Sunday 14th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: FRIDAY, JANUARY 12TH: Morningstar has moved the Morningstar Analyst Rating™ for the Fidelity Global Inflation Linked Bond fund to Neutral. The fund previously held a Bronze rating. Ashis Dash, manager research analyst at Morningstar, says, “The fund’s rating was placed Under Review following the news that co-manager Jeremy Church was leaving Fidelity. Lead manager, Andrew Weir, who has managed the fund since launch in May 2008, remains in charge and is further supported by the new co-manager, Tim Foster. While we acknowledge Weir’s considerable experience in the inflation-linked space, some recent stumbles and below-benchmark returns over time have led us to lower our conviction in the fund. This is currently reflected by our Neutral rating.” - Italian GDP growth looks to have stalled to 0.1pc in the last quarter of 2015, falling below analyst expectations of 0.3% growth. The Italian economy grew by just 0.6% last year having come out of its worst slump since before the pyramids were built. The slowdown will put further pressure on reforming Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, who has been battling to save a banking system lumbering under €201bn (£156bn) of bad debt, equivalent to as much as 12% of GDP. It is a serious situation and one which threatens Italy’s traditionally benign relationship with the European Union. The EU’s bail in rules for bank defaults seeks to force creditors to take the brunt of any banking failures. Italy suffered four bank closures last year, which meant losses of something near €800m on junior bond holders (with much of the exposure held by Italian retail investors). No surprise perhaps, Italian bank stocks have taken a beating this year, Unicredit shares are currently €3.06, compared with a price of €6.41 in April last year. In aggregate Italian banking shares are down by more than 20% over the last twelve months. Italian economy minister Pier Carlo Padoan told Reuters at the beginning of February that there isn’t any connection between the sharp fall in European banking stocks, as he called on Brussels for a gradual introduction of the legislation. He stressed that he did not want legislation changed, just deferred - Is current market volatility encouraging issuers to table deals? Oman Telecommunications Co OTL.OM (Omantel) has reportedly scrapped plans to issue a $130m five-year dual-currency sukuk, reports the Muscat bourse. Last month, the state-run company priced the sukuk at a profit rate of 5.3%, having received commitments worth $82.16m in the dollar tranche and OMR18.4m ($47.86m) in the rial tranche. Meantime, Saudi Arabia's Bank Albilad says it plans to issue SAR1bn-SAR2bn ($267m-$533m) of sukuk by the end of the second quarter of 2016 to finance expansion, chief executive Khaled al-Jasser told CNBC Arabia - The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (Commission) announces that the Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee (EEMAC) will hold a public meeting at the Commission’s Washington, DC headquarters located at 1155 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20581. The meeting will take place on February 25th from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm – Local press reports say the UAE central bank will roll out new banking regulations covering board and management responsibilities and accountability – Following yesterday’s Eurogroup meeting, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, says that “Overall, the economic recovery in the eurozone continues and is expected to strengthen this year and next. At the same time, there are increasing downside risks and there is volatility in the markets all around the world. The euro area is structurally in a much better position now than some years ago. And this is true also for European banks. With Banking Union, we have developed mechanisms in the euro area to bring stability to the financial sector and to reduce the sovereign-banking nexus. Capital buffers have been raised, supervision has been strengthened, and we have clear and common rules for resolution. So overall, structurally we are now in a better position and we need to continue a gradual recovery”. Speaking at the press conference that followed the conclusion of the February 11th Eurogroup, Dijsselbloem also acknowledged that “good progress” has been made in official discussions between Greece and its officials creditors in the context of the 1st programme review. Yet, he noted that more work is needed for reaching a staff level agreement on the required conditionality, mostly on the social security pension reform, fiscal issues and the operation of the new privatization fund. On the data front, according to national account statistics for the fourth quarter of 2016 (flash estimate), Greece’s real GDP, in seasonally and calendar adjusted terms, decreased by 0.6%QoQ compared to -1.4%QoQ in Q3. The NBS Executive Board decided in its meeting today to cut the key policy rate by 0.25 pp, to 4.25%. - Today’s early European session saw an uptick in energy stocks, banking shares and US futures. Brent and WTI crude oil futures both jumped over 4% to $31.28 a barrel and $27.36 respectively before paring gains slightly; all this came on the back of promised output cuts by OPEC. That improving sentiment did not extend to Asia where the Nikkei fell to a one-year low. Japan's main index fell to its lowest level in more than a year after falling 4.8% in trading today, bringing losses for the week to over 11%. Yet again though the yen strengthened against the US dollar, which was down 0.1% ¥112.17. Swissquote analysts says, “We believe there is still some downside potential for the pair; however traders are still trying to understand what happened yesterday - when USD/JPY spiked two figures in less than 5 minutes - and will likely remain sidelined before the weekend break.” Japanese market turbulence is beginning to shake the government and may spur further easing measures if not this month, then next. Trevor Greetham, head of multi asset at Royal London Asset Management, says “When policy makers start to panic, markets can stop panicking. We are seeing the first signs of policy maker panic in Japan with Prime Minister Abe holding an emergency meeting with Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda. We are going to get a lot of new stimulus over the next few weeks and not just in Japan. I expect negative interest rates to be used more in Japan and in Europe and I expect this policy to increase bank lending and weaken currencies for the countries that pursue it”. Greetham agrees that both the yen and euro have strengthened despite negative rates. “Some of this is due to the pricing out of Fed rate hike expectations; some is temporary and to do with risk aversion. In a market sell off money tends to flow away from high yielding carry currencies to low yielding funding currencies and this effect is dominating in the short term”. Australia's S&P ASX 200 closed down 1.2%. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng settled down 1.01. in New Zealand the NZX was down 0.89%, while in South Korea the Kospi slid 1.41%. The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 1.25 points or 0.05% higher to 2539.53, taking the year-to-date performance to -11.91%. The top active stocks today were DBS, which declined 0.91%, SingTel, which gained 1.13%, JMH USD, which declined 1.39%, OCBC Bank, which gained 0.13% and UOB, with a0.34% advance. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index declined 0.50%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index declined0.31%. Thai equities were down 0.38%, the Indian Sensex slip 0.71%, while Indonesian equities were down another 1.16%. The euro was down 0.3% against the dollar at $1.1285, even after data showed Germany's economy remained on a steady yet modest growth path at the end of last year. Gold fell 0.7% to $1238.80 an ounce, after gold gained 4.5% Thursday to its highest level in a year. Greetham summarises: “Like a lot of people, we went into this year's sell off moderately overweight equities and it has been painful. What we have seen has been a highly technical market with many forced sellers among oil-producing sovereign wealth funds and financial institutions protecting regulatory capital buffers. However, economic fundamentals in the large developed economies remain positive, unemployment rates are falling and consumers will benefit hugely from lower energy prices and loose monetary policy.”

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Commodities, prices and the crisis after this Photograph © Kirsty Pargeter/ Dreamstime.com, supplied October 2013.

Commodities, prices and the crisis after this

Tuesday, 29 October 2013
Commodities, prices and the crisis after this With Syria dominating the headlines commodities, especially oil and gold, are yo-yoing in sync with the news. Though this makes fertile trading ground for short term investors, for long term investors it is harder to separate the “noise” generated by the sabre-rattling from where long term commodities prices could realistically be. What’s the solution? By Vanya Dragomanovich. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/media/k2/items/cache/e3e43e64ef51c1e045494b824af806e9_XL.jpg

With Syria dominating the headlines commodities, especially oil and gold, are yo-yoing in sync with the news. Though this makes fertile trading ground for short term investors, for long term investors it is harder to separate the “noise” generated by the sabre-rattling from where long term commodities prices could realistically be. What’s the solution?
By Vanya Dragomanovich.

The last few years have been thick with crises and conflict situations in the Middle East: Syria, Libya, Egypt and Iran, while Europe and the US have dished out their own market-moving contributions in the form of the Greek debt crisis, US debt ceiling negotiations and quantitative easing. All of the above will move commodities markets (mostly oil and gold) in the short term, typically up to 10% and occasionally, and then very short term, up to 20%.


Société Générale Investment Bank analysts have dissected the factors that influence the price of 22 com­modities and found that a crisis will increase the degree to which the fundamentals of supply and demand will influence markets.




In a normal situation, that is, a market not driven by geopolitical or important financial news or fundamentals (such as barrels of oil produced versus oil consumed by cars; or ounces of gold mined versus ounces of jewellery bought) will play the biggest role in price variations. Before the collapse of Lehman Brothers supply and demand accounted for about 80% of the price variation for commodities and the rest was made up from macroeconomic data, currency strength and market liquidity.


The financial crisis disrupted this pattern and after Lehman the average percentage of the price move explained by underlying fundamentals fell to 71%. However, as the global economic outlook is beginning to improve fundamentals are starting to play a bigger role again.  “Our analysis shows a clear regime change this summer in terms of what is driving commodities,” claims Michael Haigh, SGIB analyst in New York. Fundamentals now account for 83%, the highest level in the last seven years. News like that from the Middle East will tip the balance even further in favour of fundamentals, not only because there is an actual disruption in supply of oil but also because there is a threat of future disruptions.


“A couple of serious supply constraints in recent years confirm what we are seeing as a result of the Syrian crisis and uncertainty—the explanatory power of fundamentals because of geopolitics, for example, picks up when there is supply uncertainty,” says Haigh.


Before the chemical attacks in Syria in late August 2013, fundamentals explained 55% of Brent crude’s price movements but by late August, at which stage the Syrian conflict threatened to take on international proportions, fundamentals drove a highly significant 95% of the price. There was a similar pick-up for Brent crude during the Arab Spring in 2011 and for the grains markets in 2012 when the drought in the US was in full flow.


For instance, for gold, the role of supply and demand on average constitutes 81% of the price variability but can spike as high as 95%, according to SGIB. For Brent crude oil fundamentals make up on average 65% of the price and for copper 69%. For aluminium and silver this number is around 80% while for soft commodities such as coffee and cocoa, or grains and livestock, fundamentals account for over 90% of the price.


Other influencers are the dollar exchange rate, macroeconomics and market liquidity. The on-going normalisation of the global financial system after the 2008 meltdown suggests that the dominant role of fundamentals will stay in place for the foreseeable future. “If so, commodities should trade mainly on their respective fundamentals, allowing for significant dispersion between individual commodities and between commodities and other asset classes,” adds Haigh.


Gold & black gold
When it comes to oil the fundamentals are driven beyond anything else by national interest. 


The two top producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia, each producing around 13% of the global oil supply, have their national budgets linked to the price of oil and both are for similar reasons happy to have the oil price trade between $110 and $150 a barrel. Russia’s budget depends heavily on the country’s exports of gas and oil and as long as the country is careful with its domestic spending the budget breaks even when oil prices are around $100/bbl.


In Saudi Arabia the cost of oil production is not far from $20 a barrel, yet because of heavy domestic spending the country as the lead producer of OPEC polices the price of oil so that it is never far from $110/bbl. If oil prices start falling Saudi Arabia (and potentially the rest of OPEC) can cut production by one million barrels a day in a relatively short period of time. Equally, if prices start to rise too fast, the country can release another one million barrels into the global market.


In addition, both the US and Europe hold large strategic oil reserves which would be released in the case of either a significant shortage or prices rising so high that they hurt the macro economy in those countries. “One natural stabiliser for global oil markets is strategic petroleum reserves. Low commercial inventories could prompt a coordinated release of these government stocks just as we saw in the aftermath of the Libya crisis in 2011. At 1.6bn barrels (of OECD crude oil reserves excluding the US) this safety valve remains ample,” says Francisco Blanch, commodities strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.


In addition the Arab Spring has resulted in the Saudi government pumping billions of pounds into social projects and welfare in order to prevent domestic unrest, “which means that it is now no longer happy with oil prices at $100/bbl or below but at $110/bbl, says Haigh. With political decision makers battle ready when it comes to oil, there is not much scope for prices to move below $100/bbl. That doesn’t mean that prices will not continue to gyrate in reaction to crises like Syria but it does mean that those moves are not likely to be long lived.


Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Blanch estimates that oil could rally to $120/bbl, not just in reaction to Syria but also because of workers’ protests and port closures in Libya, pipeline attacks in Iraq and oil theft and pipe vandalism in Nigeria. If the Syrian conflict spread into the rest of the region, Turkey and Iraq, then prices could even spike to $150/bbl.


“However, you would only see such a large spike in prices if there was a major escalation of conflict. Otherwise it is much more likely that the price will move up some $10/bbl and that for a short period,” says SGIB analyst Jesper Dannesboe.


When it comes to gold, financial crises will play a much bigger role than geopolitics because demand is spread across the globe in very different ways. For instance demand in the US stems to a large extent from ETF investors, in Europe key buying is roughly evenly distributed between ETF investors and bar and coin buyers, while in India and China jewellery is the main reason to buy gold.


Financial crisis
David Lamb, managing director, Jewellery, at the World Gold Council says that although demand for physical gold rose sharply in the second quarter of this year, particularly demand for jewellery, bars and coins, “overall uptake of gold was down 12% on the year.”


Signs of economic recovery in the US followed by a sparkling rally in equities and bonds meant that ETF investors were no longer looking for safe-haven assets and have been pulling out of gold.

According to the latest quarterly report by the World Gold Council jewellery demand, bar and coin demand and ETF purchases accounted for inflows of $26m, $23m and an outflow of $18m, respectively, in the last quarter. Interestingly, at 110,000kg (3,536,582 troy ounces), US gold production was 8% lower in the first half of 2013, compared to the first half of last year, according to a US Geological Survey  (USGS) report. Nevada mines produced less gold during the first half of this year compared to the second half of 2012 “as a result of lower grades and recoveries in Mill 5 and Mill 6 and lower grade at the Twin Creeks autoclaves,” said the USGS. “Some of the losses were offset by new production at the Emigrant Mine and higher throughput at the Phoenix Mine.”


Since the conflict in Syria started making the headlines gold prices have risen 20% to just over $1,400 an ounce, but the bigger factor has been the Federal Reserve and its plans about quantitative easing and bond buying which has meant that ETF speculators, already negative about gold, are continuing to pull out of the yellow metal.


What then outside of a conflict situation can investors use as a reliable indicator in the sea of information about supply and demand? For oil, this would be weekly inventory data such as the change of inventory levels reported by the US Department of Energy. Analysts will typically look at the year-on-year change to remove seasonal influences, such as spikes in demand during the summer holiday season when more people travel and petrol consumption goes up. A rise in inventory level will point to either oversupply or lack of demand and either way will result in a decline in prices.


Similarly in base metals a reliable indicator is the level of stocks held in London Metal Exchange warehouses or cancelled warrants—stocks which are due to leave warehouses in the near future. Although this number does not explain how much copper or aluminium is produced or consumed globally at any given time it is a very good indicator if there is spare material in the system.


This should provide a good enough idea of where the base-line price for commodities should be and allow for adjusting for a crisis situation. At present all eyes are on Syria, but the crisis in the pipeline is likely to be cause by weakening of emerging markets currencies. If, for instance, the Indian rupee weakens significantly it would stifle the buying of not only gold and oil but of a whole host of metals and raw materials. The only question is will Europe and the US have enough time to recover by then to counteract a drop in demand.

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