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Weak Global Trade Weighs on Chinese Exports, Australian Growth Slows, Oil Slips Further

European indices and US futures look a little flat following a mixed session in Asia overnight, as Chinese trade data failed to inspire while Australian GDP pointed to further pain as the RBA continues raising rates.

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

European indices and US futures look a little flat following a mixed session in Asia overnight, as Chinese trade data failed to inspire while Australian GDP pointed to further pain as the RBA continues raising rates.

Disappointing trade figures increase calls for stimulus

Chinese trade data offered further evidence of weakening demand both domestically and abroad, with exports falling particularly hard last month. A 7.5% decline far exceeded the -0.4% expected, while imports actually beat forecasts, albeit while also falling 4.5% in May.

Weaker global trade is not a new story but it is surprising how quickly China’s reopening boost has faded, with backlogs of work supporting export numbers until now even as other countries have continued to see demand for their goods wane.

With China’s reopening boom flagging so quickly, pressure is set to intensify on the leadership to announce new stimulus measures in a bid to revitalize the economy again and achieve its 5% growth target. That may initially come in the form of rate cuts, perhaps targeted to those sectors under the most pressure with authorities so far reluctant to engage in broad-based easing.

Australian growth slows as high interest rates bite

The Australian economy is slowing amid cost-of-living pressures, weaker household spending, and higher interest rates. GDP in the first quarter slipped to 0.2%, down from 0.6% in the final quarter of last year and below expectations. High-interest rates and inflation are hurting household finances and the economy is now suffering. This week’s RBA hike is going to compound this and unless we see signs of price pressures easing, there may be more to come.

Oil remains under pressure after Saudi cut

Oil prices are falling again today as Saudi Arabia’s attempt to dress up a unilateral move as a group cut fails to have the desired impact. Crude is now trading below the level it ended at Friday which suggests that, despite the knee-jerk reaction on Monday, traders were hedging against broader action from OPEC+ and got a light version of the deal they feared.

While Saudi Arabia remains price driven, the market is more concerned with the economic outlook, and the rest of the alliance seemingly isn’t interested in taking more action in anticipation of what may come. The commitment from the start of the next year could easily change depending on what unfolds whereas markets are forced to respond to current risks and as far as the economy is concerned, they are tilted to the downside.

Gold awaiting further data following inconclusive reports

Gold is treading water again this morning, sitting right in the middle of the roughly $1,940-$1,980 range it found itself in these past weeks. The economic data we’ve had recently has been far from conclusive and that creates a lot of uncertainty around the policy path for interest rates and therefore appetite for the yellow metal.

Inflation has proven to be more stubborn than hoped while the labour market remains resilient, a combination that doesn’t point to US rate cuts later this year as traders currently hope. This is a big summer and all of that may soon change but for now, that uncertainty is creating this choppiness and range trading we’re seeing in gold.

Will the Binance and Coinbase sagas bring regulatory clarity to the space?

It’s been an explosive couple of days in the crypto space, with the SEC targeting Binance and Coinbase with lawsuits containing various allegations that have rattled the industry. Bitcoin initially fell more than 5% on Monday before recovering largely on Tuesday and now it’s trading only marginally lower, just below $27,000. While the initial response to the action was negative, it didn’t exactly come as a shock and the companies will have been preparing for such a move for some time.

Given the size of the two exchanges and the recent scarring from the FTX scandal, there will obviously be some concern about what comes next. But one good thing that will hopefully come from this is regulatory clarity which has been lacking for years now.

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Energy

Nigeria’s Struggles in the Energy Sector Highlighted as Ghana Nears Universal Access

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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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Crude Oil

Nigerian Pump Prices May Increase as Crude Oil Hits $93.55 Per Barrel

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Amidst growing concerns over the surging price of crude oil on the international market, Nigerian citizens are bracing themselves for a possible increase in pump prices.

Crude oil, the lifeblood of Nigeria’s economy rose to $92.42 per barrel on Monday, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the already volatile fuel market.

This surge in crude oil prices comes in tandem with the persistent depreciation of the Naira in foreign exchange markets, where it traded at N980 to $1 on the parallel market. For many Nigerians, these simultaneous developments trigger memories of the recent fuel price hikes that followed the removal of fuel subsidies earlier this year.

In June, the government removed the subsidy, leading to a sharp 210% increase in the pump price from N175 per liter to N546.83 per liter. In a further blow to consumers, less than a month later, the price surged again, reaching N617 per liter.

However, since then, there have been no additional fuel increments, despite fluctuations in the Naira’s exchange rate. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, along with key government officials and industry leaders, has reiterated their commitment to stabilizing petrol prices in the country.

According to Ajuri Ngelale, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, “The President affirms that there will be no increase in the price of petroleum motor spirit.”

Mele Kyari, Group Chief Executive of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPC), echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that NNPC is the sole supplier of petrol nationwide and has not proposed any price hikes.

Industry experts like Chinedu Okonkwo, President of the Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), have urged the government to expedite efforts in implementing Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as a viable alternative to traditional fuels, providing a long-term solution to the country’s energy needs.

While the global crude oil price surge is a cause for concern, Nigerians are holding onto the government’s commitment to price stability and the potential for CNG to provide a sustainable energy alternative in the future.

In a market with unique dynamics, where NNPC remains the sole supplier and importer of fuel, the hope is that prices will remain stable for the benefit of all Nigerians.

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Crude Oil

Nigeria’s Oil Output Plummets to Record Low as Production Sharing Contracts Struggle

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Nigeria’s oil output from Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) with partnering firms has reached a historic low of 34 percent over the past year, according to a comprehensive review of the latest Oil and Gas Report released by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEIĀ  TI).

This dramatic decline underscores the nation’s persistent challenge of meeting its crude oil export commitments, despite its status as Africa’s largest oil producer with abundant crude reserves.

The NEITI report, covering the year 2021, paints a grim picture of the state of PSCs in Nigeria. Out of the 35 PSC blocks, only 12 recorded any production, while a staggering 23 blocks, representing 66 percent of the total, remained entirely dormant.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), representing the federation, participates in these PSCs, where partnering oil companies finance operations in exchange for future benefits, such as Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT), royalties, and other bonuses.

NEITI’s report reveals that production from these PSCs has dwindled significantly. “In 2021, only 12 (34 percent) of the PSC blocks recorded production, while 23 other blocks, representing 66 percent of the total number of PSC blocks, did not produce,” the report stated.

This production amounted to 242.96 million barrels, a mere 42.92 percent of the nation’s total oil production for the year.

Despite ongoing efforts to boost production, Nigeria has been unable to raise its oil exports for over three years, consistently falling short of its required OPEC quota by at least 560,000 barrels per day.

This shortfall severely hampers the country’s ability to generate much-needed foreign exchange.

NEITI has issued a crucial recommendation in response to this crisis. It calls on the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and NNPC to urgently review the technical and operational constraints hampering production from idle PSC blocks, with the goal of optimizing these arrangements.

In cases where issues cannot be resolved, NEITI suggests considering license revocation and allocation to other interested parties.

Also, the NEITI report highlights losses in the oil sector due to theft and sabotage. In 2021, a total of 29 companies suffered crude oil losses amounting to 37.57 million barrels. The theft and sabotage were primarily concentrated in three terminals: Bonny, Forcados, and Brass, with Bonny experiencing the highest volume of theft at 28.91 million barrels.

Cumulatively, this resulted in a substantial loss of 19 percent of production delivered into these terminals.

The report also notes that companies reported deferred crude production of 70.09 million barrels in 2021, attributing it mainly to repairs and maintenance.

Concerns regarding transparency and accountability are raised as the report reveals discrepancies in revenue records. While $194.85 million and N9.73 billion were earned from pipeline transportation revenue during the period, NEITI highlights that the naira receipt had yet to be remitted at the time of the report, and there was inadequate disclosure of tariff rates and volumes.

Similarly, $702.19 million and N343.56 million in miscellaneous revenue from Joint Venture (JV) operations raised questions, as the naira receipt remained unremitted to the federation. NEITI urges NNPC and partnering companies to promptly provide a basis for revenue computation and ensure that all due revenues are remitted as soon as received.

The report concludes by emphasizing the need for improved data management processes and controls to prevent future discrepancies, highlighting the importance of regular monitoring, data reconciliation, and cross-verification to maintain data integrity.

As Nigeria grapples with these critical issues in its oil sector, the report serves as a stark reminder of the challenges facing one of Africa’s largest oil-producing nations.

Urgent action and reforms are required to address the declining production, losses, and revenue discrepancies in Nigeria’s oil industry.

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