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Markets Today – Failed Talks, ECB, US Inflation, Oil, Gold, Bitcoin

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

European markets have made significant losses again on Thursday, as risk appetite reversed following unsuccessful talks between Ukraine and Russia.

There can’t have been much expectation for anything more given the wide-ranging demands and ridiculous justifications we’ve seen from Russia for the invasion, or “special military operation”. But I guess high-level talks are a small step in the right direction which has provided some hope.

With the lack of progress and the continued assault on Ukraine and its people, the sanctions from the West will keep coming which should ensure uncertainty remains high in the markets and any rallies vulnerable. Today’s declines only partially offset yesterday’s gains but I wouldn’t read too much into that. The worst is probably yet to come for Ukraine.

ECB proceeds with tapering despite downside risks to the economic outlook

Regardless of what the market reaction would have us believe, I’m not sure what about the ECB decision and press conference today was actually surprising. Markets were already pricing in rate hikes this year so the phasing out of net asset purchases over the coming months and the end of PEPP this month falls very much in line with that.

The revision to the inflation forecasts was not surprising given the recent data. It was still mildly shocking to see the 2022 number as you don’t see such revisions too often but under the circumstances, it was always going to be substantial.

The press conference from Christine Lagarde contained all of the context and caveats you’ve come to expect from these events. Just the right amount of ambiguity that leaves traders with barely and more information – to put it generously – than they had before it started. All in all, today went as you’d expect and the outlook remains highly uncertain and dependent on how the crisis in Ukraine plays out.

US inflation is near the peak

US inflation rose again in February by a staggering 0.8%, or 7.9% on an annual basis. The number was in line with expectations though and the likelihood is we’re near the peak which could come next month. That won’t comfort those feeling the squeeze as a result of these widespread price increases, especially when faced with much higher energy prices, but the trajectory should start to look more promising after that. This leaves little doubt that the Fed will raise rates next week and at the upcoming meetings though as it hopes to get to grips with inflation having already ignored it for too long.

Oil cautiously higher after mixed messages from UAE

Oil prices are rising again, up around 4% on the day at one point, as talks between Ukraine and Russia give little cause for optimism. The risk of further disruption remains high, especially with more sanctions to come that will make life harder for Russia and companies less keen to do business with them.

The one ray of hope comes from the UAE, following comments yesterday that suggested they favour higher output. That was tempered later, though, by the country’s energy minister who reaffirmed their commitment to the OPEC+ agreement, so who knows where that leaves us. One dissenting voice within the group could at least spark more discussion about the need for higher production, although I can think of one influential member that may fiercely oppose it.

Gold should remain supported and could take another run at the highs

Gold is hovering around $2,000 after plunging on Wednesday as part of the big risk-reversal we saw across the markets. It’s not made up an enormous amount of ground today, despite commodity prices heading higher and risk aversion sweeping through the markets once more.

While the talks today yielded no positive outcome and both sides still seem miles apart in their expectation, it seems the very fact that these discussions are taking place and at a high level is providing some hope. Gold should still remain well supported unless we see any real breakthrough and while it may have just failed at the first time of asking, record highs may not be far away.

Bitcoin remains vulnerable to shifts in risk-appetite

Bitcoin is back below $40,000 after giving up almost all of Wednesday’s gains in early trade. The surge in risk appetite saw bitcoin soar higher yesterday, a move that was always vulnerable given the massive volatility and headline-driven price action. There was also a suggestion that President Biden’s executive order on digital assets may have been behind the rally but perhaps not. Cryptos remain very sensitive to gyrations in risk-appetite and today they’ve been caught on the wrong side of it.

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Energy

African Energy Chamber to Host Energy Transition Forum at The 2022 Energy Week  

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African Energy Chamber (AEC) says it will host the Energy Transition Forum, in partnership with public and private sector organisations, government representatives, energy stakeholders and investors in October. 

In a statement made available to Investors King AEC stated that “The Energy Transition Forum will address critical issues such as the lack of adequate funding, the diversification of the energy mix, workforce development, and regulatory reforms necessary to enable Africa to expand its energy sector to address energy security, affordability, access, and sustainability matters”.

“With some 600 million people across the continent living in energy poverty and over 900 million without access to clean cooking, Africa needs to exploit all of its vast natural resources in order to make energy poverty history by 2030. In this respect, stakeholders across the continent are opting for an integrated approach to developing energy resources whereby every resource is utilized in order to kickstart economic growth and electrification. With over 125.3 billion barrels of crude oil, 620 trillion cubic feet of gas, and nearly 16.4 billion short tons of coal, the continent is well-positioned to drive economic growth,” it added. 

Executive Chairman of the AEC, NJ Ayuk, said: “With nearly 66 per cent of the world’s population living without electricity access based in Africa, the continent needs to ramp up the production of all its energy resources including gas, oil, wind and solar to ensure energy poverty is history by 2030. The AEC is honored to host the Energy Transition Forum at AEW 2022 where an African narrative of a just and inclusive energy transition that is fit for Africa will be developed. We will go from Cape to Cairo with a well-defined African message. Africans and the energy sector have a rare chance to define the narrative and we must.” 

The Energy Transition Forum is bringing together investors, regulatory authorities and energy market players to discuss the role of gas in Africa’s energy future and energy transition. The challenges of limited investments in gas exploration, production, and infrastructure development in gas-rich countries such as Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Niger, and Mozambique will also be addressed.

According to the AEC, climate change continues to impact Africa, leading to an increasing number of African countries such as Nigeria, Namibia, Morocco, South Africa, Uganda, and Kenya introducing policy reforms and initiatives to scale up renewable energy penetration in Africa. 

Investors King gathered that Nigeria has vowed to achieve climate neutrality by 2060 by increasing the share of natural gas and renewables in its energy mix while Namibia aims to make the development of hydrogen central to its energy policy. At the same time, South Africa has introduced its Hydrogen Society Roadmap to fast-forward the development of local content and hydrogen infrastructure whilst Morocco’s Law 13-09 and Egypt’s net metering scheme aims to expand distributed renewables development.

The chamber added that the AEW 2022, under the theme – “Exploring and Investing in Africa’s Energy Future while Driving an Enabling Environment” will feature high-level meetings and panel discussions where government ministers, investors, academia, and energy market stakeholders will discuss how Africa can attract funding to boost exploration, production and infrastructure development to ensure secure supply while remaining a climate champion. 

The African Energy Week is scheduled to take place from 18th – 21st October 2022 in South Africa at Africa’s premier event for the oil and gas sector.

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Siemens Announces Plan to Transit From Fossil to Sustainable Energy

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Siemens

Technology giant, Siemens Energy has announced a transit from fossil to sustainable energy through a management restructuring and shares evaluation.

This comes after the company launched a voluntary cash tender offer to acquire all outstanding shares in Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, or approximately 32.9 percent of Siemens Gamesa’s share capital which it does not already own.

Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Siemens Energy AG, Joe Kaeser, said: “The full integration of SGRE is an important milestone for Siemens Energy’s positioning as a driver of the energy transition from fossil to sustainable energy solutions.

“This will benefit customers, employees, shareholders, and ultimately society. It is critical that the deteriorating situation at SGRE is being stopped as soon as possible, and the value-creating repositioning starts quickly. The Supervisory Board strongly supports the Executive Boards plans for the integration of SGRE”.

According to a statement from the company, starting from October, the former gas and power segment will be divided into three business areas.

The largest of the new business areas, with sales of around 9 billion euros (9.6 billion dollars), is gas services. This included the gas and large steam turbine business and associated services.

It is followed by grid technologies with sales of 5.8 billion euros in the areas of power transmission and energy storage. The smallest business area is the transformation of the industry with sales of 3.9 billion euros.

Here, the focus was on reducing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in industrial processes from hydrogen to automation and industrial steam turbines to compressors. Logistics, IT and procurement divisions were to be bundled together.

The removal of some levels of management at Siemens Energy was expected to bring faster decision-making processes. Where there were previously up to 11 levels in the firm’s hierarchy, there would be a maximum of six in the future. This would eliminate around 30 per cent of the previous management positions, Siemens Energy said. The employees affected would be given other tasks within the business, according to the statement.

Siemens Energy claims that after full integration, the combined group could see cost synergies of up to EUR 300 million within three years, owing to lower supply chain and logistics costs, aligned project execution, joint and integrated R&D efforts, and cost savings through an optimized administrative setup.

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NNPC, Sahara Group To Invest Over N150B in Two Gas Carriers

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Gas Exports Drop as Shell Declares Force Majeure

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) and leading energy conglomerate, Sahara Group have taken delivery of two 23,000 CBM Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) vessels at the Hyundai MIPO Shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea.

The new carriers, the MT BARUMK and MT SAPET, have brought NNPC and Sahara Group’s joint venture investment to over N150 billion ($300 m), bringing the Joint venture’s (JV) gas infrastructure pledge to $1 billion by 2026 closer to reality. MT Sahara Gas and MT Africa Gas were previously part of the fleet. Hyundai MIPO Dockyard, a leading global constructor of mid-sized carriers, produced all four ships.

Recall, Investors King reported that Nigeria earned $868.5 million from gas exports and N13.36 billion from domestic gas sales, according to an examination of the gas revenue statistics and other monthly reports acquired from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.

Data from the oil firm showed that the Federal Government, through NNPC, garnered the funds from the sale of Natural Gas Liquids/Liquefied Petroleum Gas, as well as Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas feedstock.

West African Gas Limited (WAGL), a joint venture between NNPC and Oceanbed (a Sahara Group subsidiary), is driving NNPC’s five-year $1 billion investment plan which was announced in 2021, to expedite the decade-long gas and energy transition strategy.

To the joy of visitors, NNPC’s GMD, Mele Kyari, announced that an order for three more new vessels was being finalized, adding, “We have an objective of delivering 10 vessels over the next 10 years. In our energy transformation quest, the NNPC and our partners stand out for their integrity, and our commitment to environmental sustainability is steadfast.”

WAGL and Sahara Group have invested in the JV with MT BARUMK and MT SAPET. WAGL is strengthening its gas fleet and terminal infrastructure, while Sahara Group continues to make significant progress in the development of over 120,000 metric tonnes of storage facilities in 11 African nations, including Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, and Zambia.

“This is another epoch-making achievement for the NNPC and Sahara Group, and we remain firmly committed to delivering more formidable gas projects for the benefit of Nigeria and the entire sub-region,” Kyari said.

Executive Director Sahara Group, Temitope Shonubi stated that “WAGL has successfully operated two mid-sized LPG Carriers MT Africa Gas and MT Sahara Gas in the region in accordance with worldwide standards, transporting over 6 million CBM of LPG across West Africa, with the new vessels, we will be able to accelerate and lead Africa’s energy revolution.”

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