Eq: Energy

Eq: Energy (121)

Thursday, 25 January 2024 05:47

What’s Behind the Squeeze in Uranium?

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A noteworthy development in 2024 has been soaring uranium prices. The radioactive metal was up more than 90% in 2023 and is now at its highest levels since 2007. According to Ole Hansen, the head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, this move is being driven by increased demand from ETFs holding physical inventory and utilities who were not hedging due to years of low prices. 

 

Prices moved past $100 per pound last week following an announcement from Kazakhstan's state uranium company that it may fail to meet production goals due to construction delays and difficulty sourcing raw materials. This follows a slew of production downgrades from a variety of producers in 2023, adding to pressure on the supply side. 

 

On the demand side, analysts point to the Sprott Physical Uranium Trust and Yellow Cake as marginal sources of gold demand, contributing to the ‘squeeze’. As a result, many now expect uranium to exceed all-time highs from June 2007 of $136 per pound, and uranium miner equities have also been following the metal higher. 

 

Longer-term, many believe that the uranium market is at a deficit given the gap between yearly production and consumption. Currently, the gap has been made up by huge amounts of secondary supply, yet this inventory is also rapidly being depleted.  


Finsum: Uranium prices have continued momentum from last year. Many believe new, all-time highs are in store given increased demand from ETFs and utilities, while production is impaired.

 

Two of the largest domestic natural gas producers and leaders in shale production, Chesapeake Energy and Southwestern Energy, have agreed to merge in a $7.4 billion deal. This continues a wave of M&A activity in the energy sector. For 2024, this is expected to continue given that many companies are flush with cash, while valuations are also attractive.

 

The merger is an all-stock transaction and is expected to close in the second quarter. According to Chesapeake CEO Nick Dell’Osso, the merger will enable them to compete on an international scale and lead to lower costs. The new, combined company will have a new name and a market cap of around $24 billion. It forecasts 15 years of inventory and expects a 20% increase in dividends due to “significant synergies” and an increase in free cash flow generation over the next 5 years. 

 

Last year, there were a handful of deals in the sector as ExxonMobil bought Pioneer Natural Resources for $60 billion, while Chevron bought Hess for $53 billion. Both companies were looking to boost production capacity. In 2024, analysts are forecasting that major energy producers will be looking to acquire high-quality shale holdings in public and private markets.


Finsum: Chesapeake Energy and Southwestern Energy agreed to a $7.4 billion merger. Analysts are expecting more M&A activity in the sector in the coming year.

 

Thursday, 11 January 2024 16:41

Energy Weakness Continues Into 2024

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2024 has started off with a bearish tone for the energy sector amid concerns of a supply glut and weakening demand. On Monday, crude oil prices dropped 4% as Saudi Arabia reduced prices for Asian customers by $2 per barrel. 

 

This is leading to speculation that Saudi Arabia could be looking to regain market share by punishing US producers and undercut cheaper Iranian and Russian oil. It could lead to a similar situation as 2020 when oil prices collapsed as Saudi Arabia flooded the market to punish other producers. Currently, the US is producing 13.2 million barrels per day of oil and has been restocking inventories and increasing exports. Others see it more as the consequence of a weak demand environment and a reflection of a decelerating economy. 

 

Energy prices had been higher to start the year amid an increase in geopolitical tensions. These include Houthi rebels attacking commercial vessels in the Red Sea and the escalations in the war between Israel and Hamas which could turn it into a larger, regional war. However, these concerns are being dwarfed by the supply and demand picture as evidenced by West Texas crude oil at $70 per barrel. 


Finsum: Oil prices dropped as Saudi Arabia announced that it would be reducing prices for Asian customers. Some believe that the country could be acting to protect market share. 

 

Friday, 29 December 2023 03:02

Expect Volatility to Continue for Oil in 2024

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This year has seen some big swings in crude oil prices given a variety of developments. These include rising US oil production, OPEC production cuts, the ongoing war in Ukraine, rising tensions in the MIddle East following Hamas’ attack, and a slowing global economy. As a result, crude oil prices ended the year down 10%. 

 

Entering 2024, these will continue to be major themes that need to be monitored. At its last meeting, OPEC reduced its production by 2.2 million barrels per day and said that more cuts may be necessary to support the price. But, there is increasing skepticism whether countries will actually abide given that many are reliant on oil revenue. 

 

Another challenge for OPEC is that US oil production continues to rise. Next year, it’s forecast to be 13.3 million barrels per day, an increase from this year’s average of 13 million barrels per day. Companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron recently made major acquisitions of domestic producers and are also increasing capital expenditures. Unlike smaller producers, these majors are able to take advantage of economies of scale to push their costs lower and remain profitable with lower prices. 

 

OPEC now only has control of 51% of the crude oil market which is the lowest in decades. This raises the possibility that Saudi Arabia could choose to increase the supply to temporarily crash the price of oil in order to punish these producers and take back market share, although most analysts believe this is unlikely. 

 

On the other side, demand is projected to grow at the smallest rate in a year - 1.3 million barrels per day. In 2023, oil demand increased by 1.8 million barrels per day.  In part, this is due to a slowing global economy especially in China. 


Finsum: Oil has been quite weak to end the year despite several bullish catalysts. In hindsight, the most important development has been rising US oil production which is expected to hit a new record next year. 

 

Friday, 22 December 2023 17:16

Energy Sector Has Upside in 2024: Fidelity

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Energy stocks underperformed in 2023 due to supply being stronger than expected, while demand was muted due to softer economic growth in Asia and Europe. For next year, Maurice FitzMaurice, Fidelity’s energy sector portfolio manager, is bullish on the sector as he sees oil prices remaining high. Additionally, he expects increased investments in international and offshore production. 

 

While many are focused on the recent decline in oil prices, FitzMaurice believes that fundamentals support higher prices, and he points to low levels of CAPEX over the past decade as a major factor. Even though investment in production has recently increased, it will take years for it to come online and meaningfully impact supply. He predicts that US shale production will see slower growth due to higher costs and less productive wells, and OPEC will remain vigilant to support prices. 

 

In terms of subsectors, he favors energy equipment and services companies. He believes that more investment is required to meet the world’s need for oil, and higher levels of CAPEX should persist for multiple years especially given nearly a decade of underinvestment. Additionally, there is limited capacity in these subsectors which should result in significant pricing power and higher margins. In terms of which companies to target, he advises seeking out companies trading at discounted valuations, a healthy balance sheet, and a disciplined approach to capital allocation that has some sort of competitive advantage. 


Finsum: Fidelity’s energy sector portfolio manager shared his outlook for the sector next year. He is most bullish on energy services and equipment stocks due to the start of a multiyear investment cycle. 

 

Wednesday, 13 December 2023 05:04

Spare Capacity a Major Headwind for Energy Stocks in 2024

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According to Citi, energy stocks will struggle in 2024 due to rising spare oil capacity. This is essentially the amount of oil production that can be quickly brought online and sustained for up to 3 months. Historically, energy stocks have underperformed in years with 3 million barrels per day of spare capacity. 

Currently, estimates are for an average of 4 million barrels per day of spare capacity. Due to this, the bank is forecasting oil prices to end 2024 in the low $70s. It notes that despite the formation of OPEC+, spare capacity has continued to rise with 80% of the growth coming from the US. 

YTD, oil prices are down by 4%, while energy stocks are lower by 3% despite production cuts by OPEC. Citi sees OPEC continuing to act to support the price of oil, but it will have to sacrifice market share to do so, especially given that current prices continue to support capacity growth. 

In terms of positives for the sector, it notes that many companies in the sector are in a strong financial position which makes them less sensitive to the higher-rate environment. Additionally, there has been a surge of M&A activity in the sector which should also support valuations. 


Finsum: Energy stocks have underperformed in 2023 amid falling oil prices. Citi sees this continuing in 2024 especially with increasing spare capacity. 

Thursday, 07 December 2023 11:13

Oil Prices Fall Despite OPEC Production Cuts

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In an unexpected twist, crude oil prices declined following the OPEC meeting which ended with an announcement that there would be more production cuts in Q1 of next year. Following the Thursday meeting, oil prices fell by more than $2 and this weakness continued into Monday’s session. Since late September, WTI crude oil has dropped from the low $90s to the low $70s. 

 

The bearish reaction is likely due to the market already expecting that some sort of cuts would be announced. Further, these cuts are of a voluntary nature. Many are skeptical that there will be enough discipline among members especially given that there has been dissension at recent meetings.

 

In their statement, OPEC announced voluntary cuts totalling 2 million barrels per day. The committee also signaled concerns over weaker demand in 2024. In terms of specifics, Saudi Arabia will cut 1 million barrels per day and another 300,000 of cuts will come from Russia. However, the lack of details is adding to uncertainty over whether these cuts will actually take place especially given that smaller OPEC members have large reliance on oil revenue and tend to be unreliable, when it comes to production discipline. 


Finsum: Crude oil prices declined following last week’s OPEC meeting. This is despite members agreeing on voluntary production cuts. 

 

Wednesday, 29 November 2023 14:56

Oil Prices Under Pressure As OPEC Unity Under Pressure

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Oil prices were marginally higher headed into this week’s Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting, following a decline upon the news that the meeting had been delayed. 

 

According to reports, this delay was due to divisions among OPEC members when it came to further production cuts and restrictions on output. It’s an indication of clashing interests and incentives. As a collective, OPEC’s best interest is to reduce output to ensure that oil prices stay as high as possible. As individual countries, each country is incentivized to produce as much oil as possible to maximize revenue.

 

Another factor weighing on oil prices is expectations that demand will be weaker than expected in 2024 due to a slowing global economy particularly in Europe and Asia. Deutsche Bank recently warned that there is a strong possibility that the US falls into a recession next year. China’s economy remains stagnant more than a year after Covid protocols have been relaxed. 

 

Iranian oil also continues to flood the market despite sanctions on these countries. Iranian production is reportedly at a 5-year high, although there are some who believe that sanctions may be more aggressively enforced due to the conflict in Hamas. 


Finsum: Crude oil prices have dropped $20 over the last few weeks. One factor has been a lack of unity among OPEC member nations around production cuts.

 

Tuesday, 31 October 2023 03:41

Expect Further Consolidation in the Energy Sector

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This month has seen two major takeovers in the energy sector as Exxon bought Pioneer Natural Resources for $59.5 billion, while Chevron announced that it would buy Hess for $53 billion. Exxon significantly boosted its North American energy production and reserves with the acquisition, and Chevron added a mix of domestic and international assets. Many are speculating that these moves will trigger more M&A activity in the space.

 

This follows a slight slowing of M&A among oil E&P companies in Q3 as there were 25 deals worth $14 billion. To compare, there was $24 billion of M&A activity in Q2 of this year and $16 billion in Q3 of last year. 

 

Of course, these deals are dwarfed by the size of Exxon and Chevron deals. According to a report by Enervus, "As anticipated, the pace of consolidation slowed for private E&Ps as the cream of the crop in terms of scale and quality has largely, but not entirely, been bought out. The next logical step in consolidation is more tie-ups between public producers."

 

Enervus anticipates more dealmaking among smaller companies in the sector especially in the shale patch. Additionally, larger independents could target smaller and midsized mergers with some candidates including Devon Energy, Marathon Oil, Chesapeake Energy, and Southwestern Energy. 


Finsum: There were two mega-deals in the energy sector this month. Here’s why this could trigger a wave of M&A in the sector.

 

Alternative energy is forecast to grow rapidly in the coming years due to government subsidies and continued innovations which continue to drive power-generation costs lower. However, the bottleneck for the growth of the industry is proper infrastructure to store and transmit this power.

 

It’s also necessary as some types of alternative energy production such as wind, solar, and hydropower are adversely affected by weather. Until this goal is sufficiently solved, the world will continue to remain dependent on fossil fuels. 

 

Investors have several options when it comes to investing in the growth of the energy storage industry. One is to own stocks of companies in the supply chain whether it means producers of metals like Albemarle, EV and battery producers like Tesla or BYD, or a provider of energy storage software, solutions, and services like Fluence Energy. 

 

Another option is to invest in ETFs like the Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF (LIT), the First Trust Nasdaq Clean Edge Smart GRID Infrastructure ETF (GRID), or the First Trust Nasdaq Clean Edge Green Energy Index Fund (QCLN). These are diversified, lower-cost ETFs that offer exposure to the energy storage theme and offer exposure to the largest companies in the space. 


Finsum: Alternative energy is booming, but it also requires sufficient investments in energy storage to support its growth. 

 

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