By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA
Stock markets in Europe opened positively on Friday after what has been an otherwise rotten week, while Asia was fairly mixed ahead of the US jobs report.
It will be interesting to see whether Europe can maintain the rebound today considering we’re heading into the weekend not certain that gas will start flowing through Nord Stream 1 again tomorrow. Grid data suggests it will but until the gas starts actually flowing, it remains a risk. That weekend risk may make investors a little nervous as we progress through the session and could lead to more caution as we approach the close.
The US jobs report could also be a negative catalyst later in the session if it’s deemed strong enough to warrant more aggressive tightening from the Fed. We’ve seen a lot more risk aversion in the markets recently as Fed commentary has finally gotten through to investors.
We’re still seeing remarkable resilience in the US data, particularly the labour market, even if some cracks are appearing elsewhere. While the NFP and unemployment will naturally attract the most attention initially, it’s the wages that could tip the balance at the central bank, with policymakers concerned about inflation becoming entrenched.
Will Japan intervene as the yen hits a 24-year low?
The yen has been back in focus in recent days, having fallen to a 24-year low against the dollar on Thursday, breaking above 140 in the process. This level has been speculated a lot about in recent months as being the point at which Japanese officials may be tempted to intervene in the markets and comments overnight could further fuel that, with one spokesperson warning moves are being watched with a high sense of urgency.
That doesn’t appear to have happened yet and we’re not likely to see any shift from the Bank of Japan either if recent commentary is anything to go by. While inflation is currently above its target, that’s not expected to last and there’s seemingly little appetite to change course. That could mean further declines in the yen until intervention is deemed necessary, although the threat of such action could slow the decline as we’ve already seen.
JCPOA talks seemingly stall but Macron remains confident
Oil prices are higher today after falling close to their summer lows over the course of the week. The rebound comes as nuclear talks between Iran and the US appear to have stalled, with the former claiming they had sent a “constructive” response to proposals and the latter quickly deeming them “not constructive”. While Macron remains hopeful that a deal can be concluded in the coming days, I’m not sure everyone else shares his optimism.
If a deal on the JCPOA is reached, that will make next week’s OPEC+ meeting all the more interesting. A deal has been a big downside risk for oil prices recently, something Saudi Arabia sought to counter with warnings of production cuts from the alliance. When and how they would respond isn’t clear but it would certainly create some uncertainty around the meeting.
A major breakout is potentially on the cards
Gold is really struggling amid growing expectations of another 75 basis point rate hike from the Fed this month. After breaking below $1,730 earlier in the week, it didn’t take long for the yellow metal to test support at $1,700, even breaching it briefly yesterday. A strong jobs report today could tip it over the edge, with key support below then coming around $1,680 where it rebounded in July. It has also bottomed here on a few occasions over the last couple of years which adds to its significance as a major support level.
Treading water ahead of the jobs report
Bitcoin has been treading water around $20,000 over the past week, perhaps with one eye on today’s jobs report. This is clearly a major level of support and a significant break of it could see further losses, with $17,500 the next major test being the level it bottomed at in June. Risk appetite in the markets has not been positive recently which has weighed heavily on bitcoin and other risk assets. The jobs report today could compound that if it feeds inflation fears and raises the odds of another 75 basis point Fed hike this month.
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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