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SEB – Råvarukommentarer, 4 februari 2013

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SEB Råvarurekommendationer 4 februari 2013

Inledning

Oljepriset fortsatte att stiga i veckan. Nickel bröt en långre tids kräftgång och rusade i pris. Elmarknaden fortsatte att konsolidera sig efter att ha backat i två veckor. Mot slutet av veckan vände priset på tysk el och utsläppsrätter tvärt uppåt, vilket kan ge stöd för den nordiska elmarknaden.

I fredags noterades certifikat på palladium: PALLADIUM S, BULL PALLAD X4 S och BEAR PALLAD X4 S.

Dessutom noterades bull och bear på kaffe och socker – två “softs” som i nästan exakt två års tid fallit i pris hela vägen ner till där de låg innan den stora prisuppgången inleddes. Vi tror att båda står inför en kraftig prisuppgång. Kaffe tycks ha etablerat en botten att starta från, medan det är mer osäkert för sockermarknaden.

Råolja – Brent

I torsdags kom rapporten från Libyen att utländska oljearbetare lämnar landet, med lägre produktion som direkt konsekvens. Det finns samma oro som i Algeriet. Landets mål att nå upp till 2 mbbl/dag i produktion kommer inte att uppnås. Detta fick oljepriset att stiga rakt genom det tekniska motståndet på strax över 115 dollar. Nästa motstånd ligger på 117.95 dollar. Dit är det inte långt från fredagens stängning på 116.76.

Analys på oljepriset (brent) den 4 februari 2013

Oil & Gas Journal skrev i lördags om att de ser ett lägre oljepris som osannolikt. De citerar IFP Energy Nouvelles(IFPEN) i Paris, som nämner några faktorer som är nödvändiga för ett lägre oljepris: För det första en lägre global tillväxt än i IMF:s ”base case” i sin World Economic Outlook. För det andra, mer stabilitet och mindre politiska spänningar i Mellanöstern och slutligen en snabbare tillväxt i USA:s produktion från skifferreservoarer.

IFPEN identifierar Iran som ett ”damoklessvärd”, eftersom det allt längre fortskridande kärnvapenprogrammet kan leda till ett militärt ingripande. Efter nyvalet i Israel måste förloraren Netanyahu bilda regering i koalition med mer nationalistiska partier, vilket ytterligare ökar spänningen i regionen.

I förra veckans veckobrev såg vi att inköpschefsindex pekar uppåt i viktiga ekonomier i världen. Konjunkturen bör ge bra stöd för oljepriset.

Lagren och lagerförändringarna i USA per den 25 januari ser vi nedan, enligt Department of Energy och American Petroleum Institute.

Lager av olja enligt DOE och API

Det var inga stora förändringar. Destillat och eldningsolja har betydligt lägre lager än förra året. Råoljelagren fortsätter att byggas på.

Nedan ser vi amerikanska råoljelager enligt DOE i tusen fat. Den svarta kurvan är 2012 års lagernivåer vecka för vecka och den lilla röda linjen är 2013 års nivå. Vi ser att lagernivåerna fortsätter att vara högre än de varit sedan 2007 för den här tiden på året.

Råoljelager - Tusen fat

Lagren ökar samtidigt som vi ser att importen av råolja till USA fortsätter att minska. Man kan ana att konjunktur och den nya ”fracking” tekniken ligger bakom. Om vi antar att hela förklaringen är frackingtekniken, kan det innebära att USA kan bli självförsörjande på råolja. Med den takt importminskningen har haft sedan 2007, upphör USA:s import om 29 år, om trenden fortsätter. Y-axeln är angiven i 1000 fat per vecka.

Diagram på olja

Sammanfattningsvis: På kort sikt påverkar den minskade produktionen i Saudiarabien och produktionsbortfallen från Algeriet och nu också Libyen. En konjunkturell återhämtning i världsekonomin, som ger stöd även för efterfrågan på olja, kan leda till högre priser. Tekniska motstånd strax ovanför fredagens prisnivå gör dock att det kan komma vinsthemtagningar. Vi tror att man ska försöka komma in på den långa sidan i t ex OLJA S eller BULL OLJA X2/X4 S när en rekyl i priset har inträffat.

Elektricitet

Elpriset har kommit ner så pass, till 35 euro per ton, att de kan vara en god idé att försöka köpa BULL EL X2 eller X4 S på de här nivåerna.

Elpriset - Npool base quarter

Samtidigt steg priset på utsläppsrätter kraftigt i fredags, som vi ser i diagrammet nedan. Den starka kursuppgången kan vara ett tecken på att det stora prisfallet är över.

Diagram över priset på utsläppsrätter år 2012 - 2013

Den hydrologiska balansen för NordPools börsområde låg i veckan still på -10 TWh.

Hydrologiska balansen - Nordpool

Sammanfattningsvis. Vi tror att det finns goda chanser att elpriset vänder uppåt efter att ha rekylerat nedåt de två senaste veckorna. Vi rekommenderar alltså köp av EL S eller BULL EL X2 / X4 S för den som vill ta mer risk.

Naturgas

Naturgasterminen på NYMEX (mars 2013) fick stöd vid 3.40 dollar per MMBtu. Det är mitt emellan förra botten på 3.20 och förra toppen på 3.60. Neutralt läge, alltså. Men det senaste trendbrottet skedde uppåt, så vi letar hellre tillfälle att köpa BULL än att gå in i BEAR.

Naturgastermin på Nymex för Mars 2013

Den som kortsiktigt vill prova på att handla naturgas, kan kanske försöka sig på ett mycket kortsiktigt inhopp i BEAR NATGAS X4 S. På längre sikt tror vi att man bör vara neutral.

Guld och Silver

Guldpriset började förra veckan med att stiga från en bas på 1650 dollar. En fallande dollar gav stöd (för noteringen på guld i dollar). I svenska kronor slog dock guldets svaghet igenom och föll hela veckan. Certifikatet GULD S, som följer priset i svenska kronor, precis som om det vore en guldtacka prissatt i svenska kronor, backade därför med 2%.

Guldpriset XAU Curncy gold spot 2 februari

Den tekniska analysen förutspår lägre priser. Det senaste utbrottet skedde på nedsidan från en triangelformation. De två senaste månadernas kursrörelser kan betraktas som rekyler efter utbrottet. Så länge det nedåtgående motståndet inte bryts tycker vi att man bör handla guld från den korta sidan. Å andra sidan har utbrottet följts av vad som ändå får betecknas som ganska svagt momentum på nersidan. Att marknaden inte med någon övertygelse handlar ner priset får kanske tas som ett observandum.

Nedan ser vi kursdiagrammet för silver i dollar per troy ounce. Situationen är snarlik den för guld. Rekyl ner till 30 dollar är att vänta. Kortsiktig BEAR-rekommendation för silver också.

Kursdiagram för silver i dollar per troy ounce

Platina

Platina har konsoliderat prisuppgången i två veckor. En växande efterfrågan från fordonstillverkning, framförallt i Kina, ger stöd för priset. Motsvarande efterfrågefaktor saknas för guld och silver. En återhämtning i global ekonomi verkar stödjande för platina, men eftersom oron för statsfinansiell bankrutt minskar, får detta en negativ effekt på priserna på silver och guld. Ska man vara köpt en ädelmetall är därför platina eller palladium att föredra.

Det går just nu inte att ge en rekommendation på kort sikt, eftersom konsolideringsfasen fortfarande pågår. Vi får vänta och agera på utbrott från den. Sker det uppåt – köp BULL. Sker det nedåt – köp BEAR.

Notera att det finns ett tämligen välprövat och starkt motstånd på 1734 dollar. Om detta bryts inleds troligtvis en stark prisuppgång.

Analys på platinapris den 4 februari 2013

Nedan ser vi priset på platina i termer av guld, eller ”växelkursen” mellan XPT och XAU, valutakoderna för de två ädelmetallerna. Kvoten ligger precis på toppen från mars förra året. Det innebär att platina är ”dyrt” i förhållande till guld i ett historiskt perspektiv. Och fundamentalt är det kanske inte något fel i det. Men det kan ändå finnas en del säljordrar just vid eller bara strax ovanför dagens kursnivå.

Platina i termer av guld - Analys

Slutsats: avvakta utbrott från konsolideringen vad gäller platina. Relationen till guld i priset på platina indikerar att det finns motstånd på uppsidan. Ska man gissa, så kanske utbrottet för platinas del därför sker på nersidan.

Palladium fortsätter att stiga. Palladium används i katalysatorer för bensindrivna bilar. Pristrenden är som vi ser i kursdiagrammet nedan, stadigt uppåtriktad.

Palladium i stigande pristrend

Vi rekommenderar en köpt position i palladium, t ex med certifikatet PALLADIUM S eller med BULL PALLAD X4 S, för den som önskar ta mer risk.

Basmetaller

Vi noterar starka uppgångar under veckan som gick. Koppar och aluminium ca 3 %, zink 4,5 och nickel sticker ut med 7 %. Metallerna har brutit ur sina tidigare ”tradingintervall”, vilket har satt igång aktivitet framför allt från finansiella aktörer. Industrin i Europa är emellertid fortsatt avvaktande. Asien är mer aktiva och anses ”boka upp” material före det kinesiska nyåret med förväntningar om ökad efterfrågan längre fram. Aktörerna köper således på förväntningar om ökad efterfrågan. Basen för all handel i basmetaller på Londons metallbörs är 3-månadersnoteringen, och det är ungefär i det perspektivet som den fysiska efterfrågan måste ta fart för att försvara prisuppgången. Rapporter från den fysiska marknaden gör gällande att tillgången är god. Ett tecken på detta är att alla basmetaller har ”Contango”, vilket på råvaruspråk innebär att terminspriset är högre än spot. En viktig tumregel på råvarumarknaden är: contango= gott om material, det motsatta förhållandet, backwardation=ont om material. Slutsatsen av resonemanget är således att den fysiska marknaden måste ”komma ifatt” den finansiella för att prisbilden skall hålla. Det som driver finansmarknaden är de makroekonomiska indikatorerna som onekligen talar för en starkare konjunktur. I fredags kom inköpsindex, som är en av de mer relevanta framåtblickande indikatorerna för basmetallefterfrågan. USA uppvisade en stark siffra på 53,1 i januari mot 50,2 i december. Europa stiger men är fortfarande under 50, medan Sverige ryckte från 44,6 i december till 49,2. Den samlade konjunkturbilden ser stark ut globalt även om ingen tror på någon kraftig uppgång. Måttlig men stabil tillväxt är vad som väntas. När det gäller basmetallpriser finns risken att marknaderna har överreagerat på uppsidan just nu. Rekyler är att vänta. För den som köpt tidigare kan det vara värt att ta hem vinst (se nickel och zink nedan), för den som inte kommit in i marknaden kan eventuella rekyler ge ypperliga köptillfällen i veckorna som kommer. Kina går på helgfirande om en vecka så aktiviteten därifrån lär vara begränsad, vilket också talar för en svagare marknad de kommande två veckorna.

Koppar

Koppar, som normalt leder basmetallkomplexet, släpar efter just. Förklaringen finns delvis i grafen nedan som visar LME-lagrets förändring. Lagret har nästan fördubblats de senaste 3 månaderna. Kopparlagren har varit kroniskt låga i flera år, men det ser ut att vända.

LME-lager

LME-lager av koppar

Nästa graf visar skillnaden mellan spot (cash) och 3 månaderspriset (minus betyder att 3 månaderspriset är högre än spot = contango). Som nämndes i ingressen betyder det god tillgång på fysisk vara, vilket således avspeglas i ökande contango. Som vi tidigare nämnt rapporterar producenterna om ett ökat utbud det kommande året. Ökande smältlöner (se förra veckans brev) är också ett tecken på detta.

Spreaden Cash-3m

Spreaden cash 3m - Koppar

Tekniskt sett får vi en mer positiv bild av marknaden. LME-noteringen bröt i veckan ur den stora ”triangelformationen” och strävar nu uppåt i trendkanalen. Om LME-noteringen (3 månaders) kommer ned mot ”utbrottsläget” $8200 är det köpläge. Detta stämmer bra med vår generella bedömning att metallerna är redo för en rekyl.

Koppar redo för rekyl

Vi rekommenderar en neutral position i koppar. Om konjunkturscenariot i Kina skulle gå in ett mindre positivt läge (vi bedömer det som mindre sannolikt) är koppar den bästa kandidaten för placering i prisnedgång.

Aluminium

Aluminium är den mest omsatta metallen på LME, i ton räknat. Logiskt eftersom det är den största metallen vad gäller utbud och efterfrågan. Det produceras ca 45 miljoner ton aluminium jämfört med kopparns ca 20 miljoner ton. Det är ändå koppar som oftast leder prismässigt. Vi har tidigare diskuterat den fundamentala situationen för aluminium som till stor del ”lider” av ett överutbud. Efterfrågan är det som håller uppe priset, med väldigt goda utsikter för året. Tillväxten är mellan 5 och 7 % årligen, således väl över den generella efterfrågan i världsekonomin.

Tekniskt sett ser det stark ut. Bilden liknar den för koppar. Veckans genombrott uppåt, öppnar för ytterligare uppgång till motståndet vid tidigare toppar kring $2200. Nästa motstånd kommer in vid $2350.

Vi rekommenderar en neutral position i aluminium.

Analys av aluminium ger neutral rekommendation

Zink

Zinken gick fortsatt starkt i veckan med en uppgång på LME med 4,5 %. Även här diskonterar marknaden en ökad efterfrågan. Vi tror att den kommer och att prisbilden kommer hålla sig stabil, med fortsatt bra potential på uppsidan. Med vår generella bedömning (se ingressen) finns dock risk för en rekyl. Vi har tidigare angett $2150 som en vinsthemtagningsnivå. Med den styrka vi såg i veckan så kan mycket väl priset stärkas ytterligare på kort sikt, men från nuvarande nivå kring $2175 upp till $2200 tror vi marknaden kommer att möta motstånd, så för den som köpt tidigare kan det vara värt att ta hem en del vinst. För den som vill komma in i marknaden, bör en rekyl ned mot $2100 utnyttjas till köp.

Analys på zinkpriset den 4 februari 2013

Vi rekommenderar köp av ZINK S eller BULL ZINK X2 / X4 S för den som vill ta mer risk. Efter de senaste veckornas kraftiga uppgång finns risk för en rekyl. För nya köp bör man avvakta en eventuell rekyl ned mot intervallet $2000-$2100. För den som köpt tidigare bör man kortsiktigt ta hem vinst vid motståndsnivån $2150-$2200. På lite längre sikt är potentialen större med målet $2400 på 1-2 månaders sikt.

Nickel

Nickel är veckans raket med en uppgång på nästan 8 %. Det är den mest volatila metallen. När väl basmetaller vänder så går oftast nickel mest (det gäller naturligtvis också när priserna faller!) Vi ser det tydligt när ett tradingintevall som gällt så pass länge (se diagrammet nedan) bryter, så skakar det om marknaden rejält. Den fundamentala situationen är dock lite knepig för nickel. Utbudet ökar och stålindustrin har överkapacitet. Det är inte riktigt bäddat för den stora uppgången ännu. Som vi tidigare skrivit kan dock nickel erfarenhetsmässigt ofta överraska. Den tekniska bilden är väldigt tydlig med nästa motståndsnivå vid $19000 och därefter $22000. Kortsiktigt är det värt att ta hem vinst.

Analys av nickelpriset den 4 februari 2013

Vi rekommenderar köp av NICKEL S eller BULL NICKEL X2 / X4 S för den som vill ta mer risk. Efter de senaste veckornas kraftiga uppgång finns risk för en rekyl. För nya köp bör man avvakta en eventuell rekyl ned mot ”utbrottsnivån” $18000. För den som köpt tidigare bör man kortsiktigt ta hem vinst vid motståndsnivån $19000. På lite längre sikt är potentialen större med målet $22 000 på 1-2 månaders sikt.

Kaffe

Kaffepriset rörde sig svagt nedåt / sidledes i veckan, efter att prisuppgången för två veckor sedan hejdades vid motståndet på 157.35 cent per pund.

Analys av kaffepriset den 4 februari 2013

Vi fortsätter att dela den uppfattningen och tycker att man ska handla kaffe från den ”långa” sidan. Vi fortsätter därför att generellt sett rekommendera köp av KAFFE S.

För den som vill ta mer risk, börsnoterade vi på SEB Commodities i fredags även BULL KAFFE X4 S (och BEAR KAFFE X4 S), som kostar ca 50 kr per certifikat.

Socker

Sockerpriset (mars 2013) rörde sig svagt uppåt från stödet på 18.31 cent i veckan som gick. De senaste två månadernas prisrörelse skulle kunna vara en början på en konsolidering efter det kraftiga prisfallet på socker, som pågått i mer än två år. Den 2 februari 2011 var priset uppe på 31.35 cent som högst.

Analys av sockerpriset den 4 februari 2013

Vi fortsätter med neutral rekommendation på socker, i avvaktan på mer tecken på att prisfallet är över.

För övriga jordbruksråvaror se dagens nyhetsbrev SEB Jordbruksprodukter.

[box]SEB Veckobrev Veckans råvarukommentar 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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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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