be doing well in the near to medium term is beyond me!
Previously we heard Pimco's thoughts on the matter of an Iranian escalation with "Pimco's 4 "Iran Invasion" Oil Price Scenarios: From $140 To "Doomsday"", now it is the turn of SocGen's Michael Wittner to take a more nuanced approach adapting to the times, with an analysis of what happens under two scenarios - 1) a full blown EU embargo (which contrary to what some may think is coming far sooner than generally expected), and the logical aftermath: 2) a complete closure of the Straits. The forecast is as follows: 1) "Scenario 1: EU enacts a full ban on 0.6 Mb/d of imports of Iranian crude. In this scenario, we would expect Brent crude prices to surge into the $125-150 range." 2) "Scenario 2: Iran shuts down the Straits of Hormuz, disrupting 15 Mb/d of crude flows. In this scenario, we would expect Brent prices to spike into the $150-200 range for a limited time period." The consequences of even just scenario 1 is rather dramatic: while the adverse impact on the US economy will be substantial, it would be the debt-funded wealth transfer out of Europe into Saudi Arabia that would be the most notable aftermath. And if there is one thing an already austere Europe will be crippled by, is the price of a gallon of gas entering the double digits. And then there are the considerations of who benefits from an Iranian supply deterioration: because Europe's loss is someone else's gain. And with 1.5 million of the 2.4 Mb/d in output already going to Asia (China, India, Japan and South Korea) it is pretty clear that China will be more than glad to take away all the production that Europe decides it does not need (which would amount to just 0.8 Mb/d anyway).
That the Fed's balance has hit another record high (and will do so for at least two more weeks) should come as a surprise to nobody. After all, when something is at a record and grows relentlessly, it is pretty safe to say next week will be another record. That said, there were several curious observations in this week's H.4.1 update. First and foremost is that the "other Fed assets" category just hit an all time high of $132.7 billion. This category, which is now larger than the GDP of Kuwait, is apparently so comprehensible and transparent to the hoards of FOMC precleared journalists, that for the second meeting in a row, nobody feels like asking a question about just what is contained in this asset class. We also hope that nobody attempts a correlation between the Other Fed Assets class and the S&P. Another notable thing is that as we suggested back in January, the amount of MBS prepays continues to drop and has slowed down to a trickle. Elsewhere, the Fed's excess reserves are once again back to chasing Bernanke's expanding asset class, with over $40 billion more in cumulative asset expansion since the start of QE Lite, than excess reserves. Lastly, looking at the Fed's custodial treasury holdings, there was another small decline in USTs held in proxy by the Fed: the first decline in 4 weeks, since the May 25 second biggest historic drop, discussed previously on Zero Hedge. Aside from these, it was smooth sailing for the Fed, where the average maturity of SOMA holdings declined just modestly from 61.6 to 61.5 months.
Third Government Set To Fall In A Week: Kuwait Cabinet Expected To Resign On Thursday "Over Questioning"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/30/2011 11:22 -0500
Following the fall of the Portuguese and Canadian governments (and don't get us started on Belgium), here comes the latest entrant to the anarchy club. Kuwait's cabinet is expected to resign on Thursday after lawmakers asked to question three ministers, parliamentary sources said on Wednesday. More from Reuters: "The sources said that the cabinet was set to submit its resignation after lawmakers asked to question three ministers who are ruling family members, including the oil exporter's energy minister, who is also the information minister." After all what better way to avoid answering questions in a bona fide "democracy" than to take down the entire government. But this too is bullish: "Ministerial resignations are frequent in Kuwait, which has the most outspoken parliament in the Gulf Arab region." In other words it was priced on. And furthermore, with a globalized corporatocracy long in charge of the world, receiving its lifeblood of endless money and cheap credit, who needs governments anyway.
Domino #2. If a peaceful protest results in tear gas, one wonders what the napalm content of the response would be if anyone makes any false moves. "Kuwait riot police fired tear gas Friday to break up a small, peaceful demonstration by stateless Arabs who were demanding greater rights in the oil-rich Gulf nation. Besides Kuwait, protests were also expected Friday in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, while tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators also took to the streets of the poorest nation in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen."
Newsflow tomorrow is going to be heavy as Saudi, Yemen, Kuwait and Bahrain all prepare for protests. And if today's actions are any harbinger of what to expect, there will be serious unrest, quite possible turning violent even lethal. The wildcard still continues to be Iran, also a hotbed of recent protest, which has so far not made much noise about the crackdown on Shi'ites in the wealthy Saudi kingdom. Reuters summarizes what to look forward to: " Arab uprisings that have spread to the conservative Gulf region face a crucial test this week in Saudi Arabia where activists have made unprecedented calls for mass protests against the kingdom's absolute monarchy. Protests are planned in other Gulf countries such as Yemen, Kuwait and Bahrain on Friday, the region's weekend. The time after Friday prayers has proved to be crucial in popular uprisings that have brought down Tunisian and Egyptian rulers who once seemed invulnerable. More than 32,000 people have backed a Facebook call to hold two demonstrations in the country, the first of them on Friday. Saudi police dispersed a protest by a Shi'ite minority in the OPEC member's oil-producing Eastern province near Bahrain on Thursday with one to four people wounded as shots were heard, witnesses said." Furthermore, as we disclosed earlier, the Fed may have made a major error by not conducting a market stabilizing POMO tomorrow - arguably the day it will be needed more than ever. Those so inclined are urged to put on some fat tails insurance ahead of tomrrow's events which will most certainly result in some very violent swings in either direction.
Oil Breakout Alert - Kuwait, World's Fourth Largest Oil Exporter, Joins Demonstrations Demanding Regime ChangeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/08/2011 07:18 -0500
Crude dropped overnight, after the FT joined the BBC in the "False Rumor Spreading Korner", after the Libyan Investment Authority held newspaper said some OPEC members are looking to raise oil output to avoid any supply shortfalls. Too bad that just like every other previous rumor-based attempt to drive oil lower, this one was refuted within minutes by the same OPEC members that were allegedly boosting their capacity (which does not exist in the first place). Perhaps if the FT had read the note sent out at midnight by Goldman's David Greely, which noted that there is virtually no spare OPEC capacity left, they would have known why they should have come up with a more credible rumor: like Gaddafi committing suicide after watching the latest episode of Sheen's Korner. So much for the rumor mill. Now on to facts, where instead we see a development which threatens to send oil surging far higher. Reuters reports that formerly peaceful Kuwait has just joined the ranks of demonstrators, demanding the resignation of the prime minister in a peaceful protest early in the day, with a larger one expected later in the day: "Kuwaitis demonstrating outside parliament for the prime minister's ouster came up with a new symbol of Arab discontent on Tuesday by handing out watermelons. "This is for the parliament's poor performance," one of the small band of protesters shouted as he gave a watermelon to a lawmaker making his way into the parliament. The significance was not spelled out, but in local parlance, a person who has a lack of understanding or holds an unrealistic point of view sometimes is called a watermelon. A potentially larger rally was expected later, inspired by spreading Arab protests that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt before sparking the insurrection in Libya and spreading to other Gulf countries including Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia." Kuwait, for those keeping track, is the 4th largest oil exporter in the world.