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Earlier, we reported that various currency brokers such as FXCM and FxPro, would - as a result of the soaring liquidity in the USDRUB pair - suspend trading in the Russian Ruble (while other merely hiked margins to ridiculous levels). It appe...
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: December 16, 2014, 7:20 pm
No end seems to be in sight for the plight of the Russian ruble, which slumped to new record lows against hard currencies Tuesday. The EUR traded at 93.5 against the ruble, and the USD at 75.
The Russian stock market also went haywire, dropping more than 15 percent as of 2:30pm Moscow time, after it dropped 11 percent the day before. Sberbank, the country's largest lender, lost 17.77 percent, and VTB, the second biggest bank, fell by 14.29 percent. State-owned oil and gas companies Gazprom, Rosneft, and Surgut also saw shares plummet. 
The emergency interest rate hike to 17 percent has failed to halt the ruble’s landslide tumble against hard currencies. The rate increase only calmed the ruble temporarily.
It has accelerated its descent in November and December along with falling oil prices. Investors have been pulling capital out of Russia over geopolitics since earlier this year, and sanctions levied by the US and EU have essentially cut Russia off from Western lending.
Most analysts agree that Russia will enter recession in the first quarter of 2015, including the Economy Minister Aleksey Ulyukaev, and the Central Bank.
Ruble on the run, losing more than 20% against the USD Tuesday, hitting 73.82. Source: Forexlive.com
Ruble on the run, losing more than 20% against the USD Tuesday, hitting 73.82. Source: Forexlive.com

On Tuesday, the CBR chief Elvira Nabiullina said a higher rate should put an end to investor speculation that has been hitting the ruble.
“We must learn to live in a new reality, to focus more on our own resources to finance projects and give import substitution a chance,” the bank chief said in a televised address Tuesday.
Source: RBK quotes
Source: RBK quotes

However, neither the rate increase nor the comments have had a big impact on ruble trading as it continued to slide. Russia’s currency has lost more than 55 percent against the dollar this year, mostly to external factors such as slumping oil and sanctions against Russia.
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: December 16, 2014, 7:10 pm
EES: Is there ANY REASON why an investor would not want 17% return on their money?  No more comment...From Zero Hedge:Following the biggest rout to the Ruble in ages, Russia - unlike Mario Draghi - instead of talking the talk decided to walk the b...
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: December 16, 2014, 1:46 am
EES: While the west imposes sanctions on the former communist, now open market Russia, they are taking notes.  During the Cold War, the US economy was spurred by huge defense spending.  Even a policy was created to 'spend them to destruction....
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: December 15, 2014, 5:57 pm
Throughout the last 5 years, the financial markets have moved with high yield bonds (also called Junk Bonds) leading stocks. This makes sense: as the financial system began recovering from the 2008 Crash, money began flowing back into riskier and riskier assets.

You can see this below, with High Yield Bonds outperforming stocks, leading them higher from 2009-2014. With interest rates at 0%, investors were hungry for yield. Stocks only offered 2-3%, so this lead investors into Junk Bonds which typically yield 7% or even more.

Then something happened. Junk Bonds began to collapse… in a BIG WAY.

Indeed, Junk Bonds have been flashing a MAJOR warning signal that something BAD is coming. But stocks have ignored it for all of 2014.

Indeed, if you look at what happened during the October 2014 correction, you see that High Yield Bonds did NOT buy into the bounce AT ALL!

This is a MAJOR warning signal that the great “recovery” in risk assets was ending. The Fed spent over $4 trillion and managed to create another stock market bubble, but that bubble is ending.

Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: December 14, 2014, 4:11 am
EES: There were conspiracy theories that the Obama administration tactfully plotted with the Saudis to dump oil in order to hurt the Russians en passant; regardless of the truth of this, the Saudis did dump large quantities of oil on the market.  Ironically, the US does not largely use Saudi oil which is mostly "Light" crude not "Sweet" crude but it certainly impacted the price.  

The below data analysis captures the dire situation for the US shale industry.  But also we must remember the "Petro Dollar" - connection between Oil and the US Dollar.  A deterioration in the existing oil for dollars system, whatever that may be, erodes the status of the US Dollar as a world reserve currency and also as a trade currency.  Companies need energy, whereas it's questionable if they need US Dollars.  As long as it keeps their trucks fueled they are happy to continue the game, but as we see below in the case of the US shale industry, at some point it doesn't make sense to continue the system when $100 in results in less than $100 out.

A price collapse below $58 means many energy companies no longer viable:

WTI Crude just burst below $58 and is now over 46% below the peak in June. Since the initial leaks of no production cuts at OPEC, WTI is down 25% (gold and silver are up 2-4%). At these levels only 4 of the US 18 Shale Oil regions remain economic...


Down 25% from the initial OPEC leaks...

Which leaves only 20% of US Shale regions economic...

*  *  *
Unequivocally good!!

See the latest from Zero Hedge on the collapsing energy industry due to the price collapse: 

"Anything that becomes a mania -- it ends badly," warns one bond manager, reflecting on the $550 billion of new bonds and loans issued by energy producers since 2010, "and this is a mania." As Bloomberg quite eloquently notes, the danger of stimulus-induced bubbles is starting to play out in the market for energy-company debt - as HY energy spreads near 1000bps - all thanks to the mal-investment boom sparked by artificially low rates manufactured by The Fed. "It's been super cheap," notes one credit analyst. That is over!! As oil & gas companies are “virtually shut out of the market" and will have to "rely on a combination of asset sales" and their credit lines. Welcome to the boom-induced bust...

As Bloomberg reports, with oil prices plunging, investors are questioning the ability of some issuers to meet their debt obligations. Research firm CreditSights Inc. predicts the default rate for energy junk bonds will double to eight percent next year.
“Anything that becomes a mania -- it ends badly,” said Tim Gramatovich, who helps manage more than $800 million as chief investment officer of Santa Barbara, California-based Peritus Asset Management. “And this is a mania.”
The Fed’s decision to keep benchmark interest rates at record lows for six years has encouraged investors to funnel cash into speculative-grade securities to generate returns, raising concern that risks were being overlooked. A report from Moody’s Investors Service this week found thatinvestor protections in corporate debt are at an all-time low, while average yields on junk bonds were recently lower than what investment-grade companies were paying before the credit crisis.
Borrowing costs for energy companies have skyrocketed in the past six months...
Energy companies are no longer able to access credit...

“It’s been super cheap” for energy companies to obtain financing over the past five years, said Brian Gibbons, a senior analyst for oil and gas at CreditSights in New York. Now, companies with ratings of B or below are “virtually shut out of the market” and will have to “rely on a combination of asset sales” and their credit lines, he said.
The Fed’s three rounds of bond buying were a gift to small companies in the capital-intensive energy industry that needed cheap borrowing costs to thrive, according to Chris Lafakis, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Quantitative easing “has been one of the keys to the fast, breakneck pace of the growth in U.S. oil production which requires abundant capital,” Lafakis said.

One of those to take advantage was Energy XXI, an oil and gas explorer, which has raised more than $2 billion in the bond market in the past four years.

The Houston-based company’s $750 million of 9.25 percent notes, issued in December 2010, have tumbled to 64 cents on the dollar from 106.3 cents in September, according to Trace, the bond-price reporting system of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. They yield 27.7 percent.

Energy XXI got its lenders in August to waive apotential violation of its credit agreement because its debt had risen relative to its earnings, according to a regulatory filing. In September, lenders agreed to increase the amount of leverage allowed.
And the blowback is coming...
“There are distortions in multiple markets,” said Lawrence Goodman, president of the Center for Financial Stability, a monetary research group in New York. “It is like a Whac-A-Mole game: You don’t know where it is going to pop up next.”


“Oil companies that have high funding costs in the Eagle Ford and the Bakken shale plays are the ones that are most exposed right now due to lower crude prices,” Gary C. Evans, chief executive officer of Magnum Hunter Resources (MHR) Corp., said in a phone interview.


For other energy borrowers at risk, “the liquidity squeeze” will probably occur in March or April when banks re-calculate hoe much they may borrow under their credit lines based on the value of their oil reserves.

Deutsche Bank analysts predicted in a Dec. 8 report that about a third of companies rated B or CCC may be unable to meet their obligations should oil prices drop to $55 a barrel.

“If you keep oil prices low enough for long enough, there is a pretty good case that some of the weakest issuers in the high-yield space will run into cash-flow issues,” Oleg Melentyev, a New York-based credit strategist at Deutsche Bank, said in a telephone interview.
*  *  *
As we noted previously, here is Deutsche Bank's most granular research:
Here are the details:
So how big of an impact on fundamentals should we expect from the move in oil price so far and where is the true tipping point for the sector? Let’s start with some basic datapoint describing the energy sector – it is the largest single industry component of the USD DM HY index, however, given this market’s relatively good sector diversification, it only represents 16% of its market value (figure 2). Energy is noticeably tilted towards higher quality, with BB/B/CCC proportions at 53/35/12, compared to overall market at 47/37/17. We find further confirmation to this higher-quality tilt by looking at Figure 3 below, which shows its leverage being around 3.4x compared to 4.0x for overall market. Similarly, their interest coverage stands at noticeably higher levels, even having declined substantially in recent years (Figure 4).

Energy issuer leverage has increased faster than that of the rest of the market in recent years, but this trend has largely exhausted itself in recent quarters. As Figure 5 demonstrates, growth rates in total debt outstanding among US HY energy names have been only slightly higher relative to the rest of HY market. It is almost certain in our mind that with the current shakeout in this space further incremental leverage will be a lot harder to come by going forward.

Perhaps the most unsustainable trend that existed in energy going into this episode shown in Figure 6, which plots the sector’s overall capex expenditure, as a pct of EBITDAs. The graph averaged 150% level over the past four years, clearly the kind of development that could not sustain itself over a longer-term horizon. Our 45%-full sample of issuers reporting Q3 numbers has shown this figure coming down to 110%, a move in the right direction, and  yet a level that suggests further capacity for decline. This chart also shows, perhaps better than any other we have seen, the extent to which current economic  recovery in the US has in fact been driven by the energy development story alone.

The next question we would like to address here is to what extent the move in oil so far could translate into actual credit losses across the energy sector. To help us approach this question we are borrowing from the material we are going to discuss in-depth in next week’s report on our views on timing/extent of the upcoming default cycle. For the purposes of the current exercise we will limit ourselves to saying that we have identified total debt/enterprise value (D/EV) as an important factor helping us narrow down the list of potential defaulters. Specifically, our historical analysis shows that names that go into restructuring, on average, have their D/EV ratio at 65% two years prior to default, and, expectedly, this ratio rises all the way to 100% at the time of restructuring. From experiences in 2008-09 credit cycle we have also determined that there was a 1:3 relationship between the number of defaulting issuers and the number of issuers trading at 65%+ D/EV prior to the cycle. Again, we are going to present detailed evidence behind these assumptions in the next week’s report.

For the time being, we will limit ourselves to applying these metrics to current valuations in the US HY energy sector, and specifically, its single-B/CCC segment. At the moment, average D/EV metric here is 55%, up from 43% in late June, before the 26% move lower in oilAbout 28 pct of energy B/CCC names are trading at 65%+ D/EV, implying an 8.5% default rate among them, assuming historical 1/3rd default probability holds. This would translate into a 4.3% default rate for the overall US HY energy sector (including BBs), and 0.7% across the US HY bond market.

Looking at the bond side of valuation picture, we find that energy Bs/CCCs are trading at a 270bp premium over non-Energy Bs/CCCs today (Figure 7). This premium implies incremental default rate of 4.5% (= spread * (1 – recovery) = 270 * (1-0.4) = 4.5%). Actual default rate among US HY Bs/CCCs is currently running at 3%, a level that we expect to increase to 5% next year (not to be confused with overall US HY default rate, currently running at 1.7% and expected to increase to 3.0% next year).

The bottom line is hardly as pretty as all those preaching that the lower the oil the better for the economy:
In the next step we are attempting to perform a stress-test on oil, defined this way: what would it take for overall US energy Bs/CCCs segment to start trading at 65%+ total debt/enterprise value? Our logic in modeling this scenario goes along the following lines: if a 25% drop in WTI since June 30th was sufficient to push their average D/EV from 43 to 55, then it would take a further 0.8x similar move in oil to get the whole sector to average 65 = (65-55)/(55-43) = 0.8x, which translates into another 20% decline in WTI from its recent low of $77 to roughly $60/bbl. If this scenario were to materialize, based on historical default incidence, we would expect to see 1/3rd of US energy Bs/CCCs to restructure, which would imply a 15% default rate for overall US HY energy, and a 2.5% contribution to the broad US HY default rate.
How should one trade an ongoing collapse in oil prices? Simple: sell B/CCC-rated energy bonds and wait to pick up 10%.
If this scenario were to materialize, the US energy Bs/CCCs would have to trade at spreads north of 1,800bp, or about a 1,000bps away from its current levels. Such a spread widening translates into a 40pt drop in average dollar price from its current level of 92pts for energy Bs/CCCs.
It gets worse, because energy CapEx is about to tumble, which means far less exploration (and US fixed investment thus GDP), far less supply, and ultimately a higher oil price.
As the market adjusts to realities of sharply lower oil prices, it is important for to remember that the US HY energy sector is a higher quality part of the market. Higher credit quality will help many of them absorb an oil price shock without jeopardizing production plans or ability to service debt. Their capex rates, expressed as a pct of EBITDAs, have already declined from an average of 150% over the past four years to roughly 110% today. We still consider this level to be high and thus subject to further pressures. This in turn should work towards slower rates of supply growth, and thus ultimately towards supporting a new floor for oil prices. A 25% in oil price so far has pushed debt/enterprise valuations among US energy B/CCC names to a point suggesting 8.5% future default probability, while their bonds are pricing in a 9.5% default probability.
And the scariest conclusion of all:
Finally, our stress-test shows that a further 20% drop in WTI to $60/bbl is likely to push the whole sector into distress, a scenario where average B/CCC  energy name will start trading at 65% D/EV, implying a 30% default rate for the whole segment. A shock of that magnitude could be sufficient to trigger a  broader HY market default cycle, if materialized.
And now back to the old "plunging oil prices are good for the economy" spin cycle.

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Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: December 13, 2014, 3:30 pm
First it was humans. Now it is vacuum tubes.
Having quickly learned that letting carbon-based traders engage in FX (or stock, or bond, or Libor, but not gold, never gold) rigging usually leads to said carbon-trader ultimately being fired with the bank suffering a violent slap on the wrist, banks are getting smart, and have - as we have been claiming for about 4 years - decided to let pre-programmed algos do all the market manipulation. Only this time it is not some tinfoil blog making this accusation, but New York regulators who according to Bloomberg, have found evidence that Barclays Deutsche Bank may have used algorithms on their trading platforms to manipulate foreign-exchange rates, a person with knowledge of the investigation said.
As Bloomberg reports, the practice suggests there may be a systemic problem involving automated tools that goes beyond individuals colluding to rig currency benchmarks and take advantage of less sophisticated clients.
Whatever tipped them off: was it looking at any given Yen cross for about a minute and seeing the now surreal stop hunts that take place on a constant basis as algos outrig each other in attempts to pick the pockets of any human fools who still think they have a chance in yet another rigged, manipulated market.
The algorithms’ use is being scrutinized by the New York Department of Financial Services, said the person. The investigators are looking into the practice at each bank and it isn’t clear if there’s a link between the two, according to the person, who asked not to be named because the matter isn’t public. The algorithms were embedded in Barclays’s BARX trading platform and Deutsche Bank’s Autobahn system, according to the person.

The two services provide electronic marketplaces for the banks’ customers to trade currencies. Rather than directly matching one client’s buy order with another’s request to sell, the systems aggregate all requests from the banks’ clients to create prices that are displayed to customers. The banks profit from the spread or the difference in the price at which currency is sold and bought.
Not surprisingly, Autobahn, which is offered to Deutsche Bank’s companies and institutional investors, was ranked top in a market-share survey by Euromoney magazine earlier this year (Euromoney also awarded the bankrupt Bank of Cyprus the award for Best Bank in Cyprus for 2011). BARX allows customers to trade more than 80 currencies, according to the London-based bank’s website.
Ironically, both Deutsche Bank and Barclays were not among the six firms that agreed to pay $4.3 billion to U.S., U.K. and Swiss authorities last month in the first settlements in the global probe. London-based Barclays dropped out of negotiations on the eve of the announcements after DFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky balked, viewing the penalties as too lenient, people with knowledge of the talks said at the time.
Of course, the foreign banks thought that with a few good human traders fired, the algos could continue their rigging unobstructed. Yet someone appears to have tipped off Lawsky to the full extent of just how manipulated the FX market is.
Which means that New York regulators are now losing sleepless nights thinking of the best way to throw an algo in jail, because clearly none of the humans who programmed it are guilty of anything. Remember: when an algo is caught rigging markets, it is a "glitch."
Oh, and we emphasize the phrase "foreign banks" above because while we applaud the NY regulator's push to "fix" rigged markets, we can't help but wonder why not a single US-based bank has fallen in the crosshairs? Could it be that there is just too much lobby spending on the line to keep lady justice interested in what the objective truth is?
But while this diversion is a welcome attempt to create the illusion that regulators are "on top of things", nothing will change when the biggest manipulators happen to be the central banks themselves, either acting alone or in coordination with Citadel.
Finally, while absolutely nothing will change in the US, one person who has clearly had enough with rigged FX markets - be it by humans or vacuum tubes - is none other tha Vladimir Putin:
Because when the west is a rigged grouping of insolvent banana republics, it is up to the former banana republics to acknowledge that the biggest criminal syndicate in the "new normal" are the bailed out banks themselves.
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: December 11, 2014, 3:31 pm
Hang on to your hats, America.
And throw away that big, fat styrofoam finger while you’re about it.
There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it: We’re no longer No. 1. Today, we’re No. 2. Yes, it’s official. The Chinese economy just overtook the United States economy to become the largest in the world. For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet.
It just happened — and almost nobody noticed.
The International Monetary Fund recently released the latest numbers for the world economy. And when you measure national economic output in “real” terms of goods and services, China will this year produce $17.6 trillion — compared with $17.4 trillion for the U.S.A.
As recently as 2000, we produced nearly three times as much as the Chinese.
To put the numbers slightly differently, China now accounts for 16.5% of the global economy when measured in real purchasing-power terms, compared with 16.3% for the U.S.
This latest economic earthquake follows the development last year when China surpassed the U.S. for the first time in terms of global trade.
I reported on this looming development over two years ago, but the moment came sooner than I or anyone else had predicted. China’s recent decision to bring gross domestic product calculations in line with international standards has revealed activity that had previously gone uncounted.
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These calculations are based on a well-established and widely used economic measure known as purchasing-power parity (or PPP), which measures the actual output as opposed to fluctuations in exchange rates. So a Starbucks venti Frappucino served in Beijing counts the same as a venti Frappucino served in Minneapolis, regardless of what happens to be going on among foreign-exchange traders.
Make no mistake. This is a geopolitical earthquake with a high reading on the Richter scale.
PPP is the real way of comparing economies. It is one reported by the IMF and was, for example, the one used by McKinsey & Co. consultants back in the 1990s when they undertook a study of economic productivity on behalf of the British government.
Yes, when you look at mere international exchange rates, the U.S. economy remains bigger than that of China, allegedly by almost 70%. But such measures, although they are widely followed, are largely meaningless. Does the U.S. economy really shrink if the dollar falls 10% on international currency markets? Does the recent plunge in the yen mean the Japanese economy is vanishing before our eyes?
Back in 2012, when I first reported on these figures, the IMF tried to challenge the importance of PPP. I was not surprised. It is not in anyone’s interest at the IMF that people in the Western world start focusing too much on the sheer extent of China’s power. But the PPP data come from the IMF, not from me. And it is noteworthy that when the IMF’s official World Economic Outlook compares countries by their share of world output, it does so using PPP.
Yes, all statistics are open to various quibbles. It is perfectly possible China’s latest numbers overstate output — or understate them. That may also be true of U.S. GDP figures. But the IMF data are the best we have.
Make no mistake: This is a geopolitical earthquake with a high reading on the Richter scale. Throughout history, political and military power have always depended on economic power. Britain was the workshop of the world before she ruled the waves. And it was Britain’s relative economic decline that preceded the collapse of her power. And it was a similar story with previous hegemonic powers such as France and Spain.
This will not change anything tomorrow or next week, but it will change almost everything in the longer term. We have lived in a world dominated by the U.S. since at least 1945 and, in many ways, since the late 19th century. And we have lived for 200 years — since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 — in a world dominated by two reasonably democratic, constitutional countries in Great Britain and the U.S.A. For all their flaws, the two countries have been in the vanguard worldwide in terms of civil liberties, democratic processes and constitutional rights.
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: December 5, 2014, 5:15 pm
Submitted by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog,
News reports about developments in the oil markets are coming fast and furious, and none of them indicate any stabilization, let alone rise, in oil prices. Quite the contrary. There are very large amounts of extra barrels flowing into the market, which is just, as one analyst puts it“even more oil flooding the market that nobody needs.” Saudi Arabia looks set to battle for sheer market share, even if it sends strangely contradictory messages.
While the US shale industry aggressively tries to convey an attitude based on confidence and breakeven prices that suddenly are claimed to be much lower than what seemed common knowledge until recently. Bloomberg says today that most shale is profitable even at $25 a barrel, and we might want some independent confirmation and/or analysis of that. Just hearing the industry claim it seems a bit flimsy; they have plenty reasons to paint the picture as rosy as they can get away with.
Last night, the Wall Street Journal reported on a Saudi price cut for the US, and a simultaneous price hike for Asia.
Oil prices tumbled to their lowest point in more than two years after Saudi Arabia unexpectedly cut prices for crude sold to the U.S., likely paving the way for further declines and adding to pressure on American energy producers. The decision by the world’s largest oil exporter sent the Dow industrials into negative territory for the day amid concerns about the pace of global growth. The move heightened worries over the resilience of the U.S. oil industry, which has expanded rapidly in recent years.

But that growth, driven largely by new production technology used to extract oil from shale-rock formations, has never been tested by a prolonged slump in prices. While lower crude prices generally help consumers by reducing the amount they pay for gasoline, analysts said falling energy prices will squeeze profit margins at many U.S. energy companies, particularly smaller firms or those with large debt loads. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia raised the prices for its oil in other locations, including Asia, where the country had cut its prices for four consecutive months.
Which led Barron’s to speculate on energy ETFs.
Saudi Arabia’s unexpected price cut to oil it ships to the U.S. is roiling the market for crude and squeezing a host of exchange-traded funds that hold energy stocks. The United States Oil Fund (USO) sinks 2.2% to $$29.12 in early trading, while iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return Index ETN (OIL) falls 2.3%. West Texas Intermediate crude futures dropped to the lowest level in three years, recently down 2.1% to $76.77 a barrel.

Oil futures prices have tumbled by about one-quarter in recent months in a world awash with oil after production increases in the U.S. and, more recently, Libya. For weeks, speculation has swirled that the Saudis might be keen to hold prices low in order to keep a tight grip on market share and choke off competitors. Monday’s move by Saudi Arabia to cut prices for crude exports to U.S. customers, while at the same time a raising the prices it charges to countries in Asia, provides more evidence that the Saudis are bent on quashing competition.
But then just now Reuters says ‘recalled’ an email that detailed the cuts:
Saudi Aramco said it was recalling an email it sent on Thursday which had announced a sharp drop in January official selling oil prices for Asia and the United States. Official Selling Prices (OSPs) for oil from Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest producer and exporter, have been eagerly watched by the market in recent months for indications of the kingdom’s oil policies.

Some analysts have said sharp drops in OSPs over the past months are an indication the kingdom is fighting for market share with other producers, but others have said the OSPs only reflect the market and are a backward-looking rather than a forward-looking indicator.

“(The) Saudis making it clear they don’t want to lose market share,” Richard Mallinson, analyst at consultancy Energy Aspects told Reuters Global Oil Forum before Aramco recalled prices. It was not clear whether Aramco was recalling all prices or only some prices, or what changes if any had been made. It was also unclear whether and when a new email might follow.

The email, which was later recalled, showed Aramco had cut its January price for its Arab Light grade for Asian customers by $1.90 a barrel from December to a discount of $2 a barrel to the Oman/Dubai average. The Arab Light OSP to the United States was set at a premium of $0.90 a barrel to the Argus Sour Crude Index for January, down 70 cents from the previous month. The email also said Arab Light OSPs to Northwest Europe were raised by 20 cents for January from the previous month to a discount of $3.15 a barrel to the Brent Weighted Average.
That $24 a barrel breakeven price for shale contrasts somewhat with what Abhishek Deshpande, lead oil analyst at Natixis, says about Saudi oil: “..because of how Saudi Arabia uses its oil well to support its entire economy, the country’s budget calls for $90 a barrel to break even, despite that the cost of production is closer to $30.”
OPEC, the largest crude-oil cartel in the world, wanted others to feel its pain as oil prices collapsed. “OPEC wanted … to cut off production … and they wanted other non-OPEC [countries], especially in the US and Canada, to feel the pinch they are feeling,” says Abhishek Deshpande, lead oil analyst at Natixis. But in its rush to influence others, OPEC ended up hurting everyone in the process – including itself. Low oil prices, pushed down further by OPEC’s meeting last week,have impacted world economies, energy stocks, and several currencies. From the fate of the Russian rouble to Venezuelan deficits to American mutual funds full of Exxon or Chevron stock, OPEC’s decision was the shot heard round the world for troubled commodities.

So how low could oil go? Standard Chartered analysts expect a “chaotic” quarter ahead, saying OPEC’s decision to keep the production target unchanged is “extremely negative for oil prices for 2015”. The bank slashed its 2015 average price forecast for Brent crude oil by $16 a barrel to $85. Other forecasts are lower. Citi Research estimated an average 2015 price of $72 for WTI and $80 for ICE Brent. Natixis’s Deshpande said their average 2015 Brent forecast is around $74, with WTI around $69. These prices have real-world effects on world economies. Everyone in the sector is smarting. Deshpande said because of how Saudi Arabia uses its oil well to support its entire economy, the country’s budget calls for $90 a barrel to break even, despite that the cost of production is closer to $30.

Other OPEC members have even higher budgetary breakevens. Saudi Arabia is sitting on a “war chest” of money it stockpiled when prices were high, Deshpande said. Citi analysts said Saudi Arabia has about $800bn in cash reserves. Venezuela, on the other hand, is a prime example of a country squandering its riches. Citi said for every $10 drop in oil prices Venezuela loses about $7.5bn in revenues. “Already weak fiscally, this should call for reducing energy subsidies. But domestic politics including the 2015 election makes this nearly impossible,” they said. OPEC countries as a whole could lose $200bn in revenue if Brent prices stay at $80, which is about $600 per capita annually, Citi said.
And that in turn makes you wonder how the Saudis feel about Bakken shale oil being sold at $49.69 a barrel.
Oil market analysts are debating if oil will fall to $50. In North Dakota, prices are already there. Crude sold at the wellhead in the Bakken shale region in North Dakota fell to $49.69 a barrel on Nov. 28, according to the marketing arm of Plains All American Pipeline LP. That’s down 47% from this year’s peak in June, and 29% less than the $70.15 paid for Brent, the global benchmark. The cheaper price for North Dakota crude underscores how geographic and logistical hurdles can amplify the stress that plunging futures prices have put on drillers in new shale plays that have helped push U.S. oil production to the highest level in 31 years. Other booming areas such as the Niobrara in Colorado and the Permian in Texas have also seen large discounts to Brent and U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate.

“You have gathering fees, trucking, terminaling, pipeline and rail fees,” Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston, said Dec. 2. “If you’re selling at the wellhead, you’re getting a very low number relative to WTI.” Discounted prices at the wellhead have been exacerbated by a 39% drop in Brent futures since June 19 to $69.92 a barrel yesterday. Prices have fallen as global demand growth fails to keep pace with surging oil production from the U.S. and Canada. Much of that new output is coming from areas that are facing steep discounts. Bakken crude was posted at $50.44 a barrel Dec. 2. Crude from Colorado’s Niobrara shale was priced at $54.55, according to Plains. Eagle Ford crude cost $63.25, and oil from the Oklahoma panhandle was $58.25.
American consumers probably still feel good about developments like ever lower prices at the pump, but they should be careful what they wish for.
$2 gasoline is back in the U.S. An Oncue Express station in Oklahoma City was selling the motor fuel for $1.99 a gallon today, becoming the first one to drop below $2 in the U.S. since July 30, 2010, Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy Organization Inc., said by e-mail from Chicago. “We knew when we saw crude oil prices drop last week that we’d break the $2 threshold pretty soon, but we didn’t know if it would happen in South Carolina, Texas, Missouri or Oklahoma,” said DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “Today’s national average, $2.74, now makes the current price we pay a whopping 51 cents per gallon less than what we paid a year ago.”

Gasoline is sliding after OPEC decided last week not to cut production amid a global glut of oil that has already dragged international oil prices down by 37% in the past five months. Pump prices have fallen by almost a dollar since reaching this year’s high on April 26. 15% of the nation’s gas stations are selling fuel below $2.50 a gallon, “and it may not be long before others join OnCue Express in that exclusive club that’s below $2,” said Gregg Laskoski, another senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. Retail gasoline averaged $2.746 a gallon in the U.S. yesterday, data compiled by AAA show. Stations will cut prices by another 15 to 20 cents a gallon as they catch up to the plunge in oil, AAA’s Michael Green said.
And here’s the reason to be careful with those wishes: job losses.
After the biggest slump in oil prices since the start of the global financial crisis, the prime minister of Norway says western Europe’s largest crude producer must become less reliant on its fossil fuels. “We need new industries, a new tax system and a better climate for investment in Norway,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said yesterday in an interview in Oslo. The comments follow threats from SAFE, one of Norway’s three main oil unions, which warned this week it will respond with industrial action unless the government acts to stem job losses. Solberg said that far from triggering government support, plunging oil prices should be used by the industry as an opportunity to improve competitiveness.

A 39% slump in oil prices since June is killing jobs in Norway, which relies on fossil fuels to generate more than one-fifth of its gross domestic product. In the past few months, Norway has lost about 7,000 oil jobs and SAFE said this week it was up to the government to reverse that trend. Solberg says protecting oil jobs will ultimately make it harder for the economy to wean itself off its commodities reliance. “We need to lower our cost of production in the development of new fields,” she said. “Oil production is not going to rise, it will slowly fall in Norway.”
And may I volunteer as an aside that Norway’s intentions to become less reliant on oil are perhaps a little past their best before date? They have this large sovereign oil fund, but never thought of using it to diversify their economy?
Perhaps the numero uno reason that oil prices will keep sinking is production becoming available in the Middle East. And in North Africa, where Libya recently reportedly brought an extra 800,000 barrels/day to the fray. Now it’s Iraq’s turn. Bloomberg put 300,000 barrels in its headline, only to say this in the article: “As much as 300,000 barrels a day of Kirkuk blend will be shipped through the Turkish pipeline under the terms of the deal, according to the KRG. Another 250,000 barrels daily of oil produced in the Kurdish region will be exported through the same route”. I corrected the headline.
Not only is OPEC refraining from cutting oil output to stem the five-month plunge in prices, it’s adding to the supply glut. Just five days after OPEC decided to maintain production levels, Iraq, the group’s second-biggest member, inked an export deal with the Kurds that may add about 300,000 barrels a day to world supplies. In a global market that neighboring Kuwait estimates is facing a daily oversupply of 1.8 million barrels, the accord stands to deepen crude’s 38% plunge since late June. Or as Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank, put it: There’ll be “even more oil flooding the market that nobody needs.”

Benchmark Brent crude slumped immediately after the deal was signed Dec. 2 in Baghdad, dropping 2.8% to $70.54 a barrel. Prices, which slipped 0.9% yesterday to reach the lowest since 2010, were at $70.38 at 1:30 p.m. Singapore time today. Futures are down about 10% since OPEC’s Nov. 27 decision. The agreement seeks to end months of feuding between the Kurds and officials in Iraq over the right to crude proceeds, a dispute that has hindered their joint effort to push back Islamic State militants. The deal allows for as much as 550,000 barrels a day of crude to be shipped by pipeline from northern Iraq to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey, according to the regional government. The Kurds were already exporting about 220,000 barrels daily, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Kurdish Regional Government expanded its control of Iraq’s oil resources in June when it deployed forces to defend Kirkuk, the largest field in the north of the country, from Islamic militants. The Kurds have been shipping crude through Turkey in defiance of the central government, which took legal action to block the sales, leaving some tankers loaded with Kurdish oil stranded at sea. As much as 300,000 barrels a day of Kirkuk blend will be shipped through the Turkish pipeline under the terms of the deal, according to the KRG. Another 250,000 barrels daily of oil produced in the Kurdish region will be exported through the same route, according to the government in Baghdad.
What it will all lead to, and increasingly so as prices fail to recover and instead keep falling, is the disappearance and withdrawal of financing in the oil industry, especially the insanely overleveraged shale patches. The financiers will need a little more time to consolidate, minimize and liquidate their losses, but they will get up and leave. So all the talk of growing the industry sounds just a tad south of fully credible. This is an industry that lost over $100 billion a year for at least three years running, i.e. didn’t produce sufficient revenue even at $100 a barrel, and at $60 they would be fine, without much of their previous external financing?
Two energy-related companies are postponing financings after a plunge in oil prices made their high-yield, high-risk debt more difficult to sell. New Atlas, a newly formed unit of oil and gas producer Atlas Energy Group, put on hold a $155 million loan it was seeking to refinance debt, according to five people with knowledge of the deal, who asked not be identified because the decision is private. EnTrans International, a manufacturer of equipment used in fracking, delayed selling a $250 million bond, according to three other people with knowledge of that transaction. Investors in bonds of junk-rated energy companies are facing losses of more than $11 billion as oil prices dropped to a five-year-low of $63.72 a barrel this week. This is deepening concern that the riskiest oil explorers won’t be able to meet their obligations, and sending their borrowing costs to the highest since 2010.

More than half of Cleveland, Tennessee-based EnTrans’s revenue comes from equipment sales to the hydraulic fracturing and the energy industry, Moody’s Investors Service said in a Nov. 17 report. The notes, which were being arranged by Credit Suisse, would have been used to refinance debt. Gary Riley, chief executive officer at EnTrans International, said yesterday in an e-mail commenting on the deal status that “the decision to defer or go forward has not been made.” Riley didn’t respond to questions seeking comment today. Deutsche Bank and Citigroup were managing New Atlas’s financing and had scheduled a meeting with lenders for this morning, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Perhaps those sub-$50 Bakken prices tell us pretty much where global prices are ahead. And then we’ll take it from there. With 1.8 million barrels “that nobody needs” added to the shale industries growth intentions, where can prices go but down, unless someone starts a big war somewhere? Yesterday’s news that US new oil and gas well permits were off 40% last month may signal where the future of shale is really located.
But oil is a field that knows a lot of inertia, long term contracts, future contracts, so changes come with a time lag. It’s also a field increasingly inhabited by desperate producers and government leaders, who wake up screaming in the middle of the night from dreaming about their heads impaled on stakes along desert roads.
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: December 5, 2014, 12:33 am
Wondering why stocks suddenly found a soft patch in the last few minutes of trading? Here is the reason: according to a report in German Die Welt, the ECB's president and former Goldman Sachs employee, Mario Draghi, has just lost the majority on the ECB Executive Board:
Back row (left to right): Yves Mersch, Peter Praet, Benoît Cœuré
Front row (left to right): Sabine Lautenschläger, Mario Draghi (President), Vítor Constâncio (Vice-President)
From a just released report (google translated) in Germany's Die Welt:
The outlooks for growth and inflation are bleak. Mario Draghi will therefore open the gmoneyates - and is met with increasing resistance. And on the ECB's Executive Board, he has just lost the majority.
According to information obtained by "Die Welt", internal resistance to Draghi is now larger than previously thought. He can no longer count on a majority within the Board currently. In the vote on the official opinion of the Governing Council on monetary policy are for information of the "world" three of the six directors supported by the President to the original tune.

In addition to Sabine Lautenschlager and Yves Mersch, who had already previously expressed skepticism about bond purchases, one can now add the Frenchman Benoît Coeuré who is against Draghi's course.  ...There had been dissenting voices within the Board on several occasions, but there was always a majority behind the President.
Not this time. Then again, "Draghi is still able to enforce his position easily. Because ultimately decides the proportion of votes on the Board, but in the 24-member Governing Council, in addition to the directors and the governors of the national central banks are represented. Among them there were reportedly more votes against, among others, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann."
So will Draghi follow Obama in pursuing QE by "executive decision" without a clear majority support? Recall that even Kuroda had a slim 5:4 majority when he decided to go full-Krugman. And if he does so, expect the cold war between South and North Italy to go ballistic and make the smoldering cold war 2.0 between Russia and the West seem like a dress rehearsal.
Author: Elite Forex Blog - Market Research & Analysis
Posted: December 4, 2014, 11:42 pm