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US Jobs Report Eyed as Weaker JOLTS Data Signal Slack Appearing in Labour Market




By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

Equity markets are treading water in the middle of the week as investors weigh up what is next for the Fed following the surprise decline in JOLTS job openings, how much further the RBNZ will go in light of today’s decision and what the OPEC+ cut means for oil prices and inflation.

There’s been a lot to take on board over the last few days and it’s been a real mix of good and bad news. The JOLTS data yesterday could be the first signs of weakness in the US labour market and that is huge. Without it, the Fed will find it very hard to make the argument that it is pausing the tightening cycle. Now it needs to be backed up and the jobs report on Friday could start that process.

RBNZ not done with tightening despite huge rate hikes over the last year

The RBNZ is clearly not of the view that it is close to being able to pause its tightening cycle, despite having raised rates extremely aggressively over the last year or so. The central bank surprised markets by raising the OCR by 50 basis points and there’s likely to be more to come. As we’re seeing elsewhere, New Zealand has its own issues with inflation, most notably an extremely tight labour market. There may be some economic pain ahead as the central bank tries to get to grips with that.

Oil holds gains after OPEC+ cut but remains around recent highs

Oil prices are consolidating after the early week surge in the aftermath of the OPEC+ announcement. The decision to cut output has proven to be very controversial, much like the two million barrel reduction in October, but just like that, there’s no guarantee it will lead to dramatically higher prices.

In fact, at this stage crude is only trading around the highs of the last four months and it’s tested these levels on a number of occasions. A break above here could be a bullish signal but at this point, we are still seeing plenty of resistance. Recent stress in the banking system has led to weaker economic expectations and lower interest rate forecasts and the cut could simply be a response to that.

At this point, the only thing that’s clear is that OPEC+ has no appetite for Brent prices below $80 a barrel. That could make any future foray below there challenging as the group has now shown not only will it cut production, it will do so without warning. That is clearly the message they wanted to send.

Gold edging ever closer to record highs

Gold smashed through $2,000 on Tuesday as the latest JOLTS data showed openings declining and significantly so, in one of the first signs of the labour market cooling. It’s still very early days but the data will be a little encouraging for the Fed, especially if paired with a softer jobs report on Friday.

We’ve heard a number of announcements of mass layoffs in tech and banking in recent months but that hasn’t yet been reflected in the data and it could be that we now start to see slack appearing. It comes at a good time as the Fed could do with a reason to pause the tightening cycle and the response we saw in yields and gold yesterday suggests investors believe it may now get that.

For gold, it’s only traded at this level on two days ever so that doesn’t leave much guidance in terms of technical levels, beyond the all-time highs around $2,070. A weaker jobs report on Friday could see that tested, especially in what will likely be extremely thin trade given the bank holiday.

What will be the next bullish catalyst for bitcoin?

We’re continuing to see choppy trade in bitcoin but importantly, pullbacks have been small and brief which may reassure the crypto crowd that there’s more to come. It’s just hard to know at this point whether the rebound is sustainable, what the next bullish catalyst will be, or even how it will respond to Friday’s jobs report if it is at the weaker end of the spectrum. Whatever happens, it promises to be a fascinating one to follow.

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Crude Oil

Dangote Mega Refinery in Nigeria Seeks Millions of Barrels of US Crude Amid Output Challenges



Dangote Refinery

The Dangote Mega Refinery, situated near Lagos, Nigeria, is embarking on an ambitious plan to procure millions of barrels of US crude over the next year.

The refinery, established by Aliko Dangote, Africa’s wealthiest individual, has issued a term tender for the purchase of 2 million barrels a month of West Texas Intermediate Midland crude for a duration of 12 months, commencing in July.

This development revealed through a document obtained by Bloomberg, represents a shift in strategy for the refinery, which has opted for US oil imports due to constraints in the availability and reliability of Nigerian crude.

Elitsa Georgieva, Executive Director at Citac, an energy consultancy specializing in the African downstream sector, emphasized the allure of US crude for Dangote’s refinery.

Georgieva highlighted the challenges associated with sourcing Nigerian crude, including insufficient supply, unreliability, and sometimes unavailability.

In contrast, US WTI offers reliability, availability, and competitive pricing, making it an attractive option for Dangote.

Nigeria’s struggles to meet its OPEC+ quota and sustain its crude production capacity have been ongoing for at least a year.

Despite an estimated production capacity of 2.6 million barrels a day, the country only managed to pump about 1.45 million barrels a day of crude and liquids in April.

Factors contributing to this decline include crude theft, aging oil pipelines, low investment, and divestments by oil majors operating in Nigeria.

To address the challenge of local supply for the Dangote refinery, Nigeria’s upstream regulators have proposed new draft rules compelling oil producers to prioritize selling crude to domestic refineries.

This regulatory move aims to ensure sufficient local supply to support the operations of the 650,000 barrel-a-day Dangote refinery.

Operating at about half capacity presently, the Dangote refinery has capitalized on the opportunity to secure cheaper US oil imports to fulfill up to a third of its feedstock requirements.

Since the beginning of the year, the refinery has been receiving monthly shipments of about 2 million barrels of WTI Midland from the United States.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Hold Steady as U.S. Demand Signals Strengthening



Crude Oil - Investors King

Oil prices maintained a steady stance in the global market as signals of strengthening demand in the United States provided support amidst ongoing geopolitical tensions.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, holds at $82.79 per barrel, a marginal increase of 4 cents or 0.05%.

Similarly, U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude saw a slight uptick of 4 cents to $78.67 per barrel.

The stability in oil prices came in the wake of favorable data indicating a potential surge in demand from the U.S. market.

An analysis by MUFG analysts Ehsan Khoman and Soojin Kim pointed to a broader risk-on sentiment spurred by signs of receding inflationary pressures in the U.S., suggesting the possibility of a more accommodative monetary policy by the Federal Reserve.

This prospect could alleviate the strength of the dollar and render oil more affordable for holders of other currencies, consequently bolstering demand.

Despite a brief dip on Wednesday, when Brent crude touched an intra-day low of $81.05 per barrel, the commodity rebounded, indicating underlying market resilience.

This bounce-back was attributed to a notable decline in U.S. crude oil inventories, gasoline, and distillates.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a reduction of 2.5 million barrels in crude inventories to 457 million barrels for the week ending May 10, surpassing analysts’ consensus forecast of 543,000 barrels.

John Evans, an analyst at PVM, underscored the significance of increased refinery activity, which contributed to the decline in inventories and hinted at heightened demand.

This development sparked a turnaround in price dynamics, with earlier losses being nullified by a surge in buying activity that wiped out all declines.

Moreover, U.S. consumer price data for April revealed a less-than-expected increase, aligning with market expectations of a potential interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve in September.

The prospect of monetary easing further buoyed market sentiment, contributing to the stability of oil prices.

However, amidst these market dynamics, geopolitical tensions persisted in the Middle East, particularly between Israel and Palestinian factions. Israeli military operations in Gaza remained ongoing, with ceasefire negotiations reaching a stalemate mediated by Qatar and Egypt.

The situation underscored the potential for geopolitical flare-ups to impact oil market sentiment.

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Crude Oil

Shell’s Bonga Field Hits Record High Production of 138,000 Barrels per Day in 2023



oil field

Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo) has achieved a significant milestone as its Bonga field, Nigeria’s first deep-water development, hit a record high production of 138,000 barrels per day in 2023.

This represents a substantial increase when compared to 101,000 barrels per day produced in the previous year.

The improvement in production is attributed to various factors, including the drilling of new wells, reservoir optimization, enhanced facility management, and overall asset management strategies.

Elohor Aiboni, Managing Director of SNEPCo, expressed pride in Bonga’s performance, stating that the increased production underscores the commitment of the company’s staff and its continuous efforts to enhance production processes and maintenance.

Aiboni also acknowledged the support of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and SNEPCo’s co-venture partners, including TotalEnergies Nigeria Limited, Nigerian Agip Exploration, and Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited.

The Bonga field, which commenced production in November 2005, operates through the Bonga Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel, with a capacity of 225,000 barrels per day.

Located 120 kilometers offshore, the FPSO has been a key contributor to Nigeria’s oil production since its inception.

Last year, the Bonga FPSO reached a significant milestone by exporting its 1-billionth barrel of oil, further cementing its position as a vital asset in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.

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