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Markets Today – Ukraine, Eurozone Inflation, NFP, Oil, Gold, Bitcoin

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Cautiously Higher After Strong Jobs Report

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

Equity markets are nudging higher at the end of the week after suffering losses a day earlier, as the consolidation phase continues.

This continues to be a very headline-driven market and they’re coming thick and fast. Talks between Ukraine and Russia are progressing well, it seems, but things can change rapidly, for better or worse. Until we see a deal, the situation will continue to feel precariously balanced and investors will remain on edge as a result.

Claims of a Ukrainian attack on a fuel depot in Belgorod, where further explosions have recently been reported, may ignite further tensions if proven to be accurate. Not that Russia itself has lowered the intensity of its attacks in Ukraine since the negotiations began, of course. Naturally, the Kremlin won’t let hypocrisy stand in the way if it wants to escalate the crisis once more. Interestingly, Ukraine is yet to confirm responsibility for the attacks.

Eurozone inflation piles further pressure on ECB

Inflation in the eurozone hit another all-time high in March, jumping to 7.5% from 5.9% in February. Energy prices are strongly behind the move which isn’t going to change any time soon, although price pressures are becoming a little more widespread. The core reading only rose to 3% though, up from 2.7%, which is still way above the ECB’s 2% inflation target.

The central bank has continued to swim against the tide when it comes to inflation and despite a major shift at the last meeting, continues to be far less hawkish than the markets. Today’s data will make life even harder for the ECB which may start to move more in line with market pricing of 40-50 basis points of hikes by year-end if this continues.

Another strong jobs report

The US jobs report was once again quite strong, even if the headline NFP fell a little short of expectations. The creation of 431,000 jobs is still extremely good at a time when unemployment is falling to 3.6%, which surpassed expectations. Throw into the mix higher participation which the Fed will no doubt be pleased to see as this is one thing that can alleviate some of those wage pressures and it’s hard to find fault with the report. As it is, wages are still rising strongly at 5.6%, somewhat offsetting the inflation drag. Ultimately, this means plenty of rate hikes this year and probably more chance of one or two super-sized, the first of which is now heavily priced in for May.

Oil falls below $100 on SPR release

Oil prices are continuing to fall today, as we await an announcement from IEA regarding the coordinated SPR release following President Biden’s decision this week. Unlike on the previous two occasions, markets have responded favourably to the latest release, which is by far the largest ever from US reserves. The timing nicely coincides with the run-up to the midterms as well which I’m sure is merely a coincidence. Whether it has a significant impact in that time though will ultimately depend on the situation in Ukraine.

One thing it will do is increase OPEC+ resistance to boosting output, not that it has shown any ability to even deliver 400,000 barrels per day increases in recent months. Compliance increased to 151% in March, from 136% in February, meaning its new slightly higher targets will simply increase the amount in which it will likely fall short in May. At least the group isn’t being political in its decision making…

Gold eases lower after strong jobs data

Gold is a little lower at the end of the week, with the jobs report weighing a little as the dollar strengthened. It doesn’t really change much as far as the yellow metal is concerned as it remains range-bound, comfortably above $1,900 and seemingly going nowhere fast. Traders are happy to hold on but in no rush to buy, it seems.

Bitcoin failing to capitalise on Monday’s breakout

Bitcoin accelerated moves to the downside yesterday and has continued to do so again today as it wipes out all of Monday’s breakout gains. It now finds itself back below $45,000, albeit still in a fairly healthy position. The cryptocurrency rallied almost 20% from its 21 March lows but rather than capitalise on its break above $45,500 it appears to have induced some profit-taking. It’s slipped almost 10% from Monday’s highs so it will be interesting to see if traders are ready to pile back in or if they have no faith in the breakout.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Slide as U.S. Crude Stockpiles Surge, Heightening Demand Concerns

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Crude oil

Oil prices declined on Thursday as concerns over demand intensified due to a larger-than-anticipated build in U.S. crude stockpiles.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, dropped by 0.5% to $83.25 a barrel while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell by 0.3% to $78.28 a barrel.

The Energy Information Administration’s report revealed a substantial increase in U.S. crude oil stockpiles by 4.2 million barrels to 447.2 million barrels for the week ending February 23rd.

This surge surpassed analysts’ expectations and marked the fifth consecutive week of rising inventories.

While gasoline and distillate inventories witnessed a decline, concerns regarding a sluggish economy and reduced oil demand in the U.S. were amplified.

Satoru Yoshida, a commodity analyst with Rakuten Securities, highlighted that the significant stockpiles have heightened investor worries.

Moreover, the anticipation of delayed U.S. interest rate cuts further weighed on market sentiment, potentially undermining oil demand.

Traders have adjusted their expectations for rate cuts, with an easing cycle predicted to commence in June rather than March as previously anticipated.

Market participants await the U.S. personal consumption expenditures price index for insights into inflation trends, while the possibility of an extension of voluntary oil output cuts from OPEC+ looms over price dynamics, amid lingering uncertainty in the demand outlook and geopolitical tensions in the Middle East.

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Crude Oil

Crude Oil Shortage Threatens Dangote, Government Refineries, Minister Raises Alarm

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Dangote Refinery

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Heineken Lokpobiri, has sounded a clarion call over a looming crude oil shortage that threatens the operations of the newly inaugurated Dangote Petrochemical Refinery and government-owned refineries in Nigeria.

Addressing stakeholders at the seventh edition of the Nigeria International Energy Summit in Abuja, Minister Lokpobiri expressed concerns that unless deliberate efforts are made to increase investments and crude oil production, these refineries may struggle to obtain enough feedstock for petroleum product manufacturing.

The Dangote refinery, a colossal project spearheaded by Dangote Industries Limited, has a daily requirement of up to 650,000 barrels of crude oil, while government-owned refineries could need approximately 400,000 barrels.

However, the current pace of crude oil production and investment in Nigeria falls short of meeting these demands.

Minister Lokpobiri highlighted the need to ramp up production and attract investments in the upstream sector to ensure adequate feedstock supply for the refineries.

He emphasized the importance of efficiently utilizing Nigeria’s abundant oil and gas reserves to enhance domestic energy security and economic prosperity.

Furthermore, the minister underscored the significance of investing in energy infrastructure and transitioning towards more environmentally friendly practices to address Nigeria’s energy needs effectively.

The alarm raised by Minister Lokpobiri underscores the urgency for strategic interventions and collaborative efforts to mitigate the impending crude oil shortage and secure the future of Nigeria’s refining industry amidst evolving global energy dynamics.

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Energy

NNPCL Pledges End to Nigeria’s Energy Scarcity Within a Decade

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Mele Kyari - Investors King

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) has announced a bold initiative aimed at ending Nigeria’s persistent energy scarcity within the next decade.

Mele Kyari, the Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPCL, revealed this ambitious plan during the opening ceremony of the seventh Nigerian International Energy Summit in Abuja.

Kyari’s announcement comes as a beacon of hope for millions of Nigerians grappling with chronic power shortages and energy deficiencies.

In his statement, Kyari expressed confidence that all issues related to energy scarcity in the country would be resolved within the next 10 years.

Assuring stakeholders of NNPCL’s unwavering commitment, Kyari emphasized the company’s dedication to collaborating with partners to bridge the energy deficit gap and foster prosperity for all Nigerians.

He highlighted NNPCL’s pivotal role as a key partner to oil-producing companies in Nigeria, facilitating the divestment of international oil companies from onshore and shallow water assets in the country.

Furthermore, Kyari underscored NNPCL’s statutory mandate as the enabler of national energy security, emphasizing the importance of sustainable production from divested assets to ensure energy security for Nigerians.

In addition to addressing domestic energy challenges, NNPCL is also exploring avenues for sustainable energy investment across Africa.

Kyari revealed the company’s intention to invest in the proposed African Energy Bank, aiming to secure funding for energy projects on the continent and guarantee regional energy security.

The event, attended by prominent stakeholders including government officials and representatives from international organizations, marks a significant step towards reshaping Nigeria’s energy landscape and fostering economic development through improved energy access.

As NNPCL charts its course towards energy abundance, Nigerians remain cautiously optimistic about the prospects of a brighter energy future.

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