By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA
What could have been a really positive week for equity markets is off to a much more nervy start, with stocks in Europe treading water and US futures slightly lower.
The inflation report on Friday was red hot once more, extinguishing any hope that investors could hop aboard the Fed pivot train and ride stock markets higher into year-end. Perhaps it’s not quite so dramatic but it was a real setback, something we should be used to by now.
The wages component was the killer blow. That was not just a beat, it obliterated expectations and came in double the forecasted number. It may be a blip, but it’s a huge one and it will almost certainly take more than one much cooler report in January to comfort those that still fear inflation becoming entrenched.
That’s ultimately where we’re now up to in the inflation story. Many accept that base effects and lower energy prices will drive the headline inflation figure much lower next year, among other things, while a slower economy – maybe recession – will eventually hit demand and contribute to the decline. But what the Fed fears now is fighting entrenched inflation and these wage numbers won’t make for comfortable reading.
An economic victory for China amid gloomy PMIs
Chinese stocks were the clear outperformer overnight as authorities continued to work towards a softening of the country’s zero-Covid stance with the end goal seemingly being the end of it altogether. It’s thought that it will be downgraded to category B management as early as next month with officials claiming it’s less threatening than previous strains, a huge move away from the rhetoric and approach of the last few years.
This came as the Caixin services PMI slipped to 46.7, much lower than anticipated. That said, I’m not sure anyone will be shocked given the record Covid surge, but the more targeted – albeit seemingly confused – approach being taken has ensured less disruption, as evidenced by how much better the PMI has performed compared with earlier this year.
And it’s not just China that’s seeing surveys underperforming and, in many cases, putting in sub-50 readings. Europe is either already in recession or heading for it and the surveys highlight just how pessimistic firms are despite the winter getting off to a warmer start.
Japan is among the few recording a growth reading, although having slipped from 53.2 in October to 50.3 last month, you have to wonder for how long. Input prices are punishing firms, with some now raising prices in order to pass those higher costs on. That won’t help activity or convince the BoJ to declare victory, as higher energy and food costs are also hitting domestic demand. The one major outlier is India where the services PMI accelerated higher to 56.4 buoyed by domestic and external demand. An impressive feat in this global environment.
Oil higher as China looks to ease Covid restrictions
Oil prices are higher on Monday, rallying 2%, after the G7 imposed a $60 price cap on Russian oil and OPEC+ announced no new output cuts. Both bring a degree of uncertainty, with the details of the cap and the impact on Russian sales still unclear.
From the OPEC+ perspective, it can’t be easy to make reliable forecasts against that backdrop and the constantly evolving Covid situation in China, which currently looks far more promising from a demand perspective. The decision to leave output unchanged was probably the right one for now and there’s nothing to stop the group from coming together again before the next scheduled meeting should the situation warrant it.
A major setback
It goes without saying that the jobs report on Friday was a big setback for gold as it leaves huge uncertainty around where the terminal rate will land. Of course, we should be used to bumps in the road by now, having experienced many already this year. There’s no reason why the path back to 2% should be any smoother.
But the yellow metal did recover those jobs report losses and even hit a new four-month high today. Perhaps the big difference now is momentum. It’s run into strong resistance around those August highs around $1,810 and simply doesn’t have the momentum it would have had the report been cooler. We’re now more than four weeks into the recovery rally in gold and a corrective move of some kind may be on the cards.
Silence is bliss
Bitcoin continues to enjoy a mild relief rally and has even moved above $17,000 to trade at its highest level in almost a month. It’s probably too early to celebrate yet though as these are very cautious gains that could be quickly and easily wiped out by more negative headlines related to FTX. Silence is currently bliss for the crypto community.
OPEC+ Delegates Seek Steady Oil Production Levels as Committee of Ministers Meet Next Week
With the recent hike in the prices of oil at the international markets, the delegates of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have canvassed for a steady oil production output.
This is coming a few days before the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee of the organisation would meet to deliberate on the demand and supply chain of crude oil in the global space.
The meeting of the Advisory Committee of Ministers is said to hold online as top OPEC officials continue to push for unchanged oil production levels.
Investors King reports that there has been an uncertain recovery in global demand for oil as international oil prices had climbed in the past two weeks.
It was gathered that Saudi Arabia and its partners are planning to hold a review of output levels on February 1, 2023 after agreeing significant cutbacks late last year to keep world crude markets in balance.
While awaiting clarity on the recovery in consumption in China and the impact of sanctions on Russian supply, the delegates said they expected the Ministers not it tamper with the output.
The Opec+ is embracing conservative stance even China, the biggest oil importer in the world battles devastating effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, Opec+ is expecting the full impact of European Union sanctions on member-country Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Analysts at Eurasia Group have said, in a report, that there are possibilities of Opec+ maintaining the status quo beyond next week’s meeting.
According to the report, prices of oil have stabilised while there are significant levels of uncertainty surrounding both supply and demand.
It was gathered that feedback from the top OPEC hierarchy would go a long way in forming the decision to hold steady or not.
The Secretary-General of petroleum exporting countries, Haitham Al-Ghais has expressed hope on the global economy as the nascent rebound in China is tempered by weakness in advanced economies.
For Saudi Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Opec+ would be proactive and preemptive to keep markets in equilibrium.
The head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets LLC, Helima Croft, said there were pointers that Saudi Arabia wants to adopt the policy of preemption and keep production constraints in place until there are clear indications that there is sufficient demand for additional supply.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Energy Aspects Ltd. revealed that Opec+ will only start to reverse its supply curbs, which were formally about 2 million barrels a day, and increase production in the second half of the year.
At this period, accelerating demand would have tightened the market.
Meanwhile, the 23-nation alliance is scheduled to meet at OPEC’s Vienna headquarters in early June to review production levels for other months in the year.
Oil Gains Marginally on Possible Demand Recovery in China
Oil prices inched slightly higher on Wednesday as optimism for a demand recovery in China and expectations that major producers will maintain current output policy offset global recession worries.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, appreciated by 17 cents, or 0.2%, to $86.30 per barrel after falling by 2.3% on Tuesday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude climbed 7 cents, or 0.1%, to $80.20, after a 1.8% drop on Tuesday.
“Expectations that China’s fuel demand will recover in the second half of the year are growing and are likely to support market sentiment,” said Hiroyuki Kikukawa, general manager of research at Nissan Securities.
Analysts from the Bank of America Securities said the reopening of the Chinese economy after years of tough COVID restrictions could unleash a large wave of pent-up demand over the next 18 months.
On the supply side, volumes should remain steady for the medium term as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, is expected to keep its output policy unchanged.
An OPEC+ panel is likely to endorse the producer group’s current oil output policy when it meets next week, five OPEC+ sources said on Tuesday, as hopes for higher Chinese demand are balanced by worries over inflation and the global economy.
OPEC+ in October decided to trim output by 2 million barrels per day from November through 2023 on a weaker economic outlook.
However, gains in oil prices were capped by a bigger-than-expected build in U.S. oil inventories that was reported after the market settled on Tuesday.
U.S. crude stocks rose by about 3.4 million barrels in the week ended Jan. 20, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures. That was triple the forecast for an about 1 million build in a preliminary Reuters poll on Monday.
Nissan’s Kikukawa, however, expects the build “to be temporary as the supply disruptions from a cold snap in the United States a few weeks ago would only impact data in the next couple of weeks”.
Official data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration will be released later on Wednesday.
Kikukawa expects WTI to trade in a range between $75 and $85 a barrel in the coming weeks.
Markets are also watching out for interest rate decisions from central banks for more trading cues.
“It seems that the absence of hawkish Fed comments from the current blackout period has removed a key overhang for risk sentiments for now, providing some renewed traction back into growth,” Yeap Jun Rong, market analyst at IG, said in a note.
Investors are waiting to see if the U.S. Federal Reserve will “react to recent downside surprise in inflation and growth” when it meets next week, the analyst added.
Fuel Scarcity: IPMAN Decries 50% Reduction of Product Supply Since July 2022
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN has faulted the oil sector’s incapability to cater for the full fuel supply order of oil marketers nationwide.
Investors King learnt that the volume of products supplied to marketers dropped by 50 percent since July, 2022 which has worsened the fuel scarcity situation.
The Deputy National President of IPMAN, Zahra Mustapha, during a Television interview stressed that there is confusion in the nation’s oil sector.
Mustapha, who said the fuel subsidy issue is complex, explained that the federal government is overwhelmed by the burden of fuel subsidy which is not sustainable.
“The fact of the matter is that we are in a very complex situation because the burden of subsidy that the government is carrying is no more sustainable and the volume that the NNPC for now, being the sole importer of the petroleum product, PMS, has been hit hard, because of that the supply that we receive as the marketers at the loading point is being reduced by over 50 per cent.
“It doesn’t seem that they (NNPC) are bringing in more, if they are, we will be getting the volume we usually get before. Since July/August last year the volume we receive now is not up to 40 or 50 percent of what we usually get. As of today, the volume we are getting is not enough,” he said.
Mustapha stated that the situation has been reported to the oil sector regulatory bodies and the oil marketers are expecting their actions.
He further lamented the high supply cost and transportation which makes them sell it at a much higher rate to the consumers.
“We are supposed to get this product at N148 but we are buying at N22o and it keeps increasing. 240 in Lagos, 235 in Warri, 240 in Port Harcourt, in Calabar it is as high as N250 per litre for marketers, and you buy and transport yourself to where your retail outlet is. We cannot buy the product between 220 to 240 naira, transport it for about N50, which is already N300, then expect the marketer to sell to the public for N200 or N190. It is not realisable.
“There are a lot of confusions in the industry, which the government must come in and address these confusions so that the common man can get the product for the approved price,” said Mustapha.
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