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Oil Speculators Can’t Dump Rally Bets Fast Enough Amid Glut

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  • Oil Speculators Can’t Dump Rally Bets Fast Enough Amid Glut

The bullish sentiment following OPEC’s deal is almost all gone.

Hedge funds haven’t been so skeptical on rising West Texas Intermediate crude prices since Nov. 29, the day before the cartel agreed to cut output, according to U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data. Their net-long position, or the difference between bets on a price increase and wagers on a decline, has dropped 37 percent from a record touched last month as American crude production climbed, sending inventories to an all-time high.

“Things trend, and sentiment from the hedge funds has turned bearish,” Mike Wittner, head of commodities research at Societe Generale SA in New York, said by telephone. “People rushed into the market and their patience ran out, so they ran for the exits. They need a strong signal, and that will be U.S. stockpile draws, probably a few in a row, before they return.”

The net-long position on WTI dropped 9.8 percent in the week ended March 21, following a record fall in the previous week, according to the CFTC. WTI dipped 0.8 percent to $47.34 a barrel in the report week. The U.S. benchmark was trading down 0.3 percent at $47.85 as of 12:07 p.m. in Singapore on Monday.

“This is a market that’s very much on the defensive,” Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citi Futures Perspective in New York, said by telephone. “Although net length is greatly reduced, money managers still have a lot of net length. They still remain vulnerable to further price declines.”

The agreement between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and 11 non-OPEC producers to cut output for six months starting Jan. 1 helped spur a wave of buying. This optimism has crumbled with the resurgence of U.S. drilling rigs and mounting stockpiles in the world’s biggest crude consumer.

Market Fixation

U.S. crude stockpiles rose to 533.1 million barrels in the week ended March 17, the highest in weekly data going back to 1982, according to an Energy Information Administration data. Production climbed to 9.13 million barrels a day, the highest since February 2016. The nation’s active oil-rig count has more than doubled since May to 652 last week, according to Baker Hughes.

“The whole market is fixated on U.S. inventories,” Rob Thummel, a managing director and portfolio manager at Tortoise Capital Advisors LLC who helps manage $17.2 billion, said in an interview. “We should start to see them fall as early as early April. When we see that, prices will move back into the $50s.”

The net-long position fell by 28,197 futures and options to 260,577. Longs slipped 4 percent, while shorts advanced 13 percent.

Part of the glut in U.S. stockpiles stems from a surge in imports last month. Arrivals into the country reached the highest level in more than four years in the week ended Feb. 3 as barrels that were pumped before OPEC and its partners made cuts arrived at U.S. ports. These shipments will probably slip in the week’s ahead, according to Thummel.

Seasonal Shift

“Lower OPEC imports and the ending of refinery maintenance will reduce inventories eventually,” Thummel said.

U.S. refineries typically increase activity in April as they finish maintenance before the summer peak driving season. Crude processing volumes have increased in the second quarter in each year in EIA data going back to 1989.

“Rising inventories are temporary headwinds,” Mark Watkins, the Park City, Utah-based regional investment manager for the Private Client Group at U.S. Bank, which oversees $136 billion in assets, said by telephone. “We’re anticipating strong future demand growth, and with the summer driving season inventories will start to decline.”

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.

Gold

Gold Advances to Three-Month High on Virus Woes, Inflation

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Gold - Investors King

Gold rose to the highest in more than three months as concerns over the pace of a global recovery crept back in following a flareup in coronavirus cases in parts of Asia.

The pandemic is wiping out “entire families” in villages in India, where more people are saying the scale of the crisis is much bigger than official numbers reveal. The World Economic Forum is canceling the annual meeting it was planning to hold this August in Singapore, while cases in Thailand have surged.

Investors will turn to the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s April meeting due Wednesday for potential clues to officials’ views on the recovery and how they define “transitory” when it comes to inflation. Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida said Monday that the weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs report for April showed the economy had not yet reached the threshold to warrant scaling back the central bank’s massive bond purchases. Meanwhile, Fed Bank of Dallas President Robert Kaplan said supply and demand imbalances and base effects will contribute to elevated inflation this year, but he expects price pressures to ease in 2022.

Gold’s rebound puts it close to erasing this year’s declines, with recent inflows into bullion-backed exchange-traded funds signaling a boost to investor sentiment. Expectations for further increases in consumer prices could start to bolster demand for gold as a hedge.

“It seems inflation fears are finally translating into higher precious metals prices,” said John Feeney, business development manager at Sydney-based bullion dealer Guardian Gold Australia. “ETF investors are starting to swing into net-buyers again, after the recent consolidation, and it makes sense for the metals to play catch up to the recent moves higher in other commodities. We also have a lot of uncertainty with Covid-19 strains and mutations in the Asia-Pacific region that would be leading to safe haven buying.”

Spot gold rose as much as 0.4% to $1,873.82 an ounce, the highest since Jan. 29, and was at $1,868.01 by 12:16 p.m. in Singapore. Silver and palladium gained, while platinum steadied. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 0.1%.

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Energy

Hamburg’s German African Energy Forum to jumpstart Africa’s Economic Transformation

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green energy - Investors King

The African energy sector continues to solidify partnerships with German investors and technology with the aim of leading energy businesses from Germany, Europe and across the African continent. From upstream to downstream, Africa’s energy sector must accelerate its transition to net-zero, continue to adopt new technologies and start to embrace digitization and decentralization over the next decade.

The 14th German African Energy Forum in Hamburg hosted by Afrika Verein continues this dialogue and pushes for investment with a clear focus on highlighting the entire African energy mix, together with economic cooperation between Germany and Africa.

As stated by Afrika-Verein, “the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the ongoing digital transformation of economies need a green, smart and quick response from the energy sector. Power generation is still one of the main enablers for inclusive economic growth in Africa.” With this said, the African Energy Chamber strongly endorses and supports the 14th German African Energy Forum in Hamburg in its efforts to do so.

In the same manner, there is a strong need for German and African businesses and policymakers to support policies that create an enabling environment for investment in a fair and evolving industry. Germany’s march to net-zero transition can’t be met if Africa is behind. The African energy sector’s ability to support the rapidly increasing demands for electricity, the deployment of smart infrastructure to manage energy more effectively, gas monetization, combating energy poverty and the approach we take to financing Africa’s clean energy transitions in a post Covid era makes this forum more important than ever.

The 14th German African Energy Forum is set to provide key market insights, trends and opportunities over the next decade as the energy sector prepares to support a global green economy.

“Year after year, Afrika Verein has been consistent in keeping Africa at the center of German foreign policy and energy policy. Their ability to bring together key stakeholders from Africa and Germany to work on energy matters including Germany and Africa is inspiring” stated NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber.

“We are going to need a real net-zero transition that takes into consideration policy, regulation, innovation, technology and investment in Africa. A disorderly transition creates a stronger impulse for job losses, geographic inequity and a deterioration in inequality. In return, economic disenfranchisement can reduce public support for environmental policies over time Germans and Africans need to work together to avoid it.” Concluded Ayuk.

The Africa Energy Chamber believes Hamburg will be a great place for energy investors, project developers, policy makers and innovators to share insights and expertise on key transition trends and opportunities in Africa.

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Crude Oil

NNPC Closes Direct Sale and Direct Purchase Deals With 26 Firms

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The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has picked 26 foreign and local companies as well as 12 countries to lift the country’s crude oil for the next two years.

The crude term contracts, expected to run from 2021 through 2023, would see the firms and the selected nations, which would operate on a Government-to-Government (G2G) basis to purchase the commodity from the national oil company.

The deal is coming less than a week after the corporation chose 16 oil and gas consortia for its new crude-for-fuel swap contracts for one year starting in August.

The contracts, known as Direct Sale, Direct Purchase (DSDP) are high-stakes agreements used to supply nearly all of Nigeria’s petrol needs as well as cover some of its diesel and jet fuel consumption.

However, in the fresh crude oil term agreements, it was observed that the names of majority of the companies involved in the DSDP deal also appeared in the list of those picked by the national oil company for the crude term contracts.

The list sighted by the media showed that the preferred companies included Sahara Energy Resources Limited, Oando, Duke oil (an NNPC subsidiary), Petrogas, AA Rano, MRS, Mercuria and Vitol.

Other oil and gas concerns which scaled the NNPC selection hurdle were Oceanbed Trading Limited, Levene Energy, Bono Energy , Mocoh Energy, BP Oil, West Africa Gas Limited, Litasco SA, Emadeb, Hyde, Matrix and Brittania-U.

Other names listed by the NNPC as having qualified for the contracts included Masters, AMG, Casiva, Barbedos, Trafigura, Hindustan and Patermina.

NNPC has its own equity share of crude oil from its Joint Ventures (JVs), usually shared on a 60 to 40 basis and thereafter appoints companies and issues licences to lift its share of the oil on a Free on Board (FOB) basis.

The companies and countries nominate ships that transport the crude which is sold in the international market. Sometimes, the NNPC also awards contracts to governments to carry out the business.

In the document approving the qualified countries, China, Niger, Cote D’voire, Ghana, India, Togo, South Africa came tops, while Sierra Leone, Liberia, Turkey, Senegal, and Fujaira also made the cut.

Typically, entities qualified to take part in the contract bid are divided into four categories, namely a bonafide end user who owns a refinery and or retail outlets that can process Nigerian crude oil grades.

For the government to government contracts, or what is termed “bilateral relationships”, with what the corporation terms “high energy consuming nations”, bidding nations must provide proof that the entity is wholly owned by the relevant country or provide evidence of a bilateral agreement with the designated nation.

The third category is the internationally established and globally recognised large volume crude oil traders, while the fourth classification are indigenous companies engaged in Nigeria oil and gas downstream business activities.

In addition, qualifying foreign companies must demonstrate a minimum annual turnover of $500 million or the naira equivalent and a net worth of not less than $250 million or the naira equivalent for the previous financial year.

For indigenous firms, they are required to have a minimum turnover of $200 million or the naira equivalent and a net worth of $100 million for the preceding financial year ending.

Bidders are also to show their ability to handle supplies of crude and must list facilities and products processed or sold over the last three years, in addition to disclosing links to NNPC or the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPE) and confirming that directors have not been convicted of fraud or financial impropriety.

As with all Nigerian tenders, NNPC also highlights that the local content law must be strictly adhered to in terms of, among others, the use of Nigerian shipping companies, insurance and banks where possible.

In the past, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country’s oil and gas space had argued that G2G contracts with smaller, non-refining countries have high governance risks and low policy benefits for Nigeria.

For instance the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) has asked that term contracts should be carried out through a transparent and competitive tender process that includes robust pre-qualification standards and an end of sales to smaller non-refining countries unless NNPC can publicly explain the deals’ policy benefits.

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