By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA
The European session is off to a mixed start after both the US and Asia posted small losses overnight.
The Fed minutes on Wednesday didn’t really offer anything we didn’t already know. Even those that leapt at the opportunity to buy the supposed “dovish pivot” are aware that this isn’t quite the case and the minutes really back that up. Not that they needed to as the Fed commentary that has followed has made that perfectly clear.
The central bank did stress the need to slow the pace of rate increases as monetary policy tightened further which most expected would be the case anyway. Of course, that is ultimately dependent on the inflation data allowing for such a move and the July reading was certainly the first step towards that.
It also referenced the risk of monetary policy being tightened more than necessary to restore price stability which could be read a couple of different ways. While it doesn’t suggest it will over tighten intentionally, the Fed is clearly determined to get inflation back to target and ensure the public believes it will.
The statement could therefore suggest it will act in a more aggressive manner than markets expect in order to deliver on that. Alternatively, it could indicate that the central bank is aware of the risks and may therefore ease off the break as soon as the opportunity arises in order to avoid tightening too much.
It also raises the possibility of a swift u-turn from hiking rates to cutting them as markets have indicated recently and policymakers have pushed back against. Needless to say, there are many more twists and turns to come.
A cause for concern or merely a blip?
The Australian jobs data looked pretty shocking on the face of it. Not only did employment fall by 40,900 – against an expectation of a 26,500 gain – but the drop in full-time employment was considerably worse at 86,900 which was then partially offset by a rise in part-time workers. All told, it looks pretty grim but as is so often the case, there’s a caveat.
This data was not in keeping with the trend that we’ve seen in the labour market data in recent months and there are numerous possible explanations for why the dip has happened. With the labour market still very tight and unemployment at a record low – helped there last month by a drop in participation – this report will probably be viewed as an anomaly albeit one that will draw more attention to the data in the coming months. Ultimately, it’s unlikely to deter the RBA from raising rates at the next meeting, with markets currently favouring a 25 basis point hike.
Oil steady after inventory boost
Oil prices are treading water following Wednesday’s rally which came on the back of the EIA inventory data. The surprising and substantial drawdown alongside record crude exports provided a boost just as the price was testing multi-month lows. There are numerous factors at play right now and we may be seeing traders taking a more cautious approach considering how close a decision on the Iran nuclear deal appears to be.
There remains plenty of doubt that it will get over the line but if it does, that could be the catalyst for another move lower and perhaps even take the price to levels not seen since before the invasion.
Gold struggling amid resurgent dollar
Gold is a little higher after slipping once more on Wednesday. It failed to get a sustained lift from the Fed minutes with the dollar quickly recovering its initial losses and wiping out any gains for the yellow metal. The US 2-year is not too far from its recent highs and the 10-year has also made moves higher over the last couple of days which could continue to pressure gold.
The inversion very much remains in play though which means there’s still seemingly a disconnect between what bond traders expect and what equity traders do. If the recession narrative starts to weigh more heavily on financial markets, gold could make another run at $1,800 and maybe even have more success this time.
Steady post-Fed minutes
Bitcoin is relatively flat on the day after losing more ground on Wednesday. It’s now suffered four consecutive days of losses and has fallen around 7% from its peak at the start of the week. By its standards, that’s not really anything to write home about and the trend of the last couple of months still looks positive. The difficulty is that the rally that brought it back to $25,000 has lost considerable momentum and that could begin to weigh more heavily on the price. A move below $22,500 may suggest the rally has run its course for now.
Oil Prices Surge as China’s Holiday Demand and Tight US Supply Drive 2% Weekly Gain
Oil prices to close the week with about a 2% gain as robust holiday demand from China and constrained U.S. fundamentals overshadowed concerns about potential supply increases from Saudi Arabia.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, gained 5 cents to $95.43 per barrel at about 6:00 a.m. Nigerian time on Friday while the U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) rose by 16 cents to $91.87 per barrel.
The market’s resilience became evident as it rebounded from a slight 1% dip in the previous session when profit-taking followed a surge in prices to 10-month highs.
China, the world’s largest oil importer, played a pivotal role in driving prices higher. Strong fuel demand coincided with China’s week-long Golden Week holiday, with increased international and domestic travel significantly boosting Chinese oil consumption.
Analysts at ANZ noted that this holiday season’s surge in travel was underpinned by the fact that the average daily flights booked were a fifth higher than during Golden Week in 2019, pre-dating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, improving macroeconomic data from China and the steady growth of its factory activity further supported the bullish sentiment.
The U.S. economy’s robust growth and indications of accelerated activity in the current quarter also bolstered expectations of sustained fuel demand.
Also, tight supplies in the U.S., evidenced by dwindling storage levels at Cushing, Oklahoma, provided additional support to oil prices. As rig counts fell, U.S. oil production was expected to slow down, potentially pushing the market into a deficit of more than 2 million barrels per day in the last quarter.
Investors are now eagerly awaiting the upcoming meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+), scheduled for October 4th.
The meeting will be a crucial indicator of whether Saudi Arabia will consider stepping up its supply in response to the nearly 30% surge in oil prices this quarter.
Analysts, however, caution that the market may be entering overbought territory, leading to possible hesitancy among participants and concerns that OPEC+ could ease production cuts earlier than planned if prices continue to rise.
The outcome of next week’s OPEC meeting will undoubtedly hold significant implications for the oil market’s future trajectory.
Oil Prices Soar to a Year High as Crude Reserves Plummet
Crude stocks at a pivotal storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, hit their lowest levels since July last year, sparking concerns about future supply stability.
Oil prices surged to their highest level in over a year during Asian trading hours, following a significant drop in crude stocks at a key storage hub.
Crude inventories in Cushing, Oklahoma, plummeted to a mere 22 million barrels in the fourth week of September, close to operational minimums, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
This translates to 943,000 barrels compared to the prior week.
The U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) rose to $95.03 per barrel during Asian trading hours, a peak not seen since August 2022 before settling at $94.61 per barrel.
Meanwhile, Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian oil, rose by 1.05% to $97.56 per barrel.
Experts have attributed this rapid price escalation to the precarious situation in Cushing, with Bart Melek, Managing Director of TD Securities, stating, “Today’s price action seems to be Cushing driven, as it reaches a 22 million bbl low, the lowest level since July 2022.”
Melek expressed concerns about the challenges of getting crude oil into the market if inventories continue to dip below these critical levels.
Predicting the future trajectory of oil prices, Melek suggested that prices could remain at elevated levels for the remainder of the year, especially if the global oil cartel, OPEC+, continues to enforce supply restrictions.
He noted that the global oil market is facing a “pretty robust deficit” on top of an already significant shortfall for this quarter due to OPEC’s production cuts.
Saudi Arabia, a key player in OPEC+, has extended its voluntary crude oil production cut of 1 million barrels per day until the year’s end, bringing its crude output to nearly 9 million barrels per day.
Russia has also pledged to continue its 300,000 barrels per day export reduction until December.
However, Melek added that, “We do think that prices could keep up near these levels for quite some time. But I don’t think it’s too permanent. And we might have seen the end of this rally.”
Nigeria’s Struggles in the Energy Sector Highlighted as Ghana Nears Universal Access
Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, continues to grapple with challenges in its electricity sector, resulting in a significant lag behind its West African neighbor, Ghana, in achieving universal access to electricity.
Ghana, with its population of 34 million, has made remarkable strides in expanding its power sector, attaining an impressive electrification rate of 88.54% with ambitions to reach 100% by 2024.
Ghana’s success story is characterized by its deliberate policy formulation and swift implementation to bolster its power sector, facilitating increased investment and widespread electricity access for its citizens.
Speaking at the Nigeria Energy Conference and Exhibition 2023 in Lagos, Ghana’s Minister of Energy, Andrew Mercer, underscored his country’s commitment to achieving universal access to electricity by the end of 2024.
Mercer stated, “The president of Ghana emphasized the aggressive target of the government to achieve universal access by the end of 2024 from the current rate of 88.54%. This is consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7), which aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy for all by 2030.”
In Ghana, the total installed energy capacity stands at 5,454 megawatts (MW) with dependable capacity at 4,843 MW, and peak demand reached 3,561 MW in May 2023.
Meanwhile, Nigeria boasts a significantly higher total installed generation capacity of 13,000 MW but only a fraction, between 3,500 and 4,500 MW, is effectively transmitted and distributed to Nigerian homes and businesses.
Tragically, this disparity means that over 80% of Nigerians still lack access to the electricity grid with only around 11.27 million Nigerians recorded as electricity customers as of Q1 2023, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Ghana’s sustained electricity grid stability has resulted from consistent efforts by the government and stakeholders to enhance the nation’s electricity industry, ultimately improving the quality of life for Ghanaians and supporting economic activities.
Both Ghana and Nigeria have increased their reliance on thermal power generation, reducing the share of hydro power generation in favor of thermal sources. However, while Ghana boasts a record of grid stability and minimal outages, Nigeria has struggled with frequent grid collapses.
In September 2023, Nigeria experienced grid collapses on two occasions, disrupting power supply nationwide.
This disparity in grid reliability highlights the challenges faced by Nigeria’s electricity sector. According to data from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Nigeria recorded a high number of grid collapses in recent years, with 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 witnessing 13, 11, 4, and 4 collapses, respectively.
In 2022, there were seven recorded grid collapses, with the most recent occurring on September 25, 2022, when power generation plummeted from over 3,700 MW to as low as 38 MW.
As Nigeria grapples with these electricity challenges, Ghana’s steady progress in its power sector serves as a reminder of the critical importance of comprehensive policies, infrastructure development, and stability in ensuring universal access to electricity for citizens, a goal that remains elusive for millions of Nigerians.
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