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Oil Bear Market Attracts Record Bets on Further Price Slide

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Oil

Hedge funds have gone all-in on lower oil prices, counting on seasonal weakness to play out again this year.

Money managers increased wagers on declining crude prices to a record as futures dropped to the lowest in more than three months. U.S. crude inventories climbed for a second week as imports arrived at the fastest pace since 2012. The supply gain comes on the cusp of seasonal refinery maintenance that will curb crude demand. Futures have declined in each of the past five Septembers.

“We’re are entering a period of seasonal maintenance, which should put some downward pressure on prices,” said Scott Roberts, co-head of high yield investments and manager of $2.7 billion at Invesco Advisers Inc. in Atlanta.

Hedge funds increased their short position in West Texas Intermediate crude to 218,623 futures and options combined during the week ended Aug. 2, the highest in data going back to 2006, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

WTI closed 22 percent below its June peak on Aug. 1, meeting the common definition of a bear market. It dropped 7.9 percent to $39.51 a barrel in the report week. Prices were up 1.9 percent at $42.61 as of 8:36 a.m. on Monday.

U.S. crude supplies rose to 522.5 million barrels as of July 29, the highest seasonal level in decades, Energy Information Administration data show. Imports climbed to 8.74 million barrels a day, the most since October 2012.

Refinery Rates

Refineries operated at 93.3 percent of capacity in the week ended July 29, the highest since November. Refiners typically bolster their operations in June and July to meet peak gasoline demand before ratcheting back in August. Over the past five years, refiners’ thirst for oil has dropped an average of 1.2 million barrels a day from July to October.

“Refinery margins are weak, global demand growth is decelerating and there’s upcoming seasonal weakness for both crude demand and product demand,” Mike Wittner, head of oil market research at Societe Generale SA in New York, said on Bloomberg Television Aug. 4. “To me it has a taste of the classic autumn downturn.”

Technical factors are also weighing on crude prices. WTI settled below the 50, 100 and 200-day moving averages on Aug. 1 for the first time since February.

The market has further to fall before hitting key support, according to Paul Ciana, a technical analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. “We need to form a bottom in the mid-to-upper $30s before we move back towards $52.”

Bearish Bets

Money managers’ short position in WTI rose 38,489 futures and options and have almost doubled in the past three weeks, CFTC data show. Longs, or bets on rising prices, increased 1.6 percent, while net longs dropped 28 percent to the lowest since January.

In the Brent market, money managers trimmed bullish bets by 28,148 contracts in the week, according to data from ICE Futures Europe. Bets that prices will rise outnumbered short positions by 260,388 lots, the least since January, the London-based exchange said.

In other markets, net-bearish bets on gasoline fell 20 percent to 4,081 contracts. Gasoline futures fell 2.5 percent in the report week. Net-long wagers on U.S. ultra low sulfur diesel dropped 44 percent to 7,163 contracts. Futures slipped 5.1 percent.

Reversal Higher

Not everyone is on the bearish bandwagon.

The influx of bearish bets from money managers may leave the market vulnerable to a rebound. The past three peaks in short bets have been followed by price gains ranging from 29 percent to 95 percent.

The oil market is poised for a “violent reversal” upward, oil trader Andy Hall wrote to investors in his Stamford, Connecticut, hedge fund, Astenbeck Capital Management LLC. “Funds have made a significant amount of money getting short oil in the last few weeks and people will want to take some profits off the table as we approach levels which will only accelerate U.S. production declines.”

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Energy

Presidency Set to Roll Out 2,700 CNG-Powered Vehicles Ahead of Tinubu’s Anniversary

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BOC Gases Nigeria Plc - Investors King

In a significant move toward a greener and more sustainable future for Nigeria’s transportation sector, the Presidency has announced plans to launch approximately 2,700 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)-powered buses and tricycles before May 29, President Bola Tinubu’s first year in office.

The ambitious initiative, spearheaded by the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, aims to address pressing issues of rising fuel costs, environmental pollution, and the need for more efficient mass transit options across the country.

With the impending rollout, Nigeria is poised to take significant strides towards joining the league of nations that have embraced CNG as a viable alternative fuel source for public transportation.

The move comes as part of the Presidential CNG Initiative, launched by President Tinubu in October 2023, shortly after the removal of petrol subsidy.

The Presidential CNG Initiative, designed to deliver cheaper, safer, and more climate-friendly energy options, has been allocated a substantial budget of N100 billion from the palliative budget.

This funding will support the purchase of 5,500 CNG vehicles, including buses and tricycles, along with 100 electric buses and over 20,000 CNG conversion kits.

Also, the initiative encompasses the development of CNG refilling stations and electric charging stations nationwide, ensuring that the infrastructure is in place to support the transition to cleaner energy sources.

Mr. Onanuga emphasized that all necessary preparations have been made for the delivery of the first set of critical assets for deployment and launch of the CNG initiative ahead of the first anniversary of the Tinubu administration.

Approximately 2,500 tricycles are expected to be ready before May 29, 2024, with plans to deliver 200 units of buses within the same timeframe.

The deployment of CNG buses and tricycles marks a significant milestone in Nigeria’s energy transition journey.

It not only reduces the country’s dependence on traditional fossil fuels but also contributes to mitigating environmental pollution and improving air quality in urban centers.

In addition to the rollout of CNG vehicles, the initiative includes partnerships with the private sector to establish conversion workshops and refueling sites across 18 states before the end of 2024.

These efforts underscore the collaborative approach taken by the government and industry stakeholders to facilitate the adoption of CNG technology and drive sustainable growth in the transportation sector.

As Nigeria prepares to celebrate President Tinubu’s first year in office, the rollout of 2,700 CNG-powered vehicles stands as a testament to the government’s commitment to fostering innovation, promoting environmental stewardship, and improving the lives of its citizens through transformative initiatives in the energy sector.

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Commodities

IPMAN Anticipates Further Drop in Diesel Price to N700/Litre

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The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) is looking forward to another significant drop in the price of diesel, with expectations set on a target of N700 per litre.

This anticipation follows recent reductions initiated by the Dangote refinery, which has already seen the price of diesel decrease from over N1,200 to N1,000 per litre.

Hammed Fashola, the National Vice President of IPMAN, expressed this optimism on Wednesday, highlighting the association’s appreciation for the efforts made by the Dangote refinery to make diesel more affordable for consumers.

In an interview, Fashola reiterated IPMAN’s belief that the price of diesel could continue to decrease, especially with the recent rebound of the naira against the dollar.

Fashola stated the removal of various challenges associated with imported diesel, such as shipment costs, customs duties, and taxes, as significant factors contributing to the potential reduction in price.

With diesel now being produced locally, these obstacles have been eliminated, paving the way for lower costs for consumers.

“We still expect that diesel will still come down more. Because if you look at the dollar rate to the naira now, the currency is doing well against the dollar. The exchange rate now is almost N1,000 on the black market. We still expect that the dollar will come down more,” Fashola stated.

The IPMAN boss highlighted the collective support for Dangote and emphasized the importance of making diesel affordable for all citizens. He expressed gratitude for the recent price cuts initiated by the refinery and reiterated the association’s hopes for further reductions to benefit consumers across Nigeria.

Dangote Refinery, which began selling diesel about two weeks ago, has been instrumental in driving down prices. Initially, diesel was priced at N1,600 per litre, but it has since been reduced to N1,000 per litre.

This reduction has been welcomed by both consumers and industry experts, who see it as a positive step towards economic relief and increased economic activities.

Analysts have also weighed in on the potential benefits of lower diesel prices. Economist Femi Oladele highlighted the potential for reduced production costs, which could lead to lower prices for goods and services.

Also, savings in foreign exchange could bolster the nation’s reserves, contributing to economic stability.

Jonathan Thomas, an analyst at Sankore Investment Limited, emphasized the broader impact of fuel prices on the economy.

Lower diesel prices not only benefit consumers but also impact the total cost of production, thereby influencing the general price level of goods and services.

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Crude Oil

Oil Markets Hold Breath as Iran-Israel Tensions Mount

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Crude Oil - Investors King

Amidst escalating tensions between Iran and Israel, the global oil markets find itself in a precarious position, with traders and investors anxiously watching for potential ramifications on prices and supply dynamics.

The latest developments have cast a shadow of uncertainty over the already volatile energy sector, prompting a flurry of activity and speculation among industry players.

Last week marked a downturn for oil as Brent crude experienced its first back-to-back weekly decline of the year, slipping below $87 a barrel. This decline, coupled with the largest drop since early February, reflects the unease permeating through the market as geopolitical tensions in the Middle East reach a fever pitch.

The catalyst for this downturn stems from a series of events that unfolded in the region.

Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile strike on Israel sent shockwaves through the international community, triggering a swift response from Israeli authorities.

However, conflicting reports emerged regarding the severity of Israel’s retaliation, leaving traders grappling with uncertainty over the potential escalation of hostilities.

In response to the heightened tensions, the US House of Representatives passed new sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector, signaling a firm stance against the Islamic Republic’s aggressive actions.

With the measure now poised for Senate approval, the specter of further economic pressure on Iran looms large, raising concerns about potential disruptions to global oil supplies.

Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy for ING Groep NV, who commented on the surprising resilience of oil prices in the face of heightened risk and tension in the Middle East, noted that while the market remains vigilant, it appears unfazed by the current geopolitical climate, choosing instead to adopt a wait-and-see approach regarding the impact of US sanctions on Iranian oil flows.

Despite the prevailing sense of uncertainty, there are signs of bullish sentiment among money managers, who are increasingly positioning themselves to capitalize on any potential spikes in oil prices.

Oil call options, which profit from price increases, are trading at a premium over puts, indicating a belief among investors that the market could tilt in favor of higher prices amidst geopolitical turmoil.

Looking ahead, the focus shifts to a flurry of upcoming events that could further shape the trajectory of oil markets.

Investors eagerly await a slew of economic data from the United States, including key indicators such as the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, which will provide valuable insights into the future path of monetary policy.

Additionally, earnings reports from major oil companies, including TotalEnergies SE, Chevron Corp., and Exxon Mobil Corp., are set to be released this week.

These reports will offer a glimpse into the financial health of the industry giants and shed light on their production growth strategies amid a backdrop of geopolitical instability.

As tensions continue to simmer in the Middle East, the oil markets remain on edge, with every development closely scrutinized for its potential impact on prices and global energy security.

In this climate of uncertainty, traders and investors alike brace themselves for the next twist in this geopolitical saga, mindful of the far-reaching implications for the world’s most vital commodity.

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