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Let the Festivities Begin

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First Day Of Trading Of The Lunar New Year at The Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx)

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

Stock markets are ending the week on a downbeat note after central banks around the world largely adopted a more hawkish stance in recent days.

Only time will tell whether investors support the moves from central banks this week as much as they initially appeared to. More than a decade of ultra-low interest rates has been kind to investors and the path that many central banks have embarked on makes life a little harder for them, but not nearly as hard as high inflation.

It can be tough to take the pulse of the markets in times of such volatility and uncertainty, as we’re currently seeing. But I’m inclined to look at the way they’ve traded in the run-up to, and immediate aftermath of, the central bank announcements and deduce that investors are comfortable with the decisions that have been taken and view them as being in the long term interest of the bull market. What’s happened since may have more to do with the period we’re now heading into as investors prepare for the festivities.

A modest tightening is far more preferable than the risk of soaring inflation and a more aggressive monetary response further down the line. Central banks can’t afford to take those risks, not at a time when their economies are performing well, labour markets are tight and inflation is becoming more ingrained and widespread. The time has clearly come to address the inflation elephant in the room.

Take the case of the BoE. Many were surprised that the MPC raised rates on Thursday but if they hadn’t as a result of omicron uncertainty, they almost certainly would have in February and then multiple times next year. So while it could be argued that waiting for more data would have been prudent, it ultimately makes very little difference.

Especially with a move as insignificant as 15 basis points, one of the smallest hikes ever and the smallest since the late 80s. The message was important though; the tightening cycle has started and policymakers will turn a blind eye to inflation no more. A sentiment shared by many central banks around the world as we head into 2022.

Boost in UK retail sales unlikely to last

UK retail sales capped off an interesting week of data for the country that also saw restrictions tightened, virus numbers hit records and interest rates rose. The November rise was larger than expected while October was revised higher in a sign of consumers bringing forward their Christmas purchases in anticipation of stock shortages, perhaps even fear of more restrictions. The surge is not expected to last and recent developments could hinder retail sales further in the new year.

Oil consolidates as we await more data on omicron

Oil prices are down around 2% on Friday, dragged lower as trading becomes more risk-averse at the end of the week. It had rebounded well over the last couple of days but has run into resistance at the upper end of its recent range, around $73. We could see further consolidation around $70 in the coming sessions as we learn more about omicron, what restrictions it will bring, and whether OPEC+ will react.

The group has put a floor under the price for now, after announcing that adjustments could come at any time depending on the incoming data, but that will only hold so long if restrictions weigh on demand.

Relief for gold despite central banks embarking on tightening cycles

Gold is taking the news that central banks are tightening monetary policy and tackling inflation head-on very well. You would be forgiven for thinking this would be a negative development for the yellow metal and, in the longer term, I expect it will be.

But it’s also a development that was almost entirely expected and priced in. So we may be seeing some profit-taking on the pre-meeting moves which is pulling yields a little lower and weighing on the dollar. This should be a short-term relief move, although that may depend on what the omicron data tells us in the coming weeks. It’s spreading like wildfire here in the UK and other countries appear to having a very similar experience.

A strange end to the year for bitcoin

I keep falling into the trap of trying to link moves in bitcoin to events that are triggering responses across financial markets and it’s becoming quite clear how pointless that was. The cryptocurrency has been consolidating for weeks since its flash crash and everything that’s happened in that time that has been the catalyst for volatility across various asset classes has done little to pique the interest of this particular corner of the market. It feels strange to be talking about massive volatility in the markets and not including bitcoin. But then it’s been another strange year and I’m sure 2022 will be no different.

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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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