The “solid economic data in the U.S. and abroad” paired with phase one/phase two trade deal optimism helped fuel the rally from a fundamental standpoint. From a technical standpoint, recently strong upside momentum is creating a ‘chase’ higher effect, further lifting…” Tyler Richey, co-editor at Sevens Report Research wrote in Tuesday’s newsletter. Click here to read the full article.
Sevens Report co-editor Tyler Richey was interviewed by Ben Lichtenstein from TD Ameritrade Network, discussing oil, energy trade war, commodities and more…Click here to watch the full interview.
“The two most beat-up sectors in the August pullback (energy and financials) both rebounded hard yesterday and…” wrote Tom Essay, president of the Sevens Report, in a Tuesday note. Click here to read the full article.
“Looking ahead though, the outlook for oil remains neutral at best right now as global growth concerns remain the single biggest…” said Tyler Richey, co-editor at Sevens Report Research. Click here to read the full article.
“The trade truce is a positive and the policy extension by OPEC+ keeps the supply side argument in favor of the bulls, but there remain too many unknowns about…” said Tyler Richey, co-editor at Sevens Report Research. Click here to read the full article.
Tyler Richey, co-editor of the Sevens Report sat down with Ben Lichtenstein from TD Ameritrade Network to talk about oil, corn futures, energy market and more…Click here to watch the full interview.
Tom Essaye, founder of The Sevens Report, said a modest but noticeable 539,000-barrel draw from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — just the second time the US has tapped its SPR this year…Click here to read the full article.
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Yesterday’s EIA report was taken with a grain of salt, as the effects of Hurricane Harvey badly skewed the data resulting in a print that was basically worthless from a fundamental analysis standpoint. As would be expected with a large number of refinery outages, crude stocks rose +4.6M bbls, but that was slightly less than estimates calling for a +5.0M build.
Meanwhile, both gasoline and heating oil inventories declined (as refineries runs were way down) by -3.2M bbls and -1.4M bbls, respectively (but both declines were smaller than expected). On balance, the headline prints were largely dismissed. WTI finished the day down 0.22% while RBOB gasoline futures fell 0.98%.
The production portion of the report was a little shocking at first glance, but at the same time, the data made sense when you consider the impact Harvey had on the Gulf Coast oil industry. Lower 48 production declined -783K b/d last week, or 94% of the 2017 output gains.
For perspective, the average weekly change coming into this week was +24K b/d. Like the headlines, the production data was largely overlooked by traders because the data was so badly skewed by Hurricane Harvey.
Looking ahead, it will be very important to watch the production data. If output does not recover in a swift manner that will be a bullish supply side development, as the relentless grind higher in US oil output has been the single-largest headwind for oil prices this year. For now, the outlook for oil is neutral with a bias to the downside, as nothing has changed materially enough to push futures through resistance between $50 and $54/barrel in WTI.
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We have recently been monitoring the calendar spreads and term structure of WTI crude oil futures with a little more attention, as there have been notable developments.
As a refresher, a calendar spread is simply the difference in price between two contracts with different expirations. For example, contracts with a December ’17 expiration are currently trading at a roughly $1.00/bbl premium to contracts expiring in December ’18 (this is called an inverted market, or backwardation, and is not typical in energy markets). Normally, back-month con-tracts are more expensive than front-month contracts to reflect the price of storage and other variables. Such a structure is called normal contango.
Over the last week or two, calendar spreads have surged, which would be considered very bullish in normal market conditions like we had late last year when OPEC announced their agreement to cut production with several large NOPEC producers. After that announcement, the entire WTI expiration curve rallied on the speculation of that bullish development in the supply-demand fundamentals with front-month contracts out-performing back months (calendar spreads rallied, con-firming the move in active-month futures).
In the current case, the strength in the calendar spreads has been the result of weakness in back-month contracts like December ’18. Think about the simple equation a – b = c (calendar spread). If “a” (Dec ’17) and “b” (Dec ’18) are both increasing, but the pace of a’s increase is faster, “c” will be positive (so the calendar spreads would be rallying, which is bullish). Right now, “c” is rising because of a faster decline in “b” than in “a” and that is far less of a reason to be optimistic on this current, sluggish trend higher in oil prices.
Stepping back, this development in the calendar spreads confirms what we have been saying, and that is we remain in a lower-for-longer price environment in the energy market.
The logical reason for a faster decline in back-month contracts such as December ’18 expiration suggests that US producers are hedging out future production for wells they have either just brought online or are in the process of bringing online. And this concept supports our idea that US production has not only bottomed, but has begun a cyclical move higher.
Bottom line, that trend is long-term bearish oil for two reasons. First, the obvious fact that rising US output will offset the efforts of the production cut agreement overseas is supply side bearish. Second, OPEC producers are not likely going to be comfortable with the idea of losing market share to the US again (after all, that is the reason they switched to “full-throttle” policy back in summer 2014, which led to the near-80% plunge in oil prices over the subsequent 18 months). The more market share OPEC loses to the US the more likely their compliance to individual quotas will begin to fall, which is very bearish for prices as that is what this current recovery into the $50s is fundamentally based on.
Looking ahead, we could very well see a continued run higher towards our initial target of $57.50, or to our secondary target of $60/bbl, as optimism surrounding OPEC compliance remains elevated. The longer-term outlook is not so bright, and the low $50s will likely remain a “magnetic” level for WTI futures.
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Both economic growth and inflation accelerated according to last week’s data, and while the former continues to help support stocks despite a darkening outlook from Washington, the latter also is increasing the likelihood of a more hawkish-than-expected Fed in 2017, and a resumption of the uptrend in interest rates. For now, though, the benefit of the former is outweighing the risk of the latter.
If, however, we do not see any dip in the data between now and early May, I do expect the Fed to hike rates at that May meeting, which would be a marginal hawkish surprise. To boot, if we get a strong Jobs report (out Friday, March 3), then a March rate hike two weeks later isn’t out of the question. Point being, upward pressure is building on interest rates again.
Looking at last week’s data, it was almost universally strong. Retail Sales, which was the key number last week, handily beat expectations as the headline rose 0.4% vs. (E) 0.1% while the more important “Control” retail sales (which is the best measure of discretionary consumer spending) rose 0.4% vs. (E) 0.3%. Additionally, there were positive revisions to the December data, and clearly the US consumer continues to spend (which is more directly positive for the credit card companies).
Additionally, the first look at February manufacturing data was very strong. Empire Manufacturing beat estimates, rising to 18.7 vs. (E) 7.5, a 2-1/2 year high. However, it was outdone by Philly Fed, which surged to 43.3 vs. (E) 19.3, the highest reading since 1983! Both regional manufacturing surveys are volatile, but clearly they show an uptick in activity, which everyone now expects to be reflected in the national flash PMI.
Even housing data was decent as Housing Starts beat estimates on the headline, while the more important single family starts (the better gauge of the residential real estate market) rose 1.9%. Single family permits, a leading indicator for single family starts, did dip by 2.7%, but even so the important takeaway from this data is that so far, higher interest rates don’t appear to be negatively impacting the residential housing market, and a stable housing market is a key, but underappreciated, ingredient to economic acceleration.
Finally, looking at the Fed, Yellen’s commentary was marginally hawkish, as she was upbeat on the economy, basically saying the nation had achieved full employment and was closing on 2% inflation, and reiterated that a rate hike should be considered at upcoming meetings. None of her comments were new, but the reiteration of them reminds us that the Fed is in a hiking cycle, and the risk is for more hikes… not less.
The big number this week is the February global flash manufacturing PMI, out Tuesday. With last week’s strong Empire and Philly Surveys, expectations will be pretty elevated for the flash manufacturing PMI, so there is some risk of mild disappointment. On the flip side, if this number is very strong (like Empire and Philly) you will likely see a hawkish reaction out of the markets (dollar/bond yields up) and the expectation for a rate hike before June increases. That, by itself, shouldn’t cause a pullback in stocks, but upward pressure will build on interest rates.
Outside of the flash manufacturing PMIs, the FOMC minutes from the January meeting will be released Wednesday, and investors will parse the comments for any clues as to the likelihood of a March increase. Yet given the amount of political/fiscal uncertainty, and considering the FOMC meeting was before the strong January jobs report and recent acceleration in data, I’d be surprised if the minutes are very hawkish (although given they are dated, I don’t think that not-dovish minutes reduces the chances of a May or even March hike).
Bottom line, the focus will be on the flash manufacturing PMIs, and a good number this week will be supportive for stocks.
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