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Powerful Sanctions Hit Risk Appetite

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

We’re seeing widespread risk aversion once more on Monday after new severe sanctions were levied against Russia over the weekend.

The response to previous sanctions was underwhelming, to say the least, but the latest batch undoubtedly has the teeth that the others lacked. That’s been most clearly evident in the FX markets, where the rouble plunged more than 30% to record lows and that could have been much worse but for swift action by the central bank.

An emergency rate hike – raising the key rate from 9.5% to 20% – alongside other measures, has enabled the rouble to pare those initial losses but the currency remains under severe pressure. The latest sanctions are hard-hitting and will weigh heavily on the economy. And that’s before we see the second-round effects.

BP has shown us today the political pressure that companies are going to be under to sever ties with Russia, especially where there’s shared interest with the Kremlin. The level of horror at the events in Ukraine being experienced around the world, combined with that political pressure, will continue to see companies cut ties which will compound the impact of the sanctions.

Whether we continue to see more risk-aversion in the markets may well hang on the talks currently taking place between Russian and Ukrainian officials. It’s hard to imagine a ceasefire and Russian exit being agreed upon given the events of the last week but we live in hope.

An agreement would naturally lift sentiment and we could see stocks quickly reversing their losses. A failure could see things turn ugly again as Russia will not take these sanctions lying down. They will have massive implications for the Russian economy and retaliation is almost certain.

Oil eyeing $100 again as the US considers another SPR release and a nuclear deal

Oil prices are naturally rallying strongly at the start of the week. Brent and WTI are both closing in on $100 once again and only a significant de-escalation looks likely to derail that. If the talks end badly today, we could see oil continue its ascent as markets factor in prolonged fighting in Ukraine and the risk of supply disruptions.

Talks are continuing between the US and Iran towards a nuclear deal which could help ease some of the pressures in the oil market. But we may not see the full benefits of that unless we see an agreement between Russia and Ukraine, at which point we could see a significant pullback in the price.

The US and other consuming countries are also reportedly considering another release of reserves totalling 60-70 million barrels. This comes after a similar move in November that had only a limited impact on the markets. But combined with actions elsewhere, it could help ease the pressures we’re seeing.

Gold jumps as safe-havens in demand

Gold is back above $1,900 in risk-averse trade and up around 1.5% on the day. The events over the last few days have no doubt escalated tensions, although talks between Russia and Ukraine do offer some hope. The sanctions, in particular, add another layer of uncertainty to the situation which investors naturally don’t like.

We’re in a highly uncertain, inflationary environment and gold is the obvious hedge. The question is how much further it can go which obviously depends on how much more of an escalation we’ll see and what that does to commodity prices. But for now, it’s very well supported, despite easing slightly off its highs.

Bitcoin lower but resilient

Bitcoin is also lower on the day as traders abandon risk assets in favour of safe-havens. It’s continuing to show resilience though which will encourage the crypto crowd. As long as it continues to weather the storm and hold above $30,000, there will be a belief that it can thrive again once risk appetite improves. Unfortunately, there’s just no clear idea of when that will be.

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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Crude Oil

Nigeria Pumps 236.2 Million Barrels in First Half of 2024

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markets energies crude oil

Nigeria pumped 236.2 million barrels of crude oil in the first half of 2024, according to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC).

This figure represents an increase from the 219.5 million barrels produced during the same period in 2023.

In January, Nigeria produced 44.2 million barrels of crude oil while February saw a slight dip to 38.3 million barrels, with March following closely at 38.1 million barrels.

April and May production stood at 38.4 million barrels and 38.8 million barrels, respectively. June’s output remained consistent at 38.3 million barrels, demonstrating a stable production trend.

Despite the overall increase compared to 2023, the 2024 production figures still fall short of the 302.42 million barrels produced in the same period in 2020.

This ongoing fluctuation underscores the challenges facing Nigeria’s oil sector, which has experienced varying production levels over recent years.

On a daily basis, Nigeria’s crude oil production showed some variability. In January, the average daily production peaked at 1.43 million barrels per day (mbpd), the highest within the six-month period.

February’s production dropped to 1.32 mbpd, with a further decrease to 1.23 mbpd in March. April saw a modest increase to 1.28 mbpd, which then fell again to 1.25 mbpd in May. June ended on a positive note with a slight rise to 1.28 mbpd.

The fluctuations in daily production rates have prompted government and industry leaders to address underlying issues.

Mele Kyari, Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), has highlighted the detrimental effects of oil theft and vandalism on Nigeria’s production capabilities.

Kyari emphasized that addressing these security challenges is critical to boosting production and attracting investment.

Kyari also noted recent efforts to combat illegal activities, including the removal of over 5,800 illegal connections from pipelines and dismantling more than 6,000 illegal refineries.

He expressed confidence that these measures, combined with ongoing policy reforms, would support Nigeria’s goal of increasing daily production to two million barrels.

The Nigerian government remains focused on stabilizing and enhancing oil production. With recent efforts showing promising results, there is cautious optimism that Nigeria will achieve its production targets.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Steady Amid Mixed Signals on Crude Demand

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Crude oil

Oil prices remained stable on Thursday as investors navigated conflicting signals regarding crude demand.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, settled at $85.11 a barrel, edging up by 3 cents, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude dipped by 3 cents to $82.82 a barrel.

The stability comes as the U.S. economy shows signs of slowing, with unemployment benefit applications rising more than expected.

Initial claims increased by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 243,000 for the week ending July 1, prompting speculation that the Federal Reserve might cut interest rates sooner than anticipated. Lower rates could boost spending on oil, creating a bullish outlook for demand.

Fed officials suggested that improved inflation and a balanced labor market might lead to rate cuts, possibly by September.

“Healthy expectations of a Fed rate cut in the not-so-distant future will limit downside,” noted Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM.

However, rising jobless claims signal potential economic easing, which could dampen crude demand.

John Kilduff of Again Capital highlighted the impact of a slowing economy on oil consumption despite a significant drop in U.S. crude inventories last week.

Global factors also weighed on the market. China’s economic policies remain steady, though details are sparse, affecting investor sentiment in the world’s largest crude importer.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank maintained interest rates, citing persistent inflation.

An upcoming OPEC+ meeting in August is expected to assess market conditions without altering output policy, according to sources. This meeting will serve as a “pulse check” for market health.

Overall, oil prices are caught between economic concerns and hopes of a rate cut, maintaining a delicate balance.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Slide on China Demand Concerns, Brent Falls to $83.73

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Crude Oil - Investors King

Oil prices declined on Tuesday for the third consecutive day on growing concerns over a slowing Chinese economy and its impact on global oil demand.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, dipped by $1.12, or 1.3% at $83.73 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude dropped $1.15, or 1.4%, to close at $80.76.

The dip in oil prices is largely attributed to disappointing economic data from China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Official figures revealed a 4.7% growth in China’s GDP for the April-June period, the slowest since the first quarter of 2023, and below the forecasted 5.1% growth expected in a Reuters poll.

This slowdown was compounded by a protracted property downturn and widespread job insecurity, which have dampened fuel demand and led many Chinese refineries to cut back on production.

“Weaker economic data continues to flow from China as continued government support programs have been disappointing,” said Dennis Kissler, Senior Vice President of Trading at BOK Financial. “Many of China’s refineries are cutting back on weaker fuel demand.”

Despite the bearish sentiment from China, there is a growing consensus among market participants that the U.S. Federal Reserve could begin cutting its key interest rates as soon as September.

This speculation has helped stem the decline in oil prices, as lower interest rates reduce the cost of borrowing, potentially boosting economic activity and oil demand.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell noted on Monday that the three U.S. inflation readings over the second quarter “add somewhat to confidence” that the pace of price increases is returning to the central bank’s target in a sustainable fashion.

This has led market participants to believe that a turn to interest rate cuts may be imminent.

Also, U.S. crude oil inventories provided a silver lining for the oil market. According to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures, U.S. crude oil inventories fell by 4.4 million barrels last week.

This was a much steeper drop than the 33,000 barrels decline that was anticipated, indicating strong domestic demand.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also weighed in, suggesting that while the global economy is set for modest growth over the next two years, risks remain.

The IMF noted cooling activity in the U.S., a bottoming-out in Europe, and stronger consumption and exports for China as key factors in the global economic landscape.

In summary, while oil prices are currently pressured by concerns over China’s economic slowdown, the potential for U.S. interest rate cuts and stronger domestic demand for crude are providing some support.

Market watchers will continue to monitor economic indicators and inventory levels closely as they gauge the future direction of oil prices.

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