Eq: Energy (14)
Oil has been whipsawing all over the place lately. For the last several weeks, oil has mostly fallen, with some short term big rallies along the way. One of those was just a couple days ago when Saudi Arabia and Russia announced an agreement to cut output. However, the bottom has fallen out of the commodity as Saudi Arabia’s energy minister announced that he would only favor a small cut. This led to big doubts about whether the efforts will actually lower supply, sending prices spiraling down 5%.
FINSUM: This seems to be a direct consequence of the US’ ability to boost its production to offset any declines by OPEC. Accordingly, Saudi Arabia doesn’t want to lower its revenue by cutting only for the US to take advantage.
If you haven’t been paying attention, something very interesting has been happening in the oil market. That development is that the US has quietly replaced Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer. That is a major development because the US is outside of OPEC and thus is a major counter-balance (headache) to Saudi Arabia and OPEC’s ability to control oil prices. Each time Riyadh wants to cut output to boost prices, the US can raise its production to offset the cut.
FINSUM: The US is in a strategically superior position for the first time in a very long time. This whole dynamic is symptomatic of the new era of bountiful oil. We ultimately believe that prices will stay well below $100 for several years to come because of how supplied the market is.
Oil has been falling for several weeks, with prices dipping below the $50 mark for US crude. However, over the last couple of days, the price of black gold has surged. Investors may be left wondering what it all means. The answer is that Saudi Arabia and Russia announced their intentions to work together on another output cut, which sent prices surging. On the sidelines of the G-20, the Saudis and Vladimir Putin agreed to extend their output cuts. At the same times, Canada announced a curb on production.
FINSUM: Just as we have been saying, current movements in oil are particular to the sector and not indicative of the wider economy.
The oil market has been in an extremely rough patch over the last several weeks. Just a couple months ago, many were talking about the return of $100 oil. Suddenly, prices are just half that. The question is where is crude headed next. Well, the Saudis seem committed to keeping it weak, as the Kingdom, which leads OPEC, has just announced that it will not cut production. The catch is that it said it will not do so alone, which keeps the door open to another coordinated OPEC-wide cut, such as happened several months ago.
FINSUM: The big difference between a coordinated cut now and the one from a couple years ago is that the world looks much closer to recession a present, which means demand could flatten or fall even if output lowers. That means producers could lose revenue by cutting (instead of the difference being made up by price gains), which makes a big difference.
When oil falls it tends to boost the US economy. For all the growth of our shale industry, the US is still a net importer of oil. When prices fall, Americans tend to spend more on other items that boost the economy, so oil prices sinking is usually good news. However, this time around, the fall will be bad, at least according to the Wall Street Journal. The problem is that the oil industry has grown large enough that capital expenditures in the sector make a major impact on growth. Accordingly, the capex cut that will come from falling prices will be prove a net detriment to GDP figures.
FINSUM: When oil fell in 2014-2016, US economic output also slowed, so this is a very real affect. What is worse is that it will likely show up in 2019, which is already looking to be a much weaker year.
Oil, like many other commodities, is seen as a good leading indicator of the economy. Because it is a strong gauge for total economic demand, it functions are a good bellwether of future growth. However, Barron’s is arguing that, right now, the signal is broken. There are a number of reasons why. The foremost of them are that the recent moves in oil have much more to do with supply growth and geopolitics than they do with economic demand.
FINSUM: Oil is not a good barometer of the economy right now because of its own issues. The oil market has changed dramatically in the last decade because of the huge expansion of oil reserves due to shale. That has led to the whole sector recalibrating itself. As evidence of this argument, take for instance the fact that oil suffered an extreme bear market from 2014-2016, but the global economy kept expanding nicely.
Oil is in the middle of a fit. The commodity just recently entered a bear market and it is has been swinging up and down based on confusion over whether it will be over- or undersupplied in coming years. The market is plunging today as OPEC announced yesterday that it sees a slowdown in oil demand coming as well as oversupply. According to OPEC, “The recent downward revision to the global economic growth forecast and associated uncertainties confirms the emerging pressure on oil demand observed in recent months”.
FINSUM: The oil market seems to be trying to get ahead of a recession. OPEC’s demand forecast has slumped considerably, which in our opinion is one of the major drivers of the bear market.
Oil lost big time over the last few weeks and entered a bear market late last week. However, it is surging today as new hope of an OPEC output cut has come to light. Saudi Arabia, the leader of OPEC, says OPEC is willing to consider another round of output cuts as a measure to keep prices high. The last time OPEC agreed to a round of cuts, the market was pulled out of its deep bear market and more than doubled in price.
FINSUM: We used to be skeptical that OPEC could pull off a coordinated cut because of the competing interests of members. But the success it saw last time around means no one should doubt it.
Oil prices have taken a nose dive lately, and yesterday officially fell into a bear market. Prices on Brent crude fell below the $70 per barrel mark for the first time since April. US crude is even lower, with prices sitting at $59 per barrel. For most of the summer the market was worried about undersupply, but the US has been more generous with sanction exemptions on Iran, and the US, Russia, and Saudi Arabia have all boosted output, alleviating fears and pushing prices lower.
FINSUM: The oil market seems to be trading based on supply and demand fundamentals—just like it should. It is very hard to predict how things will progress.
The oil market is nervous, which seems likely to lead to volatility. The surprise is that sharp moves may trend to the upside rather than the downside. The two big concerns are about how sanctions on Iran may crimp output, as well as how OPEC lacks spare capacity to boost output. Such concerns are a stark change from the attitude that accompanied the sharp price falls in recent weeks, when supply seemed to be expanding strongly.
FINSUM: The Saudis are saying they will expand production to a record, but the reality is they do not want to do so because they don’t want prices to fall. It seems like OPEC will walk a line to keep prices where they are.
The oil market has been in an interesting period since at least 2014. In the years prior, many had been worried about the concept of peak oil, or the idea that the world was past its peak output of oil and that supply would grow ever tighter. Then the shale boom happened and the world was suddenly floating in the stuff, causing prices to plummet. Now we are somewhere back in the middle as there are genuine concerns about supply at the same time as growing demand. Shale growth is slowing in the face of capital constraints and pipeline issues, and “The Saudis are just about out of spare capacity”, according to a top energy adviser.
FINSUM: We think the concerns over supply are legitimate enough that they will be supportive of prices even if we are slowly headed towards recession. That said, we think more supply will come to market to meet demand than many anticipate.
Stocks fell around 0.5% yesterday after being down much more. Oil fell 4%. The reasons why are many, but mostly it seemed to be bad timing. Saudi Arabia announced it would pump more oil at the same time as the market is worried about economic growth and aggregate demand. Invesco’s chief market strategist summarized the situation best, saying “Markets have underreacted to tariffs, because they weren’t really tangible. Now it’s getting more tangible with the IMF lowering growth forecasts and showing up in what could be seen as canaries in the coal mine … That’s putting downward pressure on stocks and on oil”.
FINSUM: We feel like oil is too high for where it should be right now. That said, the geopolitical risks surrounding Saudi Arabia could have a directly negative affect on gross oil supply, which would be positive for prices.
You want to know an asset class that has performed well in periods of rising rates? Take a look at oil. In periods of quickly rising rates and yields, oil and oil-related stocks have done very well. In fact, Van Eck’s Vectors Oil Service ETF (OIH) has been the best performing fund of its type in such periods. “Shares in the VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF saw a 6.5 percent boost over the month when rates jumped, while shares of the United States Oil Fund ETF ran up 4.5 percent”, according to Kensho.
FINSUM: Oil and banks tend to do well in periods of rising rates. The former because rising rates usually mean a strengthening economy, and the latter because of both an improving economy, but also wider net interest margins.
It is a trying time to be picking where to allocate capital. Bonds are getting walloped and rate rises and trade war fears are weighing on stocks. Recession looms as a threat. With all that in mind, Goldman Sachs thinks it is a good time to buy MLPs. MLPs have been roughly flat this year, but GS thinks good times are ahead. Kinder Morgan is one of the bank’s top picks and they believe the sector will rise on improving cash flow and gains that result from simplifying their corporate structures (most will likely change to C-Corps following last year’s change in the tax code).
FINSUM: MLPs have been pretty flat and this is not the first time Wall Street analysts have called for a surge. Still, this is interesting to consider.