By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA
Stock markets are off to a bad start on Monday as investors question whether the recovery trade has gone too far.
Last week brought an end to the late summer winning streak that saw stock markets recover a significant – and some would argue overly so – portion of the losses endured this year. And it seems that has set the tone going into this week, with Asia and Europe posting losses of more than 1% and US futures pointing to a similar open.
Naturally, all eyes are on Jackson Hole later in the week and in particular, the appearance of Fed Chair Jerome Powell. This platform has in the past been used to make significant announcements and so every year, traders are left on the edge of their seats in case of another this time around.
This year could be an anticlimax on that front as the Fed’s message has been clear since it pivoted to a data-driven approach in July. The markets viewed this as a dovish pivot and policymakers have since pushed back, not helped by the softer inflation data that further fueled the speculation.
With that in mind, the expectation is still that Powell will reaffirm what he and his colleagues have been saying in public recently, without giving too much away ahead of the September meeting, before which we’ll get another inflation and jobs report. The risk is that he says something dovish – intentionally or otherwise – after investors position for the opposite and triggers another risk-on rally in the markets.
European gas surges amid new maintenance plans
Further knocking sentiment in the markets this morning are reports of Nord Stream 1 being shut down again for maintenance later this month. The three-day pause will once again raise fears that the Kremlin will weaponise gas supplies and use the maintenance as an excuse not to resume flows. With storage still below where the EU wants going into the winter, that means a greater risk of shortages and much higher prices, as we’re already seeing this morning with European gas trading up more than 15%.
China rate cut targeted but likely not enough
Meanwhile, China cut its one and five-year loan prime rates on Monday, a move that was expected given the cuts to the reverse repo and MLF rates last week. The composition of the cuts was not quite as expected though, with the one-year cut by only five basis points to 3.65% and the five-year cut by 15bps to 4.3%. This suggests it was very much a move targeted at the ailing property market amid developer struggles and mortgage boycotts.
The problem is that the damage to the property market on top of Covid lockdowns has hit confidence and this cut is unlikely to stimulate demand. Whether the PBOC is up to doing more given the global inflation backdrop isn’t clear.
Oil choppy as traders await JCPOA decision
Oil prices are off more than 1% this morning as choppy trade continues. There remain many factors influencing the oil price right now from a tight market to a diminishing growth outlook and a potential Iran nuclear deal. The prospects for the latter could become clearer over the course of this week although that has been suggested many times this year and yet here we are. We could see WTI remain choppy around $90 and Brent hover above $92 for a little while longer yet.
Gold pushed back further but faces a big test of support
Gold remains on the backfoot amid a resurgent dollar as 10-year Treasuries continue to creep back towards 3% and the two-year hovers around its June highs. Traders are naturally looking for clarity from Powell’s Jackson Hole appearance later this week and seem to think it’s going to come in the form of hawkish warnings. That has dampened sentiment in the yellow metal which has been further pushed back from its recent peak above $1,800 and now trades around the 61.8% retracement level from its July lows to August highs. A good test for overall sentiment in gold.
Bitcoin vulnerable ahead of Powell’s appearance
Bitcoin had a terrible end to last week, falling almost 10% before almost reaching $20,000 over the weekend. Sentiment was looking fragile going into the session, with rallies seeing weakening momentum on approach to $25,000 but a sudden sharp drop of that magnitude still came as quite the surprise. The fact that it’s struggled to recoup much of those losses doesn’t bode well either. The crypto community may well be hoping for a favour from Jerome Powell later this week, with bitcoin looking vulnerable around $20,000 once more.
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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