Stocks were in rally mode Thursday as all three of the major indexes jumped to new all-time closing highs.
The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 118 points, or 0.6%, to 20,172.40.
Up by the same percentage were the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite — to their new highs of 2307.87 and 5715.18, respectively.
Investors weighed earnings from a batch of companies, including Twitter, Kellogg and Viacom. Energy stocks led the gainers as the price of crude oil headed higher. Utilities were down the most.
Benchmark U.S. crude gained 66 cents, or 1.3%, to $53.00 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, added 40 cents to $55.52 a barrel.
With oil prices surging to 17-month highs following this weekend’s OPEC-NOPEC deal and Saudi promises to cut still more, many Wall Street analysts are skpetical with Goldman Sachs warning that the Saudis are wrong to think U.S. shale production won’t respond to higher prices. However, Nomura and Bernstein see little threat to OPEC from rising U.S. shale production in 2017.
As The Saudis enabled yet another major short-squeeze… (Money managers slashed short bets on lower West Texas Intermediate crude prices by the most in five years after OPEC’s Nov. 30 accord to reduce supply.)
U.S. stocks rose Monday as investors sent the Dow Jones industrial average to another record high. Banks put up some of the biggest gains, as did technology companies, which have been mostly left out of a post-election rally. Energy companies were higher as the price of oil reached its highest level since July 2015. Small-company stocks continued to outpace the rest of the market.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 45.82, or 0.2%, to close at a record 19,216.31. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 0.6% to 2204.71 and the Nasdaq composite index rose 1% to 5308.89.
Small-company stocks again outpaced the rest of the market as the Russell 2000 jumped 1.8%. Thanks to a big rally in November, the Russell is up 17% this year, or more than twice as much as the S&P 500. Smaller companies, which are more domestically focused than large multinationals, could stand to benefit more than larger companies from a pickup in U.S. growth.
Oil prices rose for the fourth day in a row. The gains Monday were modest, but oil prices haven’t been this high since July 2015. Benchmark U.S. oil rose 11 cents to $51.79 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 48 cents to $54.94 a barrel in London. The price of oil has surged since OPEC countries finalized a deal that will trim oil production starting in January.
While the market has taken the latest round of “optimistic” jawboning by OPEC members in stride, sending crude higher by 4% ahead of next week’s OPEC meeting in Vienna where the terms of the OPEC production cut are expected to be finalized, the reality is that a favorable outcome may be problematic.
As Bloomberg’s Julian Lee explained overnight, “OPEC says it’s close to a deal to cut oil output for the first time since 2008, a move that may halt a 2 1/2-year price slump. The actions of individual member states tell a different story. The simple math supporting cuts looked solid at OPEC’s meetings in June and December. Prices then were way below most members’ fiscal break-even points. An output cut now of 1.5 million barrels a day, or 5 percent, would need to boost the oil price by only $2.50 a barrel for OPEC nations collectively to be better off. A $5 price increase would boost the value of what they pump by about $100 million a day.”
There are various nuances as to why a deal, one in which Saudi Arabia would bear the brunt of total production cuts, but as Lee notes, while OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo has been touring member nations to shore up support for an agreement before the Nov. 30 meeting, culminating with a trip to Doha for talks last week, “the meeting didn’t resolve much. It certainly didn’t tackle any of the thorniest questions that OPEC must still overcome if coordinated measures are to happen.”
“The road from the OPEC agreement in Algiers to the next official OPEC meeting in Vienna is long and bumpy,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodities strategy at BNP Paribas SA in London.
A deal is better than no deal, but just how good is Opec’s first agreement to limit production since the financial crisis?
To recap: In Algiers on Wednesday, the world’s major producer nations agreed on their first co-ordinated effort to control supply since 2008 and sent oil prices duly soaring by 6 per cent.
Details, including country-specific targets, will be released on November 30 but analysts and Opec-watchers have already raised concerns about how the burden to cut production will be spread and the prospect of backsliding among Opec’s members.
Here’s a round-up of what they make of it all.
The Algiers meeting is something of a “false dawn” says Hamza Khan, head of commodities strategy at ING who says the cut is still a shadow of the 1.5m b/d cut agreed in 2008. It will also pose problems for some Opec’s dissenters – including Iran, Nigeria and Libya, he added:
Saudi Arabia could have shouldered the bulk of cuts, likely reducing output of heavier blends from the Wafra oil field.
But the kingdom’s new crown prince and oil minister have been vocal about the prospects of a Saudi Aramco IPO in 2017/18, and such discretionary cuts would hurt investor confidence in such a listing.
Russia at the moment does not appear to be part of the agreement and continues to pump at record levels.
Analysts at Morgan Stanley have also doused a good deal of cold water on the deal, claiming the intervention is “not as good as it sounds” with execution still posing a major problem.
The summer lull for speculators in the currency futures market continued in the CFTC reporting week ending August 23. Of the 16 gross currency futures positions we track, speculator adjustments were less than 3k contracts in all but three.
The bears added to their gross short sterling position for the eighth consecutive week. The seven hundred contract increase was the smallest of the streak and lifts the gross short speculative position to 130.8k contracts, a new record.
More substantive adjustments were seen in the euro and Mexican peso, where the speculative bears ran for cover. The gross short euro position was trimmed to 182k contracts, as 13.6k contracts were covered. It is the fourth week in a row that shorts were covered. They peaked at 221.8k before the short-covering streak. The speculators covered 14.9k gross short peso contracts, leaving them with 55.4k. It is the third week of short-covering that began with a gross short position of 76k contracts.
Despite the small changes in the gross positions by speculators, two pattern were clear. First, speculators did not reduce the gross long positions in any of the currency futures we track. Second, speculators mostly reduced gross short positions. The exceptions were sterling, as we have seen, and the Australian and New Zealand dollars. We suspect some of the late positioning was caught wrong footed and may help explain the dramatic reaction of Yellen (and Fischer) before the weekend.
While oil bulls were delighted by yesterday’s DOE news of an inventory drawdown refuting the prior day’s API news of a major build, what was ignored was the build in Cushing storage (more on that shortly), which according to Genscape hit a utilization just shy of 80%, or more than 70 million barrels, a record high since Genscape began monitoring the hub in 2009. To be sure, the risk of running out of land storage has been one we have previously discussed on various occasions and hinted that one way this is being circumvented is with substantial amounts of oil being stored on tankers at sea, mostly by commodity trading companies who take advantage of the oil contango to generate month to month profits as producers choose to keep their product away from the market until prices rise.
As it turns out, not only is this the case, but according to Reuters, one particular energy trader – a name well-known to Zero Hedge readers – Glencore, has built up a massive inventory stake in the Brent market where it now holds an unprecedented 30% position in Brent, which it is holding for offshore storage in its tankers in hopes of pushing the price of Brent, and thus the entire energy complex higher, by limiting supply.
As Reuters details, citing trade sources, Glencore has built up one of the largest positions in part of the Brent crude market which acts as a benchmark for global oil prices since the start of the year.
”Two oil and gas producer defaults have propelled the energy high-yield default rate to a record 13%, surpassing the 9.7% mark set in 1999,” Fitch Ratings said in a press release adding that the default rate among US oil companies may rise further to 20 percent by the end of the year.
The ranks of bankrupt US energy companies were swelled by Ultra Petroleum and Midstates Petroleum on Monday. Struck by the persistent slump in oil prices, the two companies had accumulated nearly $6 billion in combined debt before filing for bankruptcy protection in Texas.
Global oil prices plunged from $115 to less than $30 per barrel between June 2014 and January 2016, hitting their lowest levels since 2003 amid an ongoing glut in global oil supply. The prices have since recovered to around $40-45 per barrel for the Brent crude benchmark.
One week ago, we wrote that as a result of the collapsing crude contango, oil tankers (such as the fully loaded Distya Akula which has been on anchor in the Suez Canal for one month unable to find a buyer for its cargo so it continues to wait) “will soon have to unload their cargo”, in the process flooding the already oversupplied market with millions of barrels of crude oil, thus pushing the price of oil far lower. But how many millions of barrels, and how much lower will the price of oil go?
For the answer we go to Deutsche Bank’s Michael Huseh, who has done the calculations to get the answer.
What he finds is that since the start of 2014, global floating storage inventory has ranged between 80 and 180 million barrels (Figure 1). According to estimates of the global VLCC fleet at the end of 2014, the potential storage capacity is implied to be 1169 million barrels. Adding Suezmax vessels would add 528 million barrels of capacity.
After touching 186 million barrels in early March, inventories have begun to decline once more. Since the start of 2015, one can identify both periods when builds in floating storage have been associated with rising Brent prices, and also periods when draws in floating storage have been associated with falling Brent prices (Figure 2). Since the Arabian Gulf has represented much of the variability in floating storage inventory, one can also measure the incentives to add or withdraw from storage using Arabian Gulf tanker rates.
South East Asia would be another valid candidate to measure economics, as floating storage inventories in that region have moved in a very similar fashion (Figure 3).
Oil prices have shown signs of life over the past few weeks, as production declines in the U.S. raise expectations that the market is starting to adjust. As a result, Brent crude recently surpassed $40 per barrel for the first time in months.
A growling list of companies are capitulating, announcing production cuts for 2016. Continental Resources, for example, could see output fall by 10 percent. A range of other companies have made similar announcements in recent weeks. The energy world has been speculating about declines from U.S. shale, and the declines are finally starting to show up in the data.
Despite the newfound optimism that oil markets are balancing out, crude oil sitting in storage is at a record high in the United States. Energy investors may have preferred to focus U.S. production declines, or the fall in gasoline inventories in early March, but meanwhile crude oil stocks continue to signal that oversupply persists.
Crude stocks rose once again last week, hitting yet another record of 521 million barrels. Storage levels at Cushing, Oklahoma, an all-important hub where the WTI benchmark price is determined, have surpassed 90 percent of capacity. U.S. output may be starting to decline, but it is doing so at a painfully slow rate.