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Ingen tvärbroms på råvarornas supercykel

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Om Kina och råvaror av Handelsbanken

Magnus Strömer, råvaruchef på HandelsbankenNär Kina ställer om ekonomin till att drivas mer av inhemsk konsumtion lär det leda till både lägre tillväxttal och ändrad råvarukonsumtion. Betyder det att råvarornas så kallade supercykel är över? Både ja och nej.

Kina håller i snabb takt på att ställa om ekonomin från infrastrukturinvesteringar och export av lågförädlade varor som största drivkrafter, till en mer uthållig tillväxt driven av inhemsk konsumtion. Det kommer att leda till lägre tillväxttal framöver, och till en helt annan profil på Kinas råvarukonsumtion.

I det stora perspektivet kan omställningen av Kinas tillväxtmodell bara beskrivas som helt naturlig. Det är en utveckling som ska komma när människor får det bättre, blir bättre utbildade, ökar medvetenheten om miljöpåverkan och så vidare. Drivkraften hos invånarna skiftar: Från att arbeta maximalt för att kunna skicka hem pengar till anhöriga, arbetar de för att njuta mer av livet eller kunna leva lite mer västerländskt.

Hur en supercykel för råvaror fungerarMen utvecklingen har också lett till resonemang runt att råvarornas så kallade ”supercykel” (se faktaruta), skapad av Kinas oerhörda tillväxt de senaste tio åren, är över. Det finns ett väldigt tydligt samband mellan å ena sidan hur nationer tar sig ur fattigdom och utvecklar en medelklass, och å andra sidan hur efterfrågan på råvaror ser ut. Förenklat kan man säga att industrialisering leder till stigande ekonomiskt välstånd som bygger på att en fysisk infrastruktur utvecklas, med allt från bostäder och vägar till fabriker, bilar, broar, järnvägar och flygplatser. I Kina har dessa infrastrukturprojekt antagit närmast ofattbara proportioner under de senaste två decennierna. Det har skapat en gigantisk efterfrågan på råvaror, som i sin tur lett till kraftiga prisökningar. Det mest framträdande exemplet är koppar som under de senaste tio åren stigit med 390 procent.

Befolkningstäthet i KinaKina har under de senaste tio åren gått från cirka 3 000 dollar i BNP per capita till strax under 10 000 dollar. Just det intervallet brukar vara den mest råvaruintensiva fasen i ett lands utveckling. Efter att BNP per capita överstigit 12 000 dollar planar råvarukonsumtionen normalt ut, och ändrar framför allt karaktär.

Det kan dock visa sig vara lite tidigt att dra slutsatser angående den kinesiska drakens aptit på de mer basala råvarorna såsom metaller och annat som behövs för infrastrukturbyggen. Kina är som bekant en gigantisk nation. Det är dessutom en nation med stora regionala skillnader. Detta gör att det kan vara vanskligt att använda samma analys som i andra, mindre länder. De regioner i Kina som nått längst i ”industrialiseringen” och som vid utgången av 2012 låg över 20 000 dollar i BNP per capita är Beijing och Shanghai, samt de regioner som ligger i dessa megastäders närhet. Det är dock viktigt att ha i åtanke att i dessa regioner bor ”endast” cirka 60 miljoner invånare. Tittar man på hur stor del av Kinas befolkning som ligger över 12 000 dollar i BNP per capita så landar summan på strax under en halv miljard invånare. Det är närmast ofattbart stora siffror.

Andel kineser som bor på landet respektive i städer - urbaniseringMen – det betyder i sin tur att 850 miljoner människor, framför allt i inlandet, ligger kvar på väldigt låga nivåer när det gäller välstånd, utveckling och urbanisering. Det är 100 miljoner fler invånare än vad som bor i hela Europa (inklusive Ryssland). Dessa 850 miljoner har inte gjort den resa som den mer utvecklade delen av Kina gjort, och det är dit som en allt större del av tillverkning och ysselsättning nu flyttar.

Megastäderna har nämligen blivit väldigt dyra för arbetssökande att flytta till, och löneinflationen har varit mycket hög i de heta regionerna. Det skapar ett tryck att utveckla nya regioner inne i landet, och öka urbaniseringsgraden där. Och just urbanisering är inte bara väldigt en väldig drivkraft i efterfrågan på råvaror – det är också en av de starkaste trender vi ser i världen. Enligt FN:s prognoser kommer det redan år 2030 finnas 221 städer i Kina som är större än Stockholm, och det kommer att finnas 23 städer med fler än fem miljoner invånare.

Urbaniseringstakten är i princip lika hög var man än tittar i Asien, oavsett urbaniseringsgraden. Med andra ord finns det få anledningar att tro att urbaniseringen i Kina ska avstanna, även om landet nu nått en bit över 50 procents urbaniseringsgrad. Som jämförelse ligger motsvarande siffra i Japan runt 90 procent, och där fortsätter folk att flytta till städer. Liksom här i Sverige…

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Biltätheten, som är intimt knuten till den ekonomiska aktiviteten, är också den ojämnt spridd mellan den utvecklade delen av landet och de delar som inte kommit lika långt. En växande bilflotta kommer inte bara att påverka förbrukningen av bensin och diesel – den kräver också fortsatta stora investeringar i infrastruktur som vägar, broar och tunnlar.

Kinas enorma storlek i sig gör alltså att nationella jämförelser blir svåra. Skillnaderna mellan olika provinser är väldigt stora och skillnaderna mellan stad och landsbygd är enorma. Det finns all anledning att tro att Kina kommer att ha väldigt stor påverkan på den globala råvaruefterfrågan under lång tid ännu. Därför måste vi svara både ja och nej på frågan om supercykeln är över: Ja, den är över för de utvecklade och industrialiserade regionerna. Men också nej: För en gigantisk del av befolkningen har den bara börjat.

Analys

Metals rallied ahead of spot fundamentals, but better times are indeed ahead

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SEB - analysbrev på råvaror

Industrial metals rallied close to 25% from 1 Dec-2023 to 20 May-2024 as marginal optimism replaced recession fears. But prices have pulled back a bit since then as economic growth optimism has run ahead of spot fundamentals. Industrial metals prices rallied close to 25% from 1 Dec-2023 to 20 May-2024. A solid gain on the back of reviving optimism as global manufacturing PMI’s rose from depressed levels in December to now just above the 50-line. Speculative money rolled into the space to catch a ride on economic revival as well as wanting to hold commodities as a sort of protection against inflation. But the actual state of the global economy isn’t all that strong yet.

Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB
Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB

Rather it is quite weak in absolute terms with the global manufacturing PMI barely just above the 50-line and barely in expansionary territory. Thus, prompt weaknesses can be seen in many places in both metals and energy with rising inventories and weakening curve structures and premiums. The price rally has thus been on a collision course with spot fundamentals. And that eventually helped to bring metals prices back down a bit since 20 May.

That said we do hold the view that there are better times ahead. Consumer prices are cooling, Covid-19 induced inflation is fading and central banks across the world are set to lower policy rates over the coming year. The ECB just cut its policy rate by 0.25% which is the first cut in 5 years. We think other central banks will follow suite as inflation cools around the world. And that is the real start of economic revival. The global economy will then shift from current patchy growth here and there to a more broad-based upturn. And as such the investors who have driven the bull-train so far will likely be right in the end. It is just a bit early.

Brent Crude. Steady as we go: OPEC+ keeps on holding large volumes off market to support prices. The group has flagged that it wants to return volumes to market but is in no hurry to do so. Fading shale oil growth is shifting market power back to OPEC+.

Nat gas TTF. Crisis behind us but still some tightness. The crisis is now clearly behind us, but the market is still on the tight side with some need for demand destruction as the global LNG market has not yet fully managed to compensate lost Russian gas.

EUA carbon. The trough is behind us. Back to EUR 100/ton in 2025. The EUA price crashed to EUR 49.54/ton intraday on 23 Feb depressed by a crash in nat gas prices, low emissions and front-loading of supply. Prepare for EUR 100/ton or more in 2025.

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Aluminum 3mth. Too far, too fast. Back to USD 2400/ton before gains in 2025. Aluminum has rallied more than USD 400/ton since February to now USD 2613/ton without support from a comparable gain in coal prices or drawdown in inventories. Helped higher by speculative appetite and increased friction in global trade flows due to new sanctions on Russian metals.

Copper 3mth. Prompt market not that tight. Back above USD 10,000/ton in 2025. The LME 3mth rallied to USD 10,889/ton (LME 3mth) and US Comex copper rallied to USD 11,285/ton. Rally was driven by tightness in the US (IRA++) and speculators frontrunning economic acceleration and global copper deficit. But signs of physical weaknesses many places to be seen in premiums and curves. Flat price now coming back off.  But back up above USD 10,000/ton in 2025 and later as market tightens.

Nickel 3mth. Dragged along with the copper rally but Indonesia still looking to grab more market share. The LME 3mth nickel price rallied to USD 21,615/ton in May, dragged along with the industrial metals rally. But decline has been sharp since then. We are not very bullish on Nickel going forward as Indonesia seems to focus on growing market share rather than profits.

Zinc: Joined the rally. Now back down to USD 2800/ton which could be fair price nearest years. The zinc price spent a long time around USD 2500/ton before rallying to USD 3139/ton. But USD 2800/ton will likely be a fair price for zinc the nearest years.

SEB commodities price outlook
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ECB rate cut and assurances from OPEC+ lifts Brent back to 80

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SEB - analysbrev på råvaror

Back up to the 80-line. Brent crude rose to a close of  USD 79.87/b yesterday and recovered another 1.9% of its recent losses. This morning Brent crude is trading just above the 80-line (+0.2%) aligning well with some smaller gains in industrial metals as well as gains in Asian equities. Market focusing on US payrolls later today. Too hot or too cold?

Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB
Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB

Reassurances from OPEC+ helps to drive Brent back up. Brent dropped to USD 76.76/b (intraday) on Tuesday following the OPEC+ meeting last Sunday. That was the lowest since early February this year. Shocked by the price drop, OPEC+ was propelled to issue statements with assurances that they didn’t really mean what they said or say what they meant and that they in no way is shifting away from ”price over volume” with a shift to an aggressive claw-back of market shares. At least not yet. And yes, the group did state explicitly last Sunday that they would only put the 2 m b/d of voluntary cuts back into the market from Q4-24 to Q3-25 if market circumstances would allow it. And no one really believes that there will be room for the return of that volume to the market in that period. So basically it won’t happen. But the issued statements last Sunday still rings very clear to the market: The current production cuts by OPEC+ are not forever. So to all non-OPEC+ producers: Do prepare, do make room, for the return of these volumes. in the years to come. The frustration among the member states of the cartel must be rising steadily as quarter after quarter is passing by and yet again there is no room to return their cuts back into the market. 

ECB rate cuts gives hopes for economic acceleration and oil demand growth. ECB yesterday reduced its policy rate for the first time since 2016 as inflation is coming under control. The hope is that this is the beginning of further rate cuts across many central banks around the world as inflation is coming under control not just in Europe but also across most of the world. And of course further that this will be the start of a more broad based economic acceleration and thus stronger oil demand growth. That is for sure what OPEC+ is hoping for. That stronger oil demand growth will make room for a return of the group’s cuts.

US crude oil production rises to 13.18 m b/d in March, a mere 77 k b/d MoM gain. The US EIA projected in its May report that US crude oil production will continue to rise to 13.9 m b/d by Dec-2025. A slower, but still steady going growth in supply. The latest gains could however indicate that US crude production may flatten totally rather than rise further as current oil prices have done nothing to stimulate further drilling activity in US oil production since November last year. The official monthly US crude oil production for March came in at 13.18 m b/d. It is a recovery following a hard winter with difficult drilling conditions. But it is still below the Dec production level. Nothing would be sweeter news for OPEC+ than seeing US crude production fully flatten here onward. And it would indeed be the correct choice of action by US shale oil producers given that non-OPEC+ producers now has gotten notice: Cuts are not forever.

US crude oil production rises to 13.18 m b/d in March and a mere gain of 77 k b/d MoM and still below Dec-2025.

US crude oil production rises to 13.18 m b/d in March and a mere gain of 77 k b/d MoM and still below Dec-2025.
Source: SEB graph, Blbrg data feed, US EIA data

US EIA is projecting that US crude production will continue to rise and rise though more gradually

US EIA is projecting that US crude production will continue to rise and rise though more gradually
Source: SEB graph, Blbrg data feed, US EIA data
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Analys

Crude oil comment: Fundamentals are key – more volatility ahead

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SEB - analysbrev på råvaror

This week, Brent Crude prices have declined by USD 2.5 per barrel (3%) since the market opened on Monday. The key driver behind this movement was the OPEC+ meeting last Sunday. Initially, prices fell sharply, with Brent touching USD 76.76 per barrel on Tuesday (June 4th); however, there has been a slight recovery since, with current trading around USD 78.5/bl.

Ole R. Hvalbye, Analyst Commodities, SEB
Ole R. Hvalbye, Analyst Commodities, SEB

Despite ongoing macroeconomic concerns, price movements have been relatively subdued in the first half of 2024, largely driven by fundamental factors—specifically, concerns around supply and demand, where US DOE data and OPEC+ strategy, remain central to price dynamics.

The US inventory report on Wednesday contributed to bearish market sentiment due to an overall increase in commercial inventories. Following the report, prices dipped approximately USD 1/bl before returning to earlier levels in the week.

According to the US DOE, there was a build in US crude inventories of 1.2 million barrels last week, totaling 455.9 million barrels—around 4% below the five-year average for this period, yet significantly less than the 4.1 million barrels anticipated by the API on Tuesday (see page 11 attached). Gasoline inventories also rose by 2.1 million barrels, slightly less than API’s 4 million barrel expectation, and remain about 1% below the five-year average. Meanwhile, distillate (diesel) inventories saw a substantial increase of 3.2 million barrels, maintaining a position 7% under the five-year average but exceeding the expected 2 million barrels projected by API.

Globally, bearish to sideways price movements during May can be attributed to a healthy build in global crude inventories coupled with stagnant demand. US DOE data exemplifies this with both an increase in commercial crude inventories and rising crude oil imports, which averaged 7.1 million barrels per day last week—a 300k barrel increase from the previous week. Over the past four weeks, crude oil imports averaged 6.8 million barrels per day, reflecting a 3.5% increase compared to the same period last year.

Product demand shows signs of weakening. Gasoline products supplied to the US market averaged 9.1 million barrels a day, a 1% decrease from the previous year, while distillate supplied averaged 3.7 million barrels a day, down a significant 3.4% from last year. In contrast, jet fuel supply has increased by 13% compared to the same four-week period last year.

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OPEC+ Strategic Shifts

OPEC+ has markedly shifted its strategy from focusing solely on price stability to a dual emphasis on price and volume (more in yesterday’s crude oil comment). Since the COVID-19-induced demand collapse in May 2020, OPEC+ has adeptly managed supply levels to stabilize the market. This dynamic is evolving; OPEC+ no longer adjusts supplies solely based on global demand shifts or non-OPEC+ production changes.

Echoing a strategic move similar to Saudi Arabia’s in 2014, OPEC+ has signaled a nuanced approach. The alliance has planned no production changes for Q3-24 to align supply with expected seasonal demand increases, aiming to maintain market balance. Beyond that, there’s a plan to gradually reintroduce 2 million barrels per day from Q4-24 to Q3-25, with an initial increase of 750,000 barrels per day by January 2025. However, this plan is flexible and subject to adjustment depending on market conditions.

The IEA’s May report forecasts a decrease in OPEC’s call by 0.5 million barrels per day by 2025—a potential loss in market share, which OPEC+ finds unacceptable. The group has openly rejected further cuts, signaling an end to its willingness to lose market share to maintain price stability.

This stance serves as a clear warning to non-OPEC+ producers, particularly US shale operators, that the market shares gained since 2020 are not theirs to keep indefinitely. OPEC+ is determined to reclaim its volumes, potentially influencing future production decisions across the global oil industry. Producers now face the strategic decision to potentially scale back on production increases for 2025.

The confluence of a continuing build in US inventories and OPEC+’s strategic shifts has led to market reactions. In the wake of OPEC+ rhetoric, evaluating the fundamentals is now more important than ever, and increased volatility is expected.

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Even though OPEC+ has signaled its intention to reclaim market share, it plans to maintain current production levels for the next three months while continuously evaluating the situation. Today, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi Energy Minister, spoke at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg. He highlighted that Sunday’s agreement, like many before it, retains the option to ’pause or reverse’ production changes if deemed necessary. This statement subtly emphasizes that maintaining oil price stability and market balance remains a primary focus for OPEC+. Such rhetoric introduces a new dimension of uncertainty that market participants will need to consider going forward.

If the price continues to fall, OPEC+ remains intent on reclaiming ’their volumes,’ betting on a decrease in non-OPEC supply later this year and into 2025. A potentially weaker oil price, within the USD 70-80/bl range for the remainder of 2024, could help alleviate current inflationary pressures. This in turn may lead to earlier central bank rate cuts and a quicker economic recovery in 2025, thereby reviving global oil demand to the benefit of OPEC+.

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