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As Good a US Inflation Report as We Could Have Realistically Hoped For

Financial markets are buzzing at the US open on Wednesday, with investors buoyed by a very promising inflation report from the US.

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

Financial markets are buzzing at the US open on Wednesday, with investors buoyed by a very promising inflation report from the US.

The report not only beat at the headline level but core actually slipped even further, dropping to 4.8% for the first time since October 2021. The monthly data was also extremely encouraging, with headline and core falling to 0.2% which was lower than the consensus forecast in both cases. It really is just what the doctor ordered.

Of course, there’s been plenty of setbacks over the last couple of years so we don’t want to get too carried away with one inflation report but it really is about as good as we could have realistically hoped for.

That said, it’s unlikely to change the outcome of the debate that takes place in two weeks. The Fed is still extremely likely to hike by 25 basis points, rightly or wrongly, as the labor market data on Friday simply wasn’t good enough. In fact, the wages component was quite the opposite and will likely convince the FOMC that one more hike is warranted, which is what markets are still heavily pricing in.

But that may well now be the last and if we can see any further signs of progress over the summer then that will likely end the debate altogether, shifting the conversation from how many more hikes to the timing of the first cut.

Brent crude trying to break $80 after US inflation report

Oil prices have been understandably lifted by the release which makes sense. Anything that could enable a soft landing in the US is good for oil prices. Brent was already trending higher though and is now at its highest point since April, having already broken out of the range it traded within for the last couple of months. ‚Äč

The next level for Brent to overcome is $80, which would be a big psychological leap. That may also see WTI break above its June high following the spike on the 5th. The move higher also suggests the latest efforts of Saudi Arabia and Russia are working in tightening the markets and boosting prices after multiple failed efforts.

Gold gets a welcome boost but can it be sustained?

The US inflation data gave gold just the boost it needed to break back above $1,940 after failing to pierce that level in recent days. The yellow metal has been range-bound in recent weeks between $1,900 and $1,940 and today’s report did what the jobs data failed to do; it provided the catalyst for a breakout.

There remains plenty of resistance ahead for gold and today’s move doesn’t necessarily suggest the correction we’ve seen since May is over but it’s a massive step in the right direction. If the inflation data continues to improve then that could be bullish for gold. The next tests for gold are $1,940, $1,960 and $2,000, which roughly represent the 38.2%, 50% and 61.8% Fibonacci retracement levels from the May high to the June lows.

Is lower inflation good for crypto?

There’s been a lot of volatility in bitcoin in the aftermath of the US inflation release but in terms of sustained direction, not much appears to have changed. At the time of writing, it’s basically trading back where it started, although the price remains extremely choppy so that may not be the case an hour from now, let alone by the end of the day. Traders, as it stands, seemingly can’t make up their mind if it’s good or bad for crypto.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Surge as China’s Holiday Demand and Tight US Supply Drive 2% Weekly Gain

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Crude oil - Investors King

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.

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Crude Oil

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.

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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.”

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Energy

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

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Power - Investors King

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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