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Stocks Extend Rout, Oil Slides on China as Soros Warns of Crisis

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Global markets shuddered as turmoil emanating from China spread around the world and billionaire George Soros warned of a crisis.

Chinese shares fell 7 percent within a half hour of opening, triggering a full-day trading halt, after the central bank cut the yuan’s reference rate by the most since August. Other equity markets tumbled, with European shares falling the most since September and U.S. futures indicating a lower open. Commodities weren’t spared as crude headed for its lowest settlement in 12 years. Haven assets gained, with Treasuries rising for a sixth day, the yen reaching a four-month high and gold surging.

“China has a major adjustment problem,” Soros said Thursday at an economic forum in Colombo, Sri Lanka. “I would say it amounts to a crisis. When I look at the financial markets there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008.”

Contagion from China helped wipe $2.5 trillion off the value of global equities in the first six days of this year as the nation’s tolerance for a weaker currency is viewed as evidence that policy makers are struggling to revive an economy that’s the world’s biggest user of energy, metals and grains. The World Bank cut its global growth forecasts for this year and next as China’s slowdown prolongs a commodity slump and contractions endure in Brazil and Russia. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne plans to highlight a “dangerous cocktail” of global threats faces the British economy this year.

China

The Hang Seng China Enterprises gauge of mainland shares listed in Hong Kong tumbled 4.2 percent, its lowest close since October 2011. The Hang Seng Index dropped 3.1 percent.

The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 7.3 percent before trading was suspended. New circuit breakers, which kicked in on Monday, have been criticized by analysts for exacerbating declines as investors scramble to exit positions before getting locked in by the halts.

After the stoppage, the securities regulator announced rules to limit selling by major shareholders when a ban expires this week. The watchdog also held an unscheduled meeting on the tumbling stock market without coming to a decision on policy action, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

“The Chinese yuan is smack bang at the heart of concerns,” Chris Weston, chief market strategist in Melbourne at IG Ltd. “For risk assets to stabilize and sentiment to turn around, we are going to need a stable or even positive move in the Chinese currency. It’s clear that the market is becoming increasingly concerned by the global inflation outlook.”

The offshore yuan swung from a 0.3 percent gain to a 0.7 percent loss and back in the space of about 30 minutes in early activity in Hong Kong’s freely-traded market. It was subsequently 0.4 percent higher versus the greenback, while the onshore rate weakened 0.6 percent.

“We saw aggressive intervention in the offshore yuan market,” said Zhou Hao, an economist at Commerzbank AG in Singapore. “We don’t really understand the rationale behind the market movements in the past few days. Obviously, these movements have reminded us of the market rout last year.”

The central bank is considering new measures to prevent high exchange-rate volatility in the short term, according to people familiar with the matter.

China’s foreign-exchange reserves slid more in December than forecast, capping their first-ever annual decline, as authorities sought to prop up a weakening yuan.

Stocks

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slid 3.2 percent at 1:07 p.m. in London, as all but 10 stocks fell. Commodity producers and carmakers, among those with the most sales exposure to China, led declines.

Anglo American Plc tumbled 9.6 percent and ArcelorMittal slid 6.1 percent, dragging a gauge of miners to its lowest level since 2009. A measure of energy producers also fell to a near six-year low, with Royal Dutch Shell Plc dropping 6.2 percent, the most since August.

Daimler AG, BMW AG and Volkswagen AG each lost at least 4.5 percent, helping pull Germany’s benchmark DAX Index below 10,000 for the first time since October.

The VStoxx Index measuring volatility expectations in euro-area shares jumped 17 percent, heading for its biggest weekly advance since April.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost 2.2 percent, after the U.S. benchmark slipped Wednesday to its lowest level in three months.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index retreated 2.1 percent. Benchmark stock indexes in Australia, Japan, Singapore and Thailand all lost more than 2 percent.

Currencies

The yen, which has been the best-performing major currency so far this year amid the demand for safe-haven assets, rose as much as 1 percent to its strongest level since August versus the dollar.

The pound fell to the weakest level since June 2010, touching $1.4555. The U.K. currency slid 1 percent to 74.46 pence per euro. It has fallen every day this week against the dollar. Disappointing manufacturing and services data added to the view that the Bank of England will have to keep its benchmark interest rate lower for longer.

The Aussie tumbled 0.8 percent to 70.13 U.S. cents, and touched 70.09, its lowest since Oct. 2. It fell more than 3 percent through Wednesday, its worst start to any year since currency controls were scrapped in December 1983, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Commodities

The Bloomberg Commodity Index dropped 0.7 percent, headed for its lowest close since 1999.

West Texas Intermediate crude slid 3.3 percent to $32.86 a barrel, poised for the lowest settlement since February 2004. Crude supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for U.S. crude, climbed to an all-time high, government data showed Wednesday. Brent oil will slump to $30 in the next 10 days, according Nomura Holdings Inc., while UBS Group AG sees an oversupply pushing prices even lower.

Copper retreated 2.6 percent in London to the lowest since Nov. 24 and zinc slumped 3.6 percent. Cocoa for March delivery fell for a fifth day to an eight-month low on ICE Futures U.S. in New York. Gold rose as much as 0.8 percent to a two-month high of $1,102.85 an ounce.

Bonds

Yields on 10-year Treasury notes fell one basis points to 2.16 percent, after earlier touching the lowest since October. Japanese government bond futures advanced to a record high after 30-year notes were auctioned at a higher price than dealers forecast. South Korea’s 10-year yield fell to a record low as the weakening yuan dimmed the outlook for exports to China and North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, conducted on Wednesday, spurred demand for safer assets.

Germany’s 10-year break-even rate, a gauge of the market’s outlook for inflation, tumbled to the lowest level since February amid concerns that the rout in commodity markets would subdue price-growth.

The cost of insuring investment-grade corporate debt climbed to the highest since Oct. 6. The Markit iTraxx Europe Index of credit-default swaps on highly rated companies rose four basis points to 85 basis points. The Markit iTraxx Europe Crossover Index of default swaps on junk-rated companies jumped 16 basis points to 351 basis points, the highest since Dec. 15.

Emerging Markets

Energy producers led losses in developing-nation stocks, driving the MSCI Emerging Markets Index down 2.7 percent. Benchmark gauges in South Africa, Thailand, the Philippines and Abu Dhabi slid more than 2.5 percent and those for Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Qatar tumbled at least 3 percent. Russian markets were closed for a holiday.

A gauge tracking 20 emerging-market currencies dropped for a fifth day, headed for its longest losing streak since October. The rand in South Africa, which counts China as its biggest trading partner, tumbled 1.5 percent to a record low. Russia’s ruble slid 1.1 percent in offshore trading while Mexico’s peso and Brazil’s real slid at least 0.6 percent.

Bloomberg

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Crude Oil

Oil Prices Decline on Rising India COVID-19 Cases, U.S Inflation Concerns

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Global oil prices extended a decline on Friday following a 3 percent drop on Thursday as coronavirus cases rose in India, one of the world’s largest oil consumers.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, declined by 35 cents or 0.5 percent to $66.70 a barrel at 5 am Nigerian time on Tuesday while the U.S West Texas Intermediate (WTI) fell by 28 cents or 0.4 percent to $63.54 per barrel.

The commodity super cycle rally just hit a hard stop and the energy market doesn’t know what to make of Wall Street’s fixation over inflation and the slow flattening of the curve in India,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

The crude demand story is still upbeat for the second half of the year and that should prevent any significant dips in oil prices,” he added.

Prices dropped over a series of key economic data that stoke inflation concerns and forced experts to start thinking the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates to curb the surge in inflation.

An increase in interest rates typically boosts the U.S. dollar, which in turn pressures oil prices because it makes crude oil more expensive for holders of other currencies.

This coupled with the fact that India, the world’s third-largest oil consumer, recorded more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths for a second straight day on Thursday, dragged on the oil outlook in the near term.

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Brent Crude Rises to $69 on IEA Report

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Oil prices rose after the release of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA)  closely-watched Oil Market Report, with WTI Crude trading at above $66 a barrel and Brent Crude surpassing the $69 per barrel mark.

Prices jumped even though the agency revised down its full-year 2021 oil demand growth forecast by 270,000 barrels per day (bpd) from last month’s assessment, expecting now demand to rise by 5.4 million bpd. The downward revision was due to weaker consumption in Europe and North America in the first quarter and expectations of 630,000 bpd lower demand in the second quarter due to India’s COVID crisis.

The excess oil inventories of the past year have been all but depleted, and a strong demand rebound in the second half this year could lead to even steeper stock draws, the IEA said yesterday, keeping an upbeat forecast of global oil demand despite the weaker-than-expected first half of 2021.

However, the upbeat outlook for the second half of the year remains unchanged, as vaccination campaigns expand and the pandemic largely comes under control, the IEA said.

Moreover, the global oil glut that was hanging over the market for more than a year is now gone, the agency said.

“After nearly a year of robust supply restraint from OPEC+, bloated world oil inventories that built up during last year’s COVID-19 demand shock have returned to more normal levels,” the IEA said in its report.

In March, industry stocks in the developed economies fell by 25 million barrels to 2.951 billion barrels, reducing the overhang versus the five-year average to only 1.7 million barrels, and stocks continued to fall in April.

“Draws had been almost inevitable as easing mobility restrictions in the United States and Europe, robust industrial activity and coronavirus vaccinations set the stage for a steady rebound in fuel demand while OPEC+ pumped far below the call on its crude,” the IEA said.

The market looks oversupplied in May, but stock draws are set to resume as early as June and accelerate later this year. Under the current OPEC+ policy, oil supply will not catch up fast enough, with a jump in demand expected in the second half, according to the IEA. As vaccination rates rise and mobility restrictions ease, global oil demand is set to soar from 93.1 million bpd in the first quarter of 2021 to 99.6 million bpd by the end of the year.

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OPEC Expects Increase In Global Oil Demand Raises Members’ Forecast on Crude Supply

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The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) yesterday lifted its forecast on its members’ crude this year by over 200,000 bpd and now expects demand for its own crude to average 27.65mn bpd in 2021.

This is almost 5.2mn bpd higher than last year and around 2.7mn b/d higher than an earlier estimate of the group’s April production.

According to the highlights of the organisation’s latest Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR), OPEC crude is projected to rise from 26.48 million bpd in the second quarter to 28.7 million bpd in the third and 29.54 million bpd in the fourth quarter of the year.

The report also indicated a fall in Nigeria’s crude production from 1.477 bpd in February to 1.473, a difference of just about 4,000 bpd before rising again in April to 1.548 million bpd, to add 75,000 bpd last month.

OPEC stated that its upward revision of members’ crude was underpinned by a downgrade in the group’s forecast for non-OPEC supply, which it now expects to grow by 700,000 bpd to 63.6mn b/d against last month’s report’s projection of a 930,000 bpd rise to 63.83mn bpd.

The oil cartel projected that US crude output would drop by 280,000 bpd this year, compared with its previous forecast for a 70,000 bpd decline.

On the demand side, OPEC kept its overall forecast unchanged from last month’s MOMR, stressing that it expects global oil demand to grow by 5.95 million bpd to 96.46 million bpd this year, partly reversing last year’s 9.48mn bpd drop.

Spot crude prices fell in April for the first time in six months, with North Sea Dated and WTI easing month-on-month by 1.7 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

On the global economic projections, the cartel said stimulus measures in the US and accelerating recovery in Asian economies might continue supporting the global economic growth forecast for 2021, now revised up by 0.1 percent to reach 5.5 percent year-on-year.

This comes after a 3.5 percent year-on-year contraction estimated for the global economy in 2020.

However, global economic growth for 2021 remains clouded by uncertainties including, but not limited to the spread of COVID-19 variants and the speed of the global vaccine rollout, OPEC stated.

“World oil demand is assumed to have dropped by 9.5 mb/d in 2020, unchanged from last month’s assessment, now estimated to have reached 90.5 mb/d for the year. For 2021, world oil demand is expected to increase by 6.0 mb/d, unchanged from last month’s estimate, to average 96.5 mb/d,” it said.

The report listed the main drivers for supply growth in 2021 to be Canada, Brazil, China, and Norway, while US liquid supply is expected to decline by 0.1 mb/d year-on-year.

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