Based on supply, demand and even after taking into account the geopolitical factor, we believe oil could experience a correction later this year and in the next three years or so.
Gold bullion remains supported, mostly due to a pickup in physical Indian and Chinese gold demand this week. There are expectations of sustained Indian consumption next week in the lead up to the Akshaya Tritiya festival later this month. Western physical buying remains unusually anaemic - for now. In recent years, April and May have been positive months for gold in terms of returns (see table above). April has returned 1.4% per annum in the course of the current bull market since 2000. May has returned 1.75% per annum in the course of the current bull market since 2000. Interestingly, the last month of Q1 and Q2, March and June, have been negative in terms of returns. March in particular has seen the poorest returns for any month in the last 11 years with average falls of 0.6%. Therefore the very poor performance of gold in March 2012 (-6.4%) may represent another buying opportunity as it did last year (see chart below) and in previous years.
UK and EU markets played catch up at the open this morning following Friday’s miss in the US non-farm payroll report. This coupled with on-going concerns over Spain has resulted in further aggressive widening in the 10yr government bond yield spreads in Europe with the Spanish 10yr yield edging ever closer to the 6% level. As a result the USD has strengthened in the FX market in a moderate flight to quality with EUR/USD trading back firmly below the 1.3100 and cable falling toward the 1.5800 mark. There was some unconfirmed market talk this morning about an imminent press conference from the SNB which raised a few eyebrows given the recent move in EUR/CHF below the well publicised floor at 1.2000, however, further colour suggested an announcement would be linked to the naming of Jordan as the full-time head of the central bank when they hold their regular weekly meeting this Wednesday. Elsewhere it’s worth noting that the BoJ refrained from any additional monetary easing overnight voting unanimously to keep rates on hold as widely expected. Meanwhile, over in China the latest trade balance data recorded a USD 5.35bln surplus in March as import growth eased back from a 13-month peak.
More pain in Spain has been the theme so far in the European morning as poor auction results across three lines has resulted in significant widening in the 10-yr government bond yield spreads over benchmark bunds with the Spanish 10yr yield up some 24bps on the day. In combination with this the latest Germany Factory orders also fell short of analysts’ expectations and as such the lower open in bund futures following yesterday’s less than dovish FOMC minutes has been completed retracted and we now sit above last Friday’s high at 138.58.
For every semi-positive data point the bulls have emphasized since the market rally began, there's a counter-point that makes us question what all the fuss is about. The bulls will cite expanding US GDP in late 2011, while the bears can cite US food stamp participation reaching an all-time record of 46,514,238 in December 2011, up 227,922 participantsfrom the month before, and up 6% year-over-year. The bulls can praise February's 15.7% year-over-year increase in US auto sales, while the bears can cite Europe's 9.7% year-over-year decrease in auto sales, led by a 20.2% slump in France. The bulls can exclaim somewhat firmer housing starts in February (as if the US needs more new houses), while the bears can cite the unexpected 100bp drop in the March consumer confidence index five consecutive months of manufacturing contraction in China, and more recently, a 0.9% drop in US February existing home sales. Give us a half-baked bullish indicator and we can provide at least two bearish indicators of equal or greater significance. It has become fairly evident over the past several months that most new jobs created in the US tend to be low-paying, while the jobs lost are generally higher-paying. This seems to be confirmed by the monthly US Treasury Tax Receipts, which are lower so far this year despite the seeming improvement in unemployment. Take February 2012, for example, where the Treasury reported $103.4 billion in tax receipts, versus $110.6 billion in February 2011. BLS had unemployment running at 9% in February 2011, versus 8.3% in February 2012. Barring some major tax break we've missed, the only way these numbers balance out is if the new jobs created produce less income to tax, because they're lower paying, OR, if the unemployment numbers are wrong. The bulls won't dwell on these details, but they cannot be ignored.
European stock futures have trended higher today in relatively light volumes as the market awaits key interest rate decisions (BoE & ECB) and with the deadline for the Greek debt swap deal looming. The latest talk this morning has been that the participation in the PSI deal has been well received and coupled with speculation of a Chinese RRR cut overnight and stops tripped in the E-mini S&P and Eurostoxx futures earlier this morning, contributed to a large portion of the move higher. As a consequence, the USD index has weakened (-0.5%) which has lifted the EUR/USD pair back firmly though the 1.3200 level to the upside and Brent/WTI crude futures are seen higher ahead of the NYMEX pit open. Looking ahead we await the ECB press conference as well as the latest jobs data from the US due at 1330GMT.
Stocks advanced as market participants looked forward to tomorrow’s 3yr LTRO by the ECB where the street expects EU banks to borrow around EUR 400-500bln. All ten sectors traded in positive territory for much of the session, however less than impressive demand for the latest Italian government paper saw equity indices lose some of the upside traction. Of note, the ECB allotted EUR 29.469bln in 7-day operation, as well as EUR 134bln for 1-day in bridge to 3yr loans. In other new, although Portugal's finance minister announced the country has passed its 3rd bailout review by the EU/IMF, this did not stop S&P's Kraemer saying that if there is a probability of default, it is higher in Portugal than in any other Euro-Zone country.
Today's Black Gold Swan - Presenting The Reason Why The CME's Crude Market Was Halted For Over One HourSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/13/2012 20:49 -0400
Earlier today, we reported on the extended halt of the CME Globex crude market, which following an errant trading pattern, did not quite crash, but did the next best thing - go offline for a full 75 minutes. Why did this happen? Our initial speculation was that this "may have been an algo gone berserk in advance of what may or may not have been a block order.... Someone take quote stuffing a little too far today?" It turns out we were not too far off. Below is Nanex visualization of just what occurred in those seconds between 13:59:57 and 14:04:55 when "a blast of quotes corrupted a memory queue causing the software to believe the queue was full all the time." In other words just under two years after the May 2010 flash crash, another algo may have been the reason for the halt in one of the world's most important markets. At least this time there was no 10% "correction." How long until there is, and when it does happen again, will it be limited to just 10%? Oh, and whatever you do, most certainly don't expect this little incident to be brought up ever again by those in control, for any precautionary measure to be taken, or for the SEC to ever get involved. Any of those three would immediately imply something is very wrong with the market. And that's simply not allowed.
A few days ago, Eric Sprott decided to take advantage of the record premium over NAV of his physical silver fund PSLV (or for some other arbitrary reason) and to issue a $300MM follow-on offering, whose proceeds would be used to buy up silver to add to PSLV's existing physical holdings. Naturally, as soon as the news broke, the premium dropped to about 10%, making PSLV holders unhappy. This is not the first time that Sprott has done this: as a reminder after his April 2011 follow on offering in PHYS, we were fully expecting a comparable physical sequestration to occur via PSLV, to wit: "It appears to have already had an impact on silver, which jumped by $20 cents to another 31 year high on the news, as the market now likely expects a follow on offering in PSLV as well imminently." About 10 months later, it finally happened. As was to be expected, any short-term gains focused investors obviously became angry that by collapsing the premium, which we speculated was shortage driven, they have suffered a hit to their P&L (expressed in dollars of course, which as a reminder to the holders, should be largely irrelevant, especially to those who believe a PM-based barter system is imminent). Yet they forget the flip side to the equation: the money taken out of the premium, would be promptly used to take silver out of (hyper hypothecated) circulation, in other words, in the closed system, the drop in Premium would translate in a rising price in the underlying. Which according to UBS is precisely what has happened, and why silver moved as much as it did. Quoting from FMX Connect: "Today’s incredible move was the culmination of a comment made by UBS analyst Edel Tully. He stated that hedge fund manager Eric Sprott may be in the market buying spot futures in a private letter to his clients." And even as the premium dropped, the price of spot silver increased by over 5%, on the speculation of silver being taken out of the market and delivered to Sprott.
Markets are quiet halfway through the European session as most are awaiting the outcome of the meeting between German Chancellor Merkel and French President Sarkozy in Berlin at 1230GMT. The meeting is likely to centre around Greece, as well as the PSI update that, according to the FT may see the holders of Greek bonds accept higher losses as the contentious negotiation over writing down Greece’s debt burden are due to be concluded soon. German Industrial Production figures for November came in roughly in line with expectations, with the German Economic Minister commenting that this measure is likely to remain subdued over the winter months. Data released from Switzerland today shows Retail sales performing much stronger than expected, showing strong consumer demand in Switzerland across November.
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).
NYMEX OIL, NATURAL GAS CONTRACTS REACH OPEN INTEREST RECORDS
Something is about to break. Everyone has moved from one side of the boat, to the other. What happens next is anyone's guess. And this happens just as the CME announced it is expanding its daily lock limits for crude trading from $10 to $20 just for the day. We are speechless at this update as there is no possible way to describe this as reasonable risk management.