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Markets Today – Cautious Optimism, Oil, Gold, Bitcoin

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Stocks - Investors King

By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

Equity markets are marginally lower after strong sessions on Monday and Tuesday, a sign that investors are remaining cautious despite encouraging data on the new variant.

Volatility is going nowhere over the coming weeks but investors are clearly enthused by what the early data is telling us. That said, with the UK considering “plan B” restrictions, it would appear leaders are not as enthused by what they’re seeing, which frankly makes me wonder whether markets are getting ahead of themselves.

The knee-jerk reaction to the new variant was obviously overdone based on the information we now have but where the markets will end up is anyone’s guess. There’s still plenty more to learn. Of course, investors love to buy those dips so no one would be surprised if we were in the early stages of this year’s Santa rally.

There are so many different risk factors to contend with right now. Just as Covid appeared to take a back seat for much of the last few months, there’s now far less talk of inflation risks and interest rates. Markets are now pricing in little chance of a rate hike next week from the BoE and a faster taper from the Fed also looks less certain.

Is the market going to reward such caution from the central banks or will inflation fears take over again and push real yields lower. That would certainly be great for gold prices in the near term but could make for some nervous times next year. As has been said so often recently, central banks are stuck between a rock and a hard place and life isn’t getting any easier for them.

Oil recovers well but faces major resistance

Oil prices are easing slightly today after an impressive rally since the OPEC+ meeting last week. Brent appears to have run into some resistance around the lower end of $76.50-77.50 which could be a big obstacle to the upside. This was a big area of support in late September and again in late November and a move back above here could set the stage for a push back above $80.

That may be tough in the near term with so much still unknown about the Omicron variant and governments in discussions about appropriate restrictions to slow the rapid spread. But clearly, OPEC+ warnings have not fallen on deaf ears and should the variant not prove too bad, crude prices could remain well supported.

Gold edges off lows but remains vulnerable

Gold is slightly lower on the day as it continues to struggle to generate any upside momentum whatsoever. It recently held onto the mid-October and November lows but continues to face significant resistance to the upside. Omicron uncertainty didn’t help the yellow metal despite its safe-haven reputation, which begs the question, what will drag it higher?

Central banks are unlikely to flood the market with liquidity again if we see severe restrictions or lockdowns as it battles uncomfortably high and widespread inflation. But they may take a more patient approach in order to remain as accommodative as possible, which could still be viewed as an inflation risk and drive more hedge flows in the coming weeks. If not, we could see the ground below become very shaky.

Can bitcoin cling on

Bitcoin has clawed its way back above $50,000 and appeared to be clinging on after sinking back below earlier in the day. The risk rebound we’ve seen in the markets has aided the recovery but it still looks vulnerable after the weekend plunge and any sudden shift in risk appetite could trigger another dip. Should it hold above $50,000 then the next test remains around $53,500, with a move above leaving it on a much stronger footing and perhaps signaling the end of the correction.

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Markets

Lacking Direction

Equity markets are lacking any real direction in Asia and that appears to be carrying into the European session as well.

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By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

Equity markets are lacking any real direction in Asia and that appears to be carrying into the European session as well.

Europe is seeing minor losses on the open, offsetting some of the small gains in choppy trade at the start of the week. This follows a similarly choppy session in the US on Monday as the Dow flirted with exiting correction territory and the Nasdaq bear market territory.

We may have reached a point in which investors need to decide whether they truly buy into the recovery/no recession narrative or not. That is what appears to have fueled the recovery we’ve seen in equity markets despite the fact that inflation hasn’t even started falling, central banks are still hiking aggressively and recession is on the horizon for many.

It’s time to decide whether this is just a substantial bear market rally or a genuine view that the economic outlook is far less downbeat than many fear. If equity markets are going to push on from here, it must be based on the latter which I’m sure many would welcome but perhaps more through hope than expectation.

Don’t get me wrong, the US in particular still has plenty of reason to be encouraged. The data on Friday highlighted once more just how hot the labour market still is and the consumer is still in a very healthy position. But there are pockets of weakness as well and unless inflation starts to subside, those areas of strength will start to crack.

The inflation data on Wednesday could effectively set the mood for the rest of the summer. That seems quite dramatic but if we fail to see a drop in the headline rate, considering the acceleration we’re expected to see in the core, it could really take the wind out of the sails of stock markets as it would be very difficult for the Fed to then hike by anything less than 75 basis points in September.

Of course, there will be one further labour market and inflation report before the next meeting which will also have a big role to play. But the July data will be very difficult to ignore. If the rally is going to continue, we may need to see a deceleration in the headline rate at a minimum, perhaps even a surprise decline at the core level as well. It’s no wonder we’re seeing so much caution this week.

Oil edges lower as Vienna talks conclude

Oil prices are marginally lower on Tuesday after recovering slightly at the start of the week. All of the talk of recession has caught up with crude prices over the summer, forcing a substantial correction that will be welcomed by those looking on in horror as they fill their cars.

The question is how sustainable $90 oil is when the market remains very tight and OPEC+ is only willing to make small moves in order to address it. It’s comforting to know that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have spare capacity in case of emergency but I’m sure most would rather they actually use some of it considering many countries are facing a cost-of-living recession. ​

Nuclear deal talks in Vienna have concluded, with the EU suggesting a final text will now be put forward for the US and Iran to either agree on or reject. I’m not sure traders are particularly hopeful considering how long it’s taken to get to this point and with there still reportedly being points of contention. An agreement could ease further pressure on oil prices, the extent of which will depend on how quickly the country could then flood the market with additional crude.

Gold eyeing CPI data for breakout catalyst

Gold continues to trade around its recent highs ahead of Wednesday’s inflation report, with a softer dollar on the back of lower yields on Monday supporting the rally once more. The yellow metal continues to see significant resistance around $1,780-1,800 and we may continue to see that in the run-up to the CPI release. A softer inflation number tomorrow, particularly on the core side, could be the catalyst for a breakout to the upside while a stronger number could put $1,800 out of reach for the foreseeable future.

Bitcoin rallies losing momentum

Bitcoin is not generating the same momentum in its rallies in recent weeks, as it continues to run into strong resistance on approach to $25,000. In much the same way that US stock markets are lingering around potentially important levels ahead of the inflation data, we could see bitcoin behaving in a similar manner. A weaker inflation reading could be the catalyst it needs to break $25,000 and set its sights on the $28,000-32,000 region once more, where it hasn’t traded since the early part of the summer.

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Energy

Nigeria Loses N184 Billion to Gas Flaring in H1 2022

Nigeria lost N184 billion to gas flaring in the first half (H1) of 2022, the Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor.

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Oil and Gas

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, lost N184 billion to gas flaring in the first half (H1) of 2022, the Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor, a unit under the Nigerian Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), reported on Sunday.

Despite Nigeria’s huge gas deposits, Africa’s largest economy continues to struggle with the necessary infrastructure needed to convert gas flaring to useful natural liquified gas. In the last 18 months, Nigeria has lost almost a trillion Naira in gas value.

The report showed that Nigeria lost a total sum of N707 billion in 2021 alone while another N184 billion was lost in the first half of 2022.

NOSDRA report noted that gas companies operating in the country flared 126 billion standard cubic feet (SCF) of gas in the first six months of 2022, resulting in $441.2 million or N188.887 billion (using the I&E exchange rate) lost.

Further analysis of the report showed that oil firms operating in the offshore oilfields flared 62.2 billion SCF of gas valued at $217.6 million in the first half of 2022. However, companies operating onshore flared a total of 63.9 billion SCF, estimated at $223.6 million.

Speaking on the situation, Prof. Olalekan Olafuyi, the Chairman of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), Nigeria Council, in an interview on Sunday, said the Federal Government is working on raising gas flaring penalties to further compel oil companies operating in the country to comply with the existing gas policy.

He said “We are working closely with the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, and I can categorically say that companies who flare gas will now pay more than those utilising it. So, it will be to their advantage to start thinking of ways to utilise their gas instead of flaring them.”

Presently, the federal government imposed a penalty of $2 on 1000 SCF of gas flared by oil companies producing above 10,000 barrels per day (bpd). While companies producing less than 10,000 bpd are fined $0.5 per 1000 scf of gas flared.

Even though Olafuyi did not state how much increase the new rate would attract, he said the Federal Government is working with the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (BUPRC) to devise a suitable penalty increase.

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Crude Oil

Oil Drops to $93.32 a Barrel on Monday

Oil prices declined on Monday amid concerns over the recession and the drop in crude oil imports in China, the world’s largest importer of the commodity.

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Oil - Investors King

Oil prices declined on Monday amid concerns over the recession and the drop in crude oil imports in China, the world’s largest importer of the commodity.

Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian oil, dropped to $93.32 per barrel at 12:47 pm Nigerian time, down from $96.06 a barrel it attained during the Asian trading session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate oil also depreciated from $89.47 a barrel to $87.45.

China, the world’s top crude importer, imported 8.79 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude in July, up from a four-year low in June, but still 9.5% lower than a year ago, customs data showed.

Chinese refiners drew down stockpiles amid high crude prices and weak domestic margins even as the country’s overall exports gained momentum.

Reflecting lower U.S. gasoline demand, and as China’s zero-Covid strategy pushes recovery further out, ANZ revised down its oil demand forecasts for 2022 and 2023 by 300,000 bpd and 500,000 bpd, respectively.

Oil demand for 2022 is now estimated to rise by 1.8 million bpd year-on-year and settle at 99.7 million bpd, just short of pre-pandemic highs, the bank said.

Russian crude and oil products exports continued to flow despite an impending embargo from the European Union that will take effect on Dec. 5.

In the United States, energy firms cut the number of oil rigs by the most last week since September, the first drop in 10 weeks.

The U.S. clean energy sector received a boost after the Senate on Sunday passed a sweeping $430 billion bill intended to fight climate change, among other issues.

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