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Markets Today – Inflation, Jobless Claims, Boris Blunder, Oil, Gold, Bitcoin

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

It’s been a rollercoaster start to the year and as we head into earnings season, it’s hard to say exactly where investors stand.

Blocking out the January noise is one thing but it’s made far more complicated by omicron, inflation, and the rapid evolution of monetary policy. Yesterday’s reaction to the inflation data was a case in point. The data mostly exceeded expectations, albeit marginally, while headline inflation was a near 40-year high of 7%. And yet the response was broadly positive.

I get that traders were perhaps fearing the worst and, as I’ve referenced before, it does feel like markets are at peak fear on US monetary policy which could make relief rallies more likely. But there is also underlying anxiety in the markets that could make for some volatile price action for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps earnings season will bring some welcome normality to the markets after a period of fear, relief, and speculation. The fourth quarter is expected to have been another strong quarter, although the emergence of omicron will likely have had an impact during the critical holiday period for many companies. Of course, as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, that will likely have been to the benefit of others.

And while earnings season will provide a distraction, it is happening against an uncertain backdrop for interest rates and inflation which will keep investors on their toes. It does seem that investors are on the edge of what they will tolerate and it won’t take much to push them over the edge. Which will be fine if we are near the peak of inflation, as many expect.

The data today looks a mixed bag on the face of it, with jobless claims coming in a little higher than expected, which may be down to seasonal adjustments. The overall trend remains positive and continues to point to a tight labor market. The PPI data on the other hand will be welcomed, with the headline number slipping to 0.2% month on month. Perhaps a sign of supply-side pressures finally starting to abate which will come as a relief after inflation hit a near-40 year high last month.

Sterling solid as pressure mounts on Boris

It seems impossible to ignore the political soap opera currently taking place in the UK, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson once again in the public firing line after finally admitting to attending an office party in May 2020.

In other circumstances, uncertainty around the top job in the country could bring pressure in the markets but the pound is performing very well. Perhaps that’s a reflection of the controversy that forever surrounds Boris, and we’re all therefore numb to it, or a sign of the environment we’re in that the PM being a resignation risk is further down the list when compared with inflation, interest rates, omicron, energy prices etc.

Oil remains bullish near highs

Oil prices are easing again today after moving back towards seven-year highs in recent weeks. It was given an additional bump yesterday following the release of the EIA data which showed a larger draw than expected. But with crude already trading near its peak, it maybe didn’t carry the same momentum it otherwise would.

The fundamentals continue to look bullish for gold. Temporary disruptions in Kazakhstan and Libya are close to being resolved, with the latter taking a little longer to get fully back online. But OPEC being unable to hit output targets at a time when demand remains strong is ultimately keeping prices elevated and will continue to do so.

A big test for gold

Gold is off a little today but the price remains elevated with key resistance in sight. The yellow metal has remained well supported in recent weeks even as yields around the world continue to rise in anticipation of aggressive tightening from central banks.

It could be argued that the bullish case for gold is its reputation as an inflation hedge, especially given central banks’ recent record for recognizing how severe the situation is. But with inflation likely nearing its peak, that may not last. That said, fear around Fed tightening may also be peaking which could support gold in the short-term and a break through $1,833 could signal further upside to come.

Can bitcoin break key resistance?

Bitcoin is enjoying some relief along with other risk assets and has recaptured $44,000, only a few days after briefly dipping below $40,000. That swift 10% rebound is nothing by bitcoin standards and if it can break $45,500, we could see another sharp move higher as belief starts to grow that the worst of the rout is behind it. It looks like a fragile rebound at the moment but a break of that resistance could change that.

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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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