Gas markets lead broad commodity strength in 2022
Commodities extended their strong start to the year this week and once again the energy sector was the main focus with tighter-than-expected supply driving crude oil higher while extreme roller-coaster rides best describe what unfolded in the natural gas market, both in the US and especially in Europe. Gold traded steady with easing yields and a weaker dollar supporting a surprisingly robust start to the year. The industrial metals sector jumped to a three-month high driven by rapidly declining inventories, supply disruptions and the prospect for Chinese stimulus
Commodities extended their strong start to the year this week with the broad Bloomberg Commodity index trading up 4.1% so far this month while the energy-heavy SP GSCI has notched up gains in the region of 5%. The energy sector has been the main focus so far this year with tighter-than-expected supply driving crude oil higher by close to 10% while extreme roller-coaster rides best describe what is unfolding in the natural gas market, both in the US and especially in Europe.
On the macroeconomic front the commodity sector received some additional tailwind from a weaker dollar and softer bond yields after data showed US consumer prices reached a forty-year high at 7% in December, in line with expectations. China, in contrast, saw its CPI cool, and together with weak lending data it raised the prospect for the Chinese government speeding up the pace of some of the 102 major projects outlined in its 2021-25 development plan. Many of the areas pinpointed will required industrial metals in some sort as they focus on energy security, affordable housing, infrastructure developments and logistics.
Crude oil continues its month-long rally and while the early January jump was driven by temporary worries about supply disruptions in Libya and Kazakhstan, a bigger and more worrying development has become apparent during this time. Besides the surging Omicron variant having a much smaller negative impact on global consumption, it is the emerging sign that several countries within the OPEC+ group are struggling to raise production to the agreed levels that has supported prices this month.
For several months now we have seen overcompliance from the group as the 400,000 barrels per day of monthly increases was not met, especially due to problems in Nigeria and Angola. However, in their latest production survey for December, SP Global Platts found that 14 out of the 18 members, including Russia, fell short of their targets. According to Platts, the 18 members in December produced 37.72 million barrels a day, some 1.1 million barrels below their combined quota. The rising gap between OPEC+ crude oil quotas and actual production has already been felt in the market with front month futures prices in both WTI and Brent having rallied stronger than later-expiring contracts. The spread or so-called backwardation between the first and the second Brent futures contract has risen from a low point at 20 cents a barrel in early December, when Omicron worries sparked a sharp correction, to 70 cents a barrel currently.
Global oil demand is not expected to peak anytime soon and that will add further pressure to available spare capacity, which is already being reduced monthly, thereby raising the risk of even higher prices. This supports our long-term bullish view on the oil market as it will be facing years of under investment with oil majors diverging some of their already-reduced capital expenditures towards low carbon energy production. The timing of the next move up hinges on Brent’s short-term ability to close above $85.50/b, the 61.8% retracement of the 2012 to 2020 selloff, followed up by a break above the double top at $86.75. First though, the chart below increasingly points to the need for a period of consolidation or perhaps even a correction. But with firm fundamentals in play only a bigger than expected omicron development and stronger production can send the price sharply lower.
Information Source: Read Full Report, By Ole Hansen, Head of Commodity Strategy, Saxo Bank
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