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Analys

SEB – Jordbruksprodukter, vecka 50

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SEB Veckobrev Jordbruksprodukter - AnalysI detta det sista veckobrevet för 2011 om marknaderna för jordbruksprodukter kan vi summera året. Det senaste året har priset på kvarnvete sjunkit med 23%, rapsfrö med 12%. Mjölkpriset har stigit med 35% och urea med 52%. Tack vare gynnsamt väder har priset på potatis fallit med 71% på Eurexbörsen i Frankfurt. Dollarn är upp med 3% mot svenska kronor och euron är oförändrad, faktiskt.

Konjunkturoron och med den oron för svagare efterfrågan på mat tynger marknaderna just nu. Precis som väntat åstadkom EU-ledarna ingenting, vilket gick upp för marknaden på måndagen när stora kursfall noterades på råvaru-, kapital- och kreditmarknader i hela världen. Det hela sjönk in ordentligt på onsdagen, när panikförsäljning startade i guldmarknaden och sedan spred sig till oljemarknaden och slutligen till hela råvarumarknaden. OPEC kom under onsdagens möte i Wien fram till att öka produktionen av olja (höja produktionstaket). Det hjälpte inte upp situationen på marknaden.

Den ledande kinesiska websidan för fastighetsbranschen sade i måndags att antalet fastighetsaffärer har fallit mer än 50% i 13 av de 35 största städerna och sjunkit i 27 av dem. Kinas ekonomi bromsar in och Shanghaibörsens aktieindex noterade ett kursfall i onsdags till den lägsta nivån på mer än 2 år.

Shcomp Shanghai SE Composite -  Graf för 2007 - 2011

Nedan ser vi vetepriset på Matif de senaste tio åren. Priset är faktiskt ganska högt ännu i ett historiskt perspektiv och det är fortfarande attraktiva priser att säkra framtida försäljning till genom att sälja terminskontrakt.

Veteprisets utveckling-graf över 10 år - Graf 2002 - 2011

Vete

Terminspriset på Matif-vete (mars) ligger i en stadig trend nedåt.

Vetepriset (matif) - Fallande trend - Mars

När handeln öppnade på CBOT i onsdags eftermiddag satta kursfallet fart. Priset för mars-leverans föll från 600 cent / bushel ner till 580 cent, som vi ser i diagrammet nedan.

Pris på vete (CBOT) för leverans i mars - Graf

Fredagens WASDE rapport bjöd inte på några större överraskningar då marknaden förväntade sig en höjning av estimaten för produktion samt utgående lager. Några dagar innan hade dessutom FAO kommit med sin decemberrapport där man justerade upp den globala vete produktionen till rekordhöga 694.8 mt, vilket är en ökning med 6.5% jämfört med 2010 och 10 mt mer än den tidigare högsta nivån från 2009.

Prognos på jordbruksprodukter - RåvarorDen globala vete produktionen justerades upp 5.7 mt till en all-time-high på 688.97 mt, där USDA höjer sina estimat för Argentina, Australien, Kanada och Kina medan estimaten för Nordafrika sänks något.

Produktionen för EU-27 noterades oförändrad (137.49 mt) från föregående rapport. Även produktionen i Ryssland och Kazakhstan var oförändrad (56 mt resp 21 mt) medan FAO tidigare i veckan estimerade produktionen till 58 mt resp 24 mt för dessa länder.

Utgående lager (world wheat ending stocks) för 2011/12 justeras upp till 208.52 mt jämfört med 202.60 mt för en månad sedan. Detta gör att vi nu börjar närma oss historiska rekordnivåer. Intressant var också utgående lager för USA. Innan rapporten förväntade sig marknaden en snittsiffra på ca 830 miljoner bushels, en liten förändring från novembers 828 miljoner bushels, men när rapporten kom hade USDA justerat upp siffran med 50 miljoner och landade på 878 miljoner till följd av en nedjustering på 50 miljoner bushels för estimerad export.

Terminspriserna sjönk som en första reaktion på WASDE-rapporten för att sedan återhämtade sig trots att rapporten var starkt ”bearish” för vetet med rekordskördar, höga lagernivåer och minskad export. Vi ser i grafen nedan (procentuell förändring) att detta är femte månaden i följd som USDA har reviderat upp produktionen och utgående lager för vete!

PRODUCTION AND INVENTORY ESTIMATE

REVISIONS

(WASDE, MONTHLY DATA, %, JUNE CORN INV. EST. CUT FOR

Corn, wheat, soybean 2011

Men redan nu börjar marknaden att blicka fram emot januaris WASDE-rapport. Det är den rapportsom brukar ge de största prisrörelserna när den kommer ut:

Genomsnittlig prisrörelse på WASDE-rapporteringsdagar sedan 2002 (10 år):

Genomsnittlig prisrörelse på WASDE-rapporteringsdagar sedan 2002 (10 år)

I fredags publicerade också FranceAgriMer sina arealprognoser för nästa säsong där man räknar med följande ökningar av arealen; vete (+1,61%), durumvete (2,79%), korn (0,91%) och raps (+1,75%). Frankrike är EU:s största producent och exportör av vete.

Enligt Coceral kommer den europeiska (EU-27) vete produktionen att uppgå till 129.64 mt i år, vilket är en justering från 128.39 mt från förra månaden.

Egyptens GASC köpte 180,000 ton vete i tisdags med jämn fördelning mellan Ryssland, Argentina och… Frankrike! Priset på det franska vetet som vann budgivningen kom in på 240.50 usd / ton, vilket var ca 3.50 usd / ton billigare än det ryska vetet på 243.98 usd / ton (FOB). Ryssland har dock ett övertag mot Frankrike vad gäller frakt (kostnad) till Egypten. Argentina erbjuder fortfarande det billigaste vetet (226.19 usd / ton) men har dyrare fraktkostnad emot sig.

Nämnvärt är också att US White Wheat fanns med i denna budgivning, men exkluderades då leveransen inte avsåg 60,000 ton. Vi ser dock att gapet i prisskillnaderna nu minskar och att både det franska och amerikanska vetet börjar bli konkurrenskraftigt mot FSU länderna.

Även det kraftiga fallet i euron ger stöd åt jordbruksprodukterna på Matif och gör att Europa åter kan konkurrera på den internationella marknaden.

Nedan ser vi terminskurvan för Chicagovete och Matif nu och för en vecka sedan. De ”feta” kurvorna är de aktuella. De ”smala” är förra veckans. Matif är nästan inte förändrat alls, medan priserna liksom förra veckan gått upp i Chicago – för längre löptider. Bakom ligger oro för kommande skörd pga La Niña kanske och förmodligen också för att räntorna (som man kan låna till) är högre.

Terminskurvan för chicagovete och matif

Allt talar för att Matif-vete faller ner i första hand till 150 – 160 – euro-nivån.

Maltkorn

Maltkornsmarknaden har behållit sin styrka relativt andra spannmål med marsleverans på Matif på 262 euro per ton.

Prisutveckling på maltkorn under år 2011 - Graf

I Ryssland försöker regeringen att stödja produktionen av maltkorn genom subventioner av inköp av utsäde och bekämpningsmedel. Även om Ryssland producerar 17 MMT foderkorn så importeras det 400 000 ton maltkorn varje år sedan 2007 för att möta de behov som finns.

Potatis

Priset på potatis av årets skörd fortsatte stiga i veckan, ännu en vecka. Rapporten kom från Jordbruksverket tidigare i veckan om en betydligt högre skörd av matpotatis i Sverige, men informationen nådde alltså marknaden redan på försommaren, när priserna började falla. Nedan ser vi kursdiagrammet på europeisk potatis, som handlas på Eurex; terminen avser leverans april 2012.

Prisutveckling på potatis (Eurex) för leverans i april 2012

Priset för leverans i april 2013 ligger betydligt högre på 13.37 euro per deciton och har också stigit ännu mer den senaste tiden.

Pris på potatis för leverans i april 2013 - Diagram

Majs

Majspriset föll liksom det mesta andra kraftigt när börserna öppnade på onsdagseftermiddagen. Den 12 december rapporterade Martell Crop Projections att tork-stressen ökat i Argentina och södra Brasiliens majsfält. De skriver

”Growing conditions have become increasingly stressful in southern South America the past 2-3 weeks with intense drying. The crop area affected by emerging drought includes Argentina’s eastern grain belt in Buenos Aires, Entre Rios and Santa Fe. La Nina is the suspected culprit. Uruguay and Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil also are very dry.”

Kopplingen till etanol och oron kring Irans kärnvapenprogram och dess potentiellt explosiva effekt på oljepriset gör majshandlare oroliga att sälja, fast mycket annat tyder på att priset borde vara lägre.

Nedan ser vi marskontraktet på CBOT, där priset just fallit ner från 600-cent-nivån.

Diagram för termin på majs för leverans i mars 2012

Tekniskt ser det ut som om priset skulle kunna falla ner mot 500 cent.

Sojabönor

Priset på sojabönor befinner sig i en sjunkande trend. Vi sade i förra veckan att den lilla rekylen uppåt var ett säljtillfälle och det visade sig rätt. Priset ligger just nu på 1100 cent, som har utgjort ett stöd. Troligtvis bryter trenden nedåt igenom nivån och då blir nästa nivå som kan utgöra ett stöd, den jämna siffran 1000 cent.

Graf över pris för terminer på sojabönor med leverans i januari 2012

Vi är negativa ur tekniskt perspektiv de närmaste tre månaderna.

Raps

Priset på raps har gått upp och håller sig starkt med stöd från den svaga euron.

Uppgifter om att Hormuz-sundet skulle stängas på grund av militärövning (vilket förnekades av Irans utrikesdepartement) och nyheten om en attack mot en oljeledning i Irak fick råoljepriset att stiga under tisdagen och drog med sig priset på raps. Priset har också påverkats av oro över de extremt torra väderförhållanden som kan komma att påverka ny skörd.

Oljepriset föll under onsdagskvällen mycket kraftigt, med mer än 4% för Brent och mer än 5% för West Texas Intermediate. Detta bör påverka rapsfröet på Matif under torsdag och fredag. Nedan ser vi priset på februariterminen på Matif.

Rapsfrö Matfi - Diagram över prisutveckling

Matifraps var förra veckan 13% dyrare än kanadensisk canola och ligger kvar på samma nivå den är veckan. Raps är ovanligt dyrt.

Matif raps den 14 december 2011 - Diagram

Vi har en negativ vy på Matif raps.

Mjölk

Nedan ser vi priset på marskontraktet på flytande mjölk (kontakt avräknat mot USDA:s prisindex). Priset har varit väldigt rörligt den senaste tiden. Trenden är uppåtriktad, men är vid den nivå som priset toppade vid under sensommaren. Det kan utgöra ett motstånd för ytterligare prisuppgång.

Prisutveckling på flytande mjölk - Diagram

Gris

Priset på lean hogs har fallit stadigt den senaste veckan, men priset ligger ännu inom det breda prisintervall som etablerades under senvåren. 85 cent torde utgöra ett stöd, såsom botten på prisintervallet.

Gris - Lean Hogs - Grafer över priser på terminer

Valutor

EURSEK har märkligt nog stigit upp från 9 kr. Kanske tycker marknaden att det finns anledning att tveka även om den svenska kronans värde.

Graf över trend på valuta - EUR SEK

EURUSD är i en tydlig negativ trend.

Graf på valutatrend EUR USD

USDSEK har en stigande trend och har nått upp till heltalet 7 kr per dollar. Växelkursen har vänt ner därifrån två gånger tidigare och frågan är nu om kursen ska orka ta sig igenom den här gången.

Valuta - Grafer för USD SEK

Gödsel

Kväve

Nedan ser vi 1 månads terminspris på Urea fob Uyzhnyy. Priset har fallit kraftigt under hösten.

Termin - Graf för Urea FOB Uyzhnyy

[box]SEB Veckobrev Jordbruksprodukter är producerat av SEB Merchant Banking och publiceras i samarbete och med tillstånd på Råvarumarknaden.se[/box]

Disclaimer

The information in this document has been compiled by SEB Merchant Banking, a division within Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (publ) (“SEB”).

Opinions contained in this report represent the bank’s present opinion only and are subject to change without notice. All information contained in this report has been compiled in good faith from sources believed to be reliable. However, no representation or warranty, expressed or implied, is made with respect to the completeness or accuracy of its contents and the information is not to be relied upon as authoritative. Anyone considering taking actions based upon the content of this document is urged to base his or her investment decisions upon such investigations as he or she deems necessary. This document is being provided as information only, and no specific actions are being solicited as a result of it; to the extent permitted by law, no liability whatsoever is accepted for any direct or consequential loss arising from use of this document or its contents.

About SEB

SEB is a public company incorporated in Stockholm, Sweden, with limited liability. It is a participant at major Nordic and other European Regulated Markets and Multilateral Trading Facilities (as well as some non-European equivalent markets) for trading in financial instruments, such as markets operated by NASDAQ OMX, NYSE Euronext, London Stock Exchange, Deutsche Börse, Swiss Exchanges, Turquoise and Chi-X. SEB is authorized and regulated by Finansinspektionen in Sweden; it is authorized and subject to limited regulation by the Financial Services Authority for the conduct of designated investment business in the UK, and is subject to the provisions of relevant regulators in all other jurisdictions where SEB conducts operations. SEB Merchant Banking. All rights reserved.

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Analys

The self-destructive force of unregulated solar power

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SEB - analysbrev på råvaror

Modifications

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

Solar and wind power production has increased rapidly over the latest years as LCOE costs have fallen sharply while government support schemes have given it an extra boost as well. Solar and wind power production is totally unregulated supply. They produce whenever they produce. Fossil power supply on the other hand is fully dispatchable to the degree that we tend to take it for granted. As such we have naturally tended to underestimate the consequences of not having dispatchability in solar and wind power.

When you start out with a large, fossil-based power system it is fairly easy to add unregulated power supply from solar and wind because it can piggyback on the dispatchability and flexibility of the fossil power system. But as the share of unregulated renewable energy rises to a larger and larger share of production, the flexibility in the fossil part of the system naturally gets smaller and smaller. This problem is accentuated further  by the fact that solar power production has a very high concentration of production where 80% of production in a year is produced in only 20% of the hours in the year. Thus fossil flexibility and dispatchability is eroded much faster during these 20% hours.

Power prices typically collapse to zero or negative when demand is fully met or saturated by unregulated power supply. That again implies that solar power profitability collapse as well. And the result of that of course is that the exponential growth in solar power production which we now take for granted and which we expect will lead us all the way to zero emissions could come to a full stop as well.

This is already a rapidly increasing problem in California where more and more renewable energy is denied access to the grid because there simply isn’t enough demand for it just then or because the grid cannot handle it. But it is also becoming an increasing problem in Germany where the strong growth and high concentration of solar power increasingly is destroying the power prices just when they produce the most.

The need for biiiig, cheeeeap grid batteries are now becoming increasingly critical for the the exponential growth in solar and wind power to continue.

We fear that the self-destructive force on power prices, of exponential growth in unregulated solar power, is some kind of Solar-hara-kiri process with respect to its own profitability. And that it has the potential to develop along a curve of ”first gradually, then suddenly”. And when/if that happens the exponential growth in unregulated solar power production should naturally come to a screeching halt.

The resolution of the problem is of course the eventual arrival of biiiig, cheeeap grid batteries which then again will sett solar power production free to resume its exponential growth. 

Feeding solar and wind power supply into a fossil system is easy to start with. Then very difficult. It is easy to build unregulated solar and wind power supply into a flexible fossil system. It is easy to infuse unregulated power supply (Solar and Wind) into a power system where there is lots and lots of fossil based power. Fossil supply can then back-off and make room for solar and wind power whenever the sun is shining or the wind is blowing and then ramp up again when it suddenly disappear.  But when unregulated, renewable energy supply keeps growing it becomes harder and harder to infuse yet more of it into the system as the fossil flexibility is increasingly eroded. That’s when yet more supply of solar and wind is no longer pushing aside fossil supply but instead is starting to destroy their own prices.

Solar power produces 80% of its production during 20% of the hours in the year. Solar power has however a much more tightly focused production profile than wind. In Germany in 2023 some 80% of all solar power production was concentrated on only 20% of the hours of the year. For wind power the 80% share of production was spread out over 50% of the hours in the year. The reason is of course that the wind can blow both summer and winter and night and day. Solar power is instead focused during the day and during summer. It has a much higher concentration of production.

Power prices tend to collapse when demand is fully covered by unregulated power supply. When solar power production grows rapidly in a given power system then its high production concentration will eventually lead to full saturation during certain hours of the year. Demand during these hours will then be fully supplied and covered by unregulated power like solar, wind, run-of-river hydro and other unregulated supply. That is great as it means that the fossil share in these hours then are close to zero.

The problem is that power markets, more than any other commodity market in the world, are extremely sensitive to imbalances in supply and demand. A little bit too little supply and the power price can spike up to close to infinity. A little bit too much supply and the price crashes to zero or negative.

When unregulated power supply reaches full demand saturation during certain hours then power prices tend to collapse because it is so easy to get a little bit too much supply.

It is not a problem when power prices collapse for just a few hours per year. But the number of hours affected is growing rapidly many places. The US EIA highlighted in October 2023 (”Solar and wind power curtailments are rising in California”) that this is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in California. Since 2019 the power system operator there has been forced to curtail supply of unregulated power more and more. There simply isn’t enough demand in certain hours to meet the spikes in unregulated supply or the grid isn’t up to the task of distributing the unregulated supply in the system.

So when producers of unregulated supply produces the most they increasingly are denied access to sell it into the grid or if they are allowed to sell it into the grid the price is close to zero or even negative.

US EIA: Solar and wind power curtailments are rising in California

US EIA: Solar and wind power curtailments are rising in California
Source: The US EIA in October 2023

Germany is increasingly affected as booming solar production is depressing prices more and more. This is now also a rapidly increasing problem in Germany where rapid growth in supply of solar and wind power together increasingly are forcing power prices lower just when they produce the most.

Average German power prices for hour 1 to 24 for certain periods and years. Highly concentrated supply of solar power during summer and during the day is increasingly forcing power prices towards zero during these periods

Average German power prices for hour 1 to 24 for certain periods and years
Source: SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

It is like ”Solar hara-kiri” when increasing supply of solar power is killing its own prices and profits. It was not a big problem economically when only a few hours are affected. But as more and more hours are affected it is becoming an increasing problem. It is like ”Solar hara-kiri” where rapidly rising supply of solar power is increasingly killing its own prices. With that it is killing its profits. And if profits are killed than new-build and growth in supply will typically slow down rapidly as well. 

This is probably not a big problem globally yet as the global power system is still predominantly fueled by fossil fuels which can back off when renewable energy spikes up. But in certain pockets of the world where penetration of unregulated power supply has reached high levels it is becoming an increasing problem. Like in California and in Germany.

The volume weighted solar power price in September 2023 in Germany had a 38% discount to power prices during non-solar power hours. And the discount looks like it is rapidly getting bigger and bigger.

The monthly average volume weighted solar power price versus the average volume weighted non-solar power price weighted by the inverse profile. In Germany in September 2023 solar power producers only achieved 62% of the average price during hours of the day when the sun wasn’t shining.
The monthly average volume weighted solar power price versus the average volume weighted non-solar power price weighted by the inverse profile.
Source:  Source: SEB graph and calculations and graphs. Based on German 15 min solar power prod. extracted from Blbrg

First gradually, then suddenly. There is a clear risk here that this progresses along a process of ”first gradually, then suddenly”. This is already what we have seen over the past couple of years: The discount for what solar power earns when it produces power versus what the power price is when it is not producing is increasing rapidly as more and more unregulated power supply hits right into the ”demand ceiling”. The inflicted pain from this process so far has to a large degree been masked by incredibly high natural gas prices. So even if the profitability for solar power has been eroding, the average power price in the system has been much higher than usual due to high natural gas and CO2 prices.

Graphing all the individual hourly data for solar power and power demand in Germany in 2022 we see that solar power alone is not yet reaching full saturation versus demand.

Germany 2022: Hourly German power demand and solar power supply in 2022. A total of 8760 hours for each in consecutive order. Her showing only Demand and Solar power production
ourly German power demand and solar power supply in 2022
Source: SEB graph, German 15 min power data collapsed into hourly data, Data extracted through Blbrg

The unregulated power supply is increasingly hitting the ”demand ceiling”. If we now add all the other sources of unregulated power supply, predominantly offshore and onshore wind and run of river, then we get the following picture where we see that unregulated German power supply increasingly is hitting right up and into the ”demand ceiling”. In those instances there will be no, flexible fossil power supply left to back off and that is typically when power prices collapse or go negative.

Germany 2022:  Hourly German power demand (blue dots) and unregulated supply (solar, wind, run of river,…) in orange dots. A total of 8760 hours for each in consecutive order.
Hourly German power demand (blue dots) and unregulated supply (solar, wind, run of river,...) in orange dots.
Source:  SEB graph, German 15 min power data collapsed into hourly data, Data extracted through Blbrg

High unregulated power supply saturation vs demand implied lower power prices in 2022. Sorting 8760 individual power prices in Germany from Y2022 from lowest to highest shows that power German power prices were strongly related to the penetration of unregulated power supply. In the following graph, we have  sorted the data from the lowest price to the highest price in the year 2022. Prices were ireasingly depressed when unregulated power penetrated up and into the ”demand ceiling”. Natural gas prices were extreme in 2022 and overall power prices were exceptionally high for that reason as well. But the tendency of price destruction in relation to high levels of unregulated power vs demand is clear.

Germany 2022:  Hourly German power demand (blue dots) and unregulated supply (solar, wind, run of river,…) in orange dots. A total of 8760 hours. Sorted according to how hourly power prices were from lowest to highest.
Hourly German power demand (blue dots) and unregulated supply (solar, wind, run of river,...) in orange dots.
Source:  SEB graph, German 15 min power data collapsed into hourly data, Data extracted through Blbrg

The unregulated power supply penetrating vs demand was even deeper in 2023. If we make the same graph for the year 2023 from 1 Jan to 20 Oct, we can see how the unregulated power is penetrating deeper and deeper into the power ”demand ceiling”. As a result the solar power discount vs. non-solar power hours from March to September in 2023 reached an even higher discount in 2023 than in 2022.

2023 year to 20 October:  Hourly German power demand (blue dots) and unregulated supply (solar, wind, run of river,…) in orange dots. A total of 8760 hours. Sorted according to how hourly power prices were from lowest to highest. German power demand was down 8.3% YoY in H1-2023 due to the European energy crisis and still very high power prices
2023 year to 20 October:  Hourly German power demand (blue dots) and unregulated supply (solar, wind, run of river,...) in orange dots.
Source:  SEB graph, German 15 min power data collapsed into hourly data, Data extracted through Blbrg

Solar power hours and non-solar power hours is not given as a clear cut-off, but a gradual one. In the following graph given as average profiles of the year from hour 1 to hour 24. First calculated explicitly for solar power production and then the inverse is calculated from that one. These solar power profiles can then be calculated for each individual day in the year giving individual inverse-curves on a daily basis.

The daily ”solar power production profiles” and the ”non-solar power production profiles” typically looks like this graph but calculated individually per day as solar power production varies from day to day and through the seasons. The solar power production profile is explicitly given by the actual solar power production that day while the non-solar power profile is derived directly from this and the inverse of it on a daily basis.
The daily "solar power production profiles" and the "non-solar power production profiles
Source: SEB graph and calculations and graphs. German 15 min solar power prod. extracted from Blbrg

The exponential growth in solar and wind power is likely to slow down in the years to come as grid constraints and lack of power cables is holding up growth in renewable energy with waiting times for access of 5-10 years:

Offshore wind auction’s lack of bids must be ‘wake-up call’ for UK, says RWE chief”

FT: ”Gridlock: how a lack of power lines will delay the age of renewables”

FT: ”Will there be enough cables for the clean energy transition?” 

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Analys

Surge in US crude inventories dampens bullish sentiment

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SEB - analysbrev på råvaror

Price action
Brent crude is currently trading at USD 81.4 per barrel, marking a decline from its February peak of USD 83.6 per barrel recorded yesterday (February 14th), representing a notable drop of 2.6% within a short span of time.

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

This morning, crude prices continue to slide, following a larger-than-anticipated increase in US crude inventories (+12.0 million barrels) as reported in the US Petroleum Status Report (EIA). This uptick in inventories is attributed to a further decrease in refinery operations and a relatively softer demand for petroleum products.

Yesterday, crude prices flirted with January highs amidst geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and sustained production cuts by OPEC+. However, the surge in crude inventories observed recently, the most significant since November 2023, is tempering bullish sentiment. Notably, inventories at the ”key” Cushing, Oklahoma, exceeded expectations for this time of year (refer to page 2 in attachment).

Adding to the bearish sentiment is the widespread reduction in oil product inventories, primarily influenced by refinery outages rather than a substantial uptick in demand. Notably, US crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.5 million barrels per day, marking a decrease of 297 thousand barrels per day compared to the previous week, with refineries operating at 80.6% of their capacity.

Recent market expectations suggest the likelihood of prolonged higher US interest rates due to persistent inflationary pressures, resulting in a stronger US dollar. This aspect contributes to weaker oil prices, as the cost of procuring oil in other currencies becomes relatively expensive, thereby impacting short-term demand dynamics.

Oil inventories

Changes in Inventories:
Crude Oil Excluding SPR: Commercial crude oil inventories (excluding SPR) increased notably by 12.0 million barrels, representing a 2.8% rise from the previous week, but still a substantial 6.8% decrease from the same period last year. However, the surge exceeds typical seasonal adjustments, indicating potential reduced crude demand, and a more well-balanced market.

Distillate: Distillate (diesel) fuel oil inventories declined by 1.9 million barrels, showcasing a 1.5% decrease from the prior week but a significant 5.4% increase compared to the same period last year (naturally from very low levels). The weekly drawdown contributed to a further decline compared to normal, and now distillate stocks remain approximately 7% below the five-year average for this time of year – indicating sustained demand or constrained production.

Gasoline: Total motor gasoline inventories witnessed a decrease of 3.7 million barrels, marking a 1.5% decline from the previous week but a modest 2.2% increase from the same period last year. This reduction aligns with seasonal expectations, albeit slightly exceeding typical adjustments.

Jet Fuel: Inventories of kerosene-type jet fuel increased by 0.1 million barrels, representing a minimal change of 0.2% from the prior week. However, compared to the same period last year, jet fuel inventories surged by 12.1%, indicative of potential shifts in air travel for the start of 2024.

Crude & Product Including SPR: Total petroleum stocks, inclusive of SPR, witnessed a modest increase of 5.9 million barrels, indicating a 0.4% rise from the prior week. However, compared to the same period last year, total stocks experienced a notable 2.4% decrease.

Crude & Product Excluding SPR: Excluding SPR holdings, total petroleum stocks increased by 5.2 million barrels, reflecting a 0.4% rise from the previous week but a 2.1% decrease compared to the same period last year. Despite the weekly increase, petroleum stocks remain below historical averages for this time of the year.

Supply and Demand:
Supply remained relatively stable, with domestic crude oil production and imports showing marginal fluctuations. However, net imports witnessed a notable decline, reflecting shifts in trade patterns and production capacities.

Demand for petroleum products witnessed a decline, as evidenced by product supplied figures. The declines in certain product categories suggest nuanced shifts in consumer behavior.

Exports and Imports:
Exports surged by 751 thousand barrels per day, indicating robust international demand for US petroleum products. Conversely, imports witnessed a decline of 437 thousand barrels per day.

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Analys

The EUA price could drop to EUR 40/ton and then be picked up by Airliners, Shipping and Utilities

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The EUA price is dropping hard along with a sharp decline in the front-year TTF nat gas contract. The typical last-round sell-off in EUA prices have typically been a final sell-off of 10-20-30%. From EUR 60/ton level it implies a price decline down to EUR 54; 48; 42/ton. The front-year nat gas price and the front-year Coal-to-Gas (C-t-G) differential is what has held the EUA price above EUR 60/ton. But if the TTF 2025 price falls down to EUR 27/ton the front-year C-t-G differential will fall all the way towards EUR 40/ton. That TTF 2025 falls to EUR 27/ton or lower seems likely to happen and the risk is high that the EUA price will be sucked down along with it. But nat gas demand is starting to come back with a lag in nat gas price declines in the EU but probably also in Asia. Thus first an over-sell in nat gas prices, then demand revival and then a rebound in both nat gas prices and EUA prices. Airliners, shipping companies and Utilities will probably buy as much EUAs they can get if the EUA price fall down towards EUR 40/ton.

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

Front-year 2025 TTF nat gas price falls hard and so does the EUA price. The front-month EUA price dropped 2.7% yesterday to EUR 58.97/ton and thus broke out of the sideways trend around EUR 61/ton since 18 January. Today it has sold off another 3.2% to EUR 57.1/ton.

Again it is the nat gas price which is leading the way and more specifically it is about the front-year nat gas which lost 1.9% on Wednesday and another 2.5% again ydy to a close of EUR 30.65/MWh and today it has solf off 2.8% to EUR 29.8/ton.

The EUA price has very clearly been balancing on the front-year Coal-to-Gas (C-t-G) differentials. The C-t-G differentials have been significantly lower than EUR 60/ton both at the front-end of the curve (1-2-3 month) and for calendars 2026 and 2027. But the front-year nat gas price has held up at around EUR 31/MWh quite well since around mid January. 

How far down will the EUA price go? The final sell-off could be down towards EUR 40/ton. With these dynamics the big question then becomes: How far down will the front-year nat gas contract sell? It will of course sell off too far as commodities always do. The reason commodities do this is the natural reactive chain of events which normally comes with a lag: First the price goes down before dropping hard in the final round of the sell-off. Then demand comes back with a lag to the price action. This again drives the price back up and off from the lows to a level consistent with the revival in demand. If demand instead had reacted immediately to lower prices then the hard drop at the end of the sell-off might not have happened.

Looking at previous hard, final sell-off-drops in the EUA price we can see that final drops typically have been 10-20-30% as the last final drop. If we take the EUR 60/ton as the starting point of this final drop, then we are talking an EUA price bottom of somewhere in the range of EUR 54; 48; 42/ton.

Global nat gas demand destruction in the face of very high nat gas prices solved the energy crisis. Let’s link this back to price action in nat gas. The reason why Europe has managed the recent energy crisis (Russia/Ukraine, nat gas,…) so surprisingly well is 1) Large reduction in nat gas demand in EU due to exceptionally high prices and 2) Significant demand destruction in Asia freeing up nat gas to flow to the EU. I.e. it was global demand destruction of nat gas in response to extremely high prices globally which solved the energy crisis. It was solved by the global market.

Demand for nat gas is starting to come back as the price falls. The nominal historical average nat gas TTF price was EUR 20/MWh from 2010 to 2019. But the real average was EUR 26/MWh. So seen from the eyes of consumers in both Europe and Asia, a price of EUR 26/MWh is an historically absolutely normal price. Demand for nat gas should thus naturally accelerate back towards normal levels at current nat gas prices. Not just in Europe, but also globally in all regions exposed to nat gas prices set by global LNG prices. This is already happening in the EU. Temp. adj. demand destruction vs. normal has typically been running at around 16% from mid-2022 to December 2023. Average ytd is 14% while the last 15 days is 9%. Demand destruction is fading as the price of nat gas is falling. But do remember that this is also happening in Asia but it is harder to track.

Normal nat gas demand AND normal gas prices is not consistent as Russian nat gas exports still down 1100 TWh/yr. There is however an inconsistency here in expecting normal prices and normal demand for natural gas now onward. The inconsistency is that the EU and thus the world is still robbed of the normal flow of nat gas on pipelines to Europe. This amounts to a loss of 3 TWh/day and thus close to 1100 TWh/year. When this gas is no longer flowing to the EU it isn’t flowing anywhere. It is lost to both the EU and the world. Until that is, Russia has built loads of new pipes to Asia and new LNG terminals. And that takes years.

A return to normal prices and normal demand while the world still is missing 1100 TWh/year of Russian nat gas isn’t really a consistent outcome in our view.

Demand for nat gas will continue to revive as the price of nat gas keeps falling. But both the EU and the world still need of a nat gas price at above normal levels to induce a certain amount of demand destruction until the point in time when new LNG export facilities globally has managed to replace the 1100 TWh/year we have lost from Russia.

Front-end TTF nat gas down to EUR 27/MWh could drive the EUA price to EUR 40/ton. The dynamic sell-off nat gas, prices will likely move lower than to the level which over time is consistent with continued need for some demand destruction globally.  This because demand revival will come with a lag to the decline in prices. It is thus fully plausible that the TTF 2025 contract moves all the way down to EUR 27/MWh (or maybe even lower). If so it would imply a 2025 C-t-G differential of only EUR 40/ton for the EUA price to balance on and reference to. That could be the final hard drop in the EUA price. That’s a 30% drop from EUR 60/ton. But it won’t last because that nat gas price is likely too low vs. what is needed globally to maintain some level of demand destruction for a while longer.

An EUA price of EUR 40/ton would also be too cheap to resist for a range of market participants and they’d likely jump in and purchase with both hands. Airliners and shipping companies which will have difficulties of shifting away from fossil fuels and will need EUAs for years to come. Also utilities could step in and purchase large amounts of EUAs even if forward margins are negative. Some EU based utilities with large fossil-based assets bought truckloads of EUAs from 2011 to 2017 when the EUA price ranged from EUR 3/ton to EUR 9/ton. For them the EUA certificate is not only a marginal cost. It is also a licence to operate. The EUA price will of course not return to that level again. But if we move to EUR 40-50/ton, then it will probably trigger strategic buying by shipping companies, airliners as well as utilities.

Front-year TTF nat gas TTF price is dropping and leading the EUA price lower after a period of sideways action since mid-Jan

Front-year TTF nat gas TTF price is dropping and leading the EUA price lower after a period of sideways action since mid-Jan
Source: SEB graph, Blbrg data

But the EU and the world is still missing some 3 TWh/d or 1100 TWh/yr of piped nat gas from Russia. When Russian nat gas is no longer flowing on pipes to Europe, it is flowing nowhere.

Natgas
Source: SEB graph, Blbrg data

Nat gas demand destruction in the EU has been running at 15% to 17%  since mid-2022 in the face of high nat gas prices. But demand destruction is now fading down to 8%. Demand has started to come back as nat gas prices fall. Demand is probably also coming back in Asia, but not so easily to see.

Nat gas demand destruction in the EU
Source: SEB graph and calculations, blbrg data

EU nat gas demand destruction has started to fade.

EU nat gas demand destruction has started to fade.
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg data

Forward Coal to Gas (C-t-G) differentials vs EUA market prices. The EUA price has balanced on the front-year differential. But that has now fallen like a rock along with the fall in front-year TTF nat gas price.  Lead the EUA into a free-fall

Forward Coal to Gas (C-t-G) differentials vs EUA market prices.

The front-year Coal-to-Gas differential is a distribution of crosses between many different levels of efficiencies for coal and nat gas power plants. Averages of these are EUR 52.4/ton with Coal at USD 94.3/ton and Nat gas at EUR 29.8/MWh (both front-year 2025 prices). So EUA price is still hanging high.

The front-year Coal-to-Gas differential
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg EUA market price
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