Showing posts with label San Francisco. Show all posts
Showing posts with label San Francisco. Show all posts

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Preparing for an oil slump away from US pumps

The Oilholic is delighted to be back in lovely San Francisco, California, some 5350 miles west of London town. And what a 'crude' contrast it has been between two visits - when yours truly was last here little less than two years ago, the oil price was in three figures and our American cousins were (again!) bemoaning oil prices at the pump, not all that unaware about even higher prices we pay in Europe.

Not so anymore – for we’re back to under $3 per gallon (that’s 3.785 litres to Europeans). Back in January, CNBC even reported some pumps selling at rock bottom prices of as little as 46 cents per gallon in eastern US; though its doubtful you’ll find that price anywhere in California. 

Nonetheless, the Bay Area’s drivers are smiling a lot more and driving a lot more, though not necessarily honking a lot less in downtown San Francisco. By and large, you might say its happy days all around; that’s unless you run into an oil and gas industry contact. Most traders here are pretty prepared for first annual decline in global oil production since 2009, underpinned by lower US oil production this year.

Ratings agency Moody’s predicts a peak-to-trough decline in US production of at least 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) that is about to unfold. On a related note, Genscape expects North American inventories to remain at historically high levels for 2016, and production to fall by -581,000 bpd in 2016, and -317,000 bpd in 2017, as surging blended Canadian production is expected to grow at +84,000 bpd year-over-year in 2016.

Most reckon the biggest US shale declines will occur in the Bakken followed by the Eagle Ford, with Permian showing some resilience. Genscape adds that heavy upgrader turnarounds in Spring 2016 will impact near-term US imports from Canada.

All things being even, and despite doubts about China’s take-up of black gold, most Bay Area contacts agree with the Oilholic that we are likely to end 2016 somewhere in the region of $50 per barrel or just under.

As for wider domino effects, job losses within the industry are matter of public record, as are final investment decision delays, capital and operating expenditure cuts that the Oilholic has been written about on more than one occasion in recent times. Here in the Bay Area, it seems technology firms conjuring up back office to E&P software solutions for the oil and gas business are also feeling the pinch.

Chris Wimmer, Vice President and Senior Credit Officer at Moody's, also reckons the effects of persistently low crude oil prices and slowing demand in the commodities sectors are rippling through industrial end markets, weakening growth expectations for the North American manufacturing sector.

Industry conditions are unfavourable for almost half of the 15 manufacturing segments that Moody's rates, with companies exposed to the energy and natural resource sectors at the greatest risk for weakening credit metrics.

As a result, Moody's has lowered its expectations for median industry earnings growth to a decline of 2%-4% in 2016, from its previous forecast for flat to 1% growth this year. "This prolonged period of low oil prices initially affected companies in the oil & gas and mining sectors, but is spreading to peripheral end markets," Wimmer said.

"Slackening demand and cancelled or deferred orders in the commodities sectors will constrain growth for a growing number of end markets as the fallout from commodities weakness and lackluster economic growth expands."

Everyone from Caterpillar to Dover Corp has already warned of lower profits owing to weak equipment sales to customers in the agriculture, mining, and oil and gas end markets. The likelihood of deteriorating performance will continue to increase until the supply and demand of crude oil balance and macroeconomic weakness subsides, Wimmer concluded.

Finally, as the Oilholic prepares to head home, not a single US analyst one has interacted with seems surprised by a Bloomberg report out today confirming the inevitable – that China will surpass the US as the top crude oil importer this year. As domestic shale production sees the US import less, China’s oil imports are seen rising from an average of 6.7 million bpd in 2015 to 7.5 million bpd this year.

And just before one takes your leave, Brent might well be sliding below $40 again but all the talk here of a $20 per barrel oil price seems to have subsided. Well it’s the end of circling the planet over an amazing 20 days! Next stop London Heathrow and back to the grind. That's all from San Francisco folks. Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’! 

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© Gaurav Sharma 2016. Photo I: Vintage Tram in Downtown San Francisco. Photo II: Gas prices in Fremont. Photo III: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California, USA © Gaurav Sharma, March 2016.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Crude market’s health & farewell to the Bay Area

It’s nearly time to say goodbye to the Bay Area head north of the border to British Columbia, Canada but not before some crude market conjecture and savouring the view of Alcatraz Island Prison from Fisherman’s Wharf. A local politician told yours truly it would be an ideal home for speculators, at which point the owner of the cafe ‘with a portfolio’ where we were sitting quipped that politicians could join them too! That’s what one loves about the Bay Area – everyone has a jolly frank opinion.

Unfortunately for debaters on the subject of market speculation, Alcatraz (pictured left) often called “The Rock” and once home to the likes of Al Capone and Machin Gun Kelly was decommissioned in 1963 can no longer be home to either speculators or politicians, though it seems quite a few seagulls kind of like it!

Not blaming speculators or politcians and with market trends remaining largely bullish, selected local commentators here, those back home in the City of London and indeed those the Oilholic is about to meet in Vancouver BC are near unanimous in their belief about holding exposure to oil price sensitivity over the next two quarters via a mixed bag of energy stocks, Russian equities, natural resources linked Forex (especially the Australian and Canadian dollar) and last but not the least an “intelligent play” on the futures market.

Nonetheless the second quarter opened on Monday in negative territory as WTI crude oil slid lower to retest the US$102 per barrel area, while Brent has been under pressure trading just above US$122 per barrel level on the ICE. “The European equity markets are also trading lower as risk appetite has been limited,” notes Myrto Sokou, Sucden Financial Research.

Protecting one’s portfolio from short-dated volatility would be a challenge worth embracing and Société Générale recommends “buying (cheap) short-dated volatility to protect portfolios from escalating political risk in Iran.” (Click on benchmarks graph to enlarge)

Mike Wittner, a veteran oil market commentator at Société Générale, remains bullish along with many of his peers and with some justification. OPEC and Saudi spare capacity is already tight, and will soon become even tighter, due to sanctions on Iran, says Wittner, and the already very bullish scenario would continue to be driven by fundamental.

Analysts point to one or more of the following: 
  • Compared to three months ago, fears of a very bearish tail risk have subsided to an extent (e.g. Eurozone, US data) and macro environment is gradually turning supportive.
  • Concurrently, risks of a very bullish tail risk remain (e.g. war against Iran or the Straits of Hormuz situation).
  • OECD crude oil inventory levels are at five year lows.
  • OPEC spare capacity is quite low at 1.9 million barrels per day (bpd), of which 1.6 million bpd is in Saudi Arabia alone.
  • Ongoing significant non-OPEC supply disruptions in South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen thought to be in the circa of 0.6 million bpd.
  • Broad based appetite for risk assets has been strong.
  • Low interest rate and high liquidity environment is bullish.
On the economy front, in its latest quarterly Global Economic Outlook (GEO), Fitch Ratings forecasts the economic growth of major advanced economies to remain weak at 1.1% in 2012, followed by modest acceleration to 1.8% in 2013. While the baseline remains a modest recovery, short-term risks to the global economy have eased over the past few months.

Compared with the previous Fitch GEO in December 2011, the agency has only marginally revised its global GDP forecasts. The agency forecasts global growth, based on market exchange rates, at 2.3% for 2012 and 2.9% in 2013, compared with 2.4% and 3.0% previously.

"Fitch expects the eurozone to have the weakest performance among major advanced economies. Real GDP is projected to contract 0.2% in 2012, and grow by only 1.1% in 2013. Sizeable fiscal austerity measures and the more persistent effect of tighter credit conditions on the broader economy remain key obstacles to growth," says Gergely Kiss, Director in Fitch's Sovereign team.

In contrast to problems in Europe, the recovery in the US has gained momentum over past quarters. Growth is supported by the stronger-than-expected improvement in labour market conditions and indicators pointing to strengthening business and household confidence.

In line with the underlying improvement in fundamentals Fitch has upgraded its 2012 US growth forecast to 2.2% from 1.8%, whilst keeping the 2013 forecast unchanged at 2.6%. For Japan and the UK, Fitch forecasts GDP to increase 1.9% and 0.5% respectively for 2012.

Economic growth of the BRIC countries is expected to remain robust over the forecast horizon, at 6.3% in 2012 and 6.6% in 2013, well above MAE or global growth rates. Nevertheless, Brazil in particular, but also China and India slowed during 2011 and China is expected to slow further this year.

While on the subject of economics, Wittner of Société Générale, regards a shutdown of the Strait of Hormuz as a low-probability but high-impact scenario with Brent potentially spiking to US$150-$200. “In such a scenario, the equity markets would correct sharply. As a rule of thumb, a permanent US$10/barrel increase in the oil price would shave around 0.2% from global GDP growth in the first year after the shock,” he concludes.

That’s all for the moment folks! The Oilholic leaves you with a view of driving on Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny day and downtown San Francisco as he dashes off to catch a flight to Vancouver. Yours truly will be examining Canada’s role as a geopolitically stable non-OPEC supplier of crude while there. Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Graph: World crude oil benchmarks © Société Générale. Photo 1: Alcatraz Island. Photo 2: Downtown San Francisco. Photo 3: Driving on the Golden Gate Bridge, California, USA. © Gaurav Sharma.

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For comments or for professional queries, please email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

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