By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA
Equity markets have erased early gains to trade in the red on Thursday, as investors take a cautious approach ahead of Friday’s jobs report.
The narrative in recent days of weaker data being positive as it could be a precursor to slower tightening didn’t seem sustainable and it’s already proving to be the case. I think it was more a reflection of the steep sell-off in the markets and the performance of risk assets in general over the six weeks previous, rather than the data. If the Fed wasn’t prepared to jump at the first sign of inflation easing, it certainly won’t on the back of a weaker PMI and decline in job openings.
The recovery did provide some temporary relief and while weaker data is likely to precede a deceleration in rate hikes, I don’t think we’re there yet. Yesterday’s services PMI – which is far more important – was still strong, as was the ADP number and tomorrow’s jobs report is expected to remain hot.
That may put an end to the narrative for now, although any weakness in the labour market data tomorrow, or signs of additional slack, could boost the relief rally once more and see equity markets end the week strong. As I say, it’s all clutching at straws at this point but after weeks of heavy losses, perhaps that’s not overly surprising.
UK facing major headwinds
The UK economy appeared to get some good news from the Construction PMI this morning, which easily beat expectations rising to 52.3 rather than dropping to 48.1 from 49.2. So rather than contracting at a faster rate, the industry posted strong growth in the survey. Unfortunately, the headline number simply doesn’t tell the full story. The improvement was driven by delayed projects and easing supply shortages, while new orders showed the weakest growth since May 2020. That’s a more accurate reflection of the state of play in the UK right now.
As was captured overnight by Fitch downgrading the outlook from stable to negative in light of the mini-budget. The overall rating remained at AA- but that may change once the details of how everything will be paid for are released in the budget. Sterling is down for a second day after recovering over the last week, off around 0.6% against the dollar.
OPEC+ boosts oil prices after large cut
Oil prices are edging lower today after OPEC+ announced a huge production cut on Wednesday of two million barrels per day. With the group failing to hit output targets by a widening margin as the year has progressed, the net cut will be around half that, if not less, but that’s still a substantial reduction in an already tight market.
Of course, the global economy is slowing as a result of an inflation and interest rate shock – which soaring oil prices and underproduction is partially responsible for – and that should weigh on demand over the next year offering some balance. But that is highly uncertain so it’s understandable that the backlash has started as higher oil prices will only compound inflation and cost-of-living issues in the interim.
Gold relief rally over?
Gold is paring gains again today after a strong relief rally earlier in the week. The yellow metal was buoyed by a softening dollar and lower yields but both are bouncing back. It was always likely to face strong resistance above as the rally was driven more by hope than substance. A weaker jobs report tomorrow could give it another boost but even that may prove to not be sustainable.
Choppy ahead of the jobs report
Bitcoin continues to be choppy around $20,000, with trade in the middle of the week having lost the momentum it started with. Traders appear to have one eye on the jobs report now in the hope it’s bad enough to trigger another risk rally. Given the strength of the labour market until now, they may be disappointed 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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