Following Obama's 9/11 bill veto defeat yesterday, and despite a surge in oil prices after a 'deal' was struck by OPEC, Saudi Arabia's markets are signaling panic in The Kingdom. Currency forwards are collapsing, default risk is jumping, and bank stocks are hitting record lows...
Mint's Bill Blain, in his Morning Porridge noted that last nights “surprise” OPEC agreement to agree to agree about talks on cutting oil production is fascinating. Not from the likelihood it may not ever happen, (the earliest we will know is the Vienna meeting in November), but what it tells us about how the sands are shifting around Saudi Arabia. Deliberate Saudi over-production caused the oil glut and was a policy designed to take out expensive US producers. Voodoo economics didn’t work – US producers cut and adapted, and the rest of the world hasn’t played along.
Last night’s agreement represents a fundamental shift in Saudi – a wake up and smell the camel-waste moment. The result is the kingdom is suffering rising twin deficits amounting to over 20% of GDP. As global oil revenues have tumbled on the back of crashing prices, Saudi faces a cash and spending crisis for which it’s largely unprepared. Social issues are mounting. The elites “salaries” have been slashed. It’s being forced towards the international debt markets – a massive deal is on the new issue stocks. My colleague Martin Malone expects to see Debt/GDP rise from 15% to 50%.
This is a picture we’ve seen before.
While Saudi won’t become Venezuela overnight.. are there parallels? Perhaps. Meanwhile, last night’s overturn of Obama’s veto on US citizens suing Saudi over 9/11 is very interesting – and potentially further trouble.
However, it does sound like Iran and Saudi are going to try to coordinate on oil supply. Despite the fact these two very different nations will disagree on absolutely everything, it’s in their mutual interest to do so. Oil analysts expecting a $10 rise in prices are pinning their hopes on Sunni/Shia rapprochement.
I’ve been looking at some research suggesting a seismic shift in Middle East investment into the US as a safe-haven on regional fears it won’t happen – meaning Saudi can’t just assume the global investor base will blithely fund its coming debt binge. That adds pressures for them to play nice with other pariah states, including Russia and China. And even the Iranians..
Or, other commentators suggest the big Middle East funds – the SWFs – could be obliged to channel funds to Saudi to preserve regional stability – therefore liquidating current US holdings..
The Saudi riyal fell against the U.S. dollar in the forward foreign exchange market on Thursday after the U.S. Congress voted to allow relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.
And as Reuters reports, any legal action could take years to wind through the U.S. court system, and analysts said there might be little if any impact on the Saudi economy or state finances. But the decision by Congress was an unwelcome reminder of political and financial pressures on Riyadh as low oil prices strain its budget.
Saudi Arabia has been preparing to make its first international issue of sovereign bonds next month to raise $10 billion or more, but some Gulf bankers said the issue might now be delayed to give investors time to digest the news.
Similarly, the legal threat could make Riyadh less likely to choose New York for a listing of shares in national oil giant Saudi Aramco. An offer of Aramco shares is expected as soon as 2017, possibly raising tens of billions of dollars, and Saudi officials have said they are considering several foreign bourses.
The Senate and House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to override President Barack Obama's veto of legislation granting an exception to the legal principle of sovereign immunity in cases of terrorism on U.S. soil.
This clears the way for attempts to seek damages from the Saudi government. Riyadh has denied longstanding suspicions that it backed the hijackers who attacked the United States in 2001. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
One-year dollar/riyal forwards - bets on Saudi devaluation - have soared to near 2016 highs...
And long-term forward points (a proxy for borrowing costs and The Kingdom's stability) have exploded...
Some analysts speculated that trade and investment ties between Saudi Arabia and the United States could be hurt. The kingdom owns $96.5 billion of U.S. Treasury bonds, according to the latest official U.S. data, and is believed to hold at least that sum in other U.S. assets and bank accounts.
"From a Saudi foreign ministry perspective, there will be a review of investment policy and that could move the kingdom down a different path, which could include diversification away from U.S. Treasuries," the Gulf banker said.
In May, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said the proposed U.S. law "would cause an erosion of investor confidence" in the United States, though he added that Riyadh was not threatening to pull its money out of the country.
Certainly, the fact that the largest bank in Saudi Arabia is crashing to record lows (with brokers citing loss of faith in the 2030 reform plans, rising defaults, and on top of the 9/11 bill blowabck, concerns over a possible new income tax)