Commodities & Currencies
Sometimes looking at raw materials is a great way to get a signal on the economy, especially as they are frequently leading indicators for what is coming. Well, one metal is screaming of bad times to come—silver. Gold is priced at 82x silver, the highest level in two years, which is a seen as a poor indicator. “Money managers tend to favor gold when they think markets might turn rocky and discard silver when they are worried about slower global growth crimping consumption”, says the Wall Street Journal. 55% of demand for silver is for industrial purposes, which links it more with fundamental metals like copper.
FINSUM: So this is an interesting insight, but because silver is not a pure industrial commodity (it is also somewhat of a value store), this comparison does not seem quite as pertinent. Gold to copper would be more interesting.
Until the market downturn over the last couple of weeks, the oil price had been rising strongly for a period of several months. OPEC’s strategy to cut supply to the market seemed to have balanced supply and demand, which boosted prices. However, one big beneficiary of the cuts was the US shale industry, which has been boosting output to the highest levels ever. This big surge might be the ultimate unwinding of the price rise, however, as US output is surging to levels not seen since oil was at $100 per barrel. This is likely to once again flood the market with supply, sending prices back downward.
FINSUM: We think this oil output growth is unsustainable, both because it will lead to oversupply, but also because it will eventually crack OPEC’s resolve to contain their own output (as the benefits are disproportionately flowing to the US).
MLPs can perform well during periods of rising rates, such as in the last tightening cycle. While they are broadly more risky than bonds, they can provide good returns. Many MLPs collect inflation hedged payments, so they should perform better than bonds in a tightening environment. As an asset class, MLPs have been holding back on payouts, but these should accelerate in 2019 and 2020. Three names to look at are Enterprise Product Partners, yielding 6.1%, Magellan Midstream Partners, yielding 5.2%, and Antero Midstream Partners, yielding 4.8%.
FINSUM: Those yields look really juicy don’t they? And they are moderately inflation hedged, which is also quite promising. Worth a look.
Oil prices have been rising strongly on the global market. However, those gains took a breather yesterday when eye-opening new info emerged on the oil market—the US is now producing more than 10 million barrels of crude oil per day. The mark was hit in November, and arrived much sooner than anyone expected. The US has only broken that threshold twice in the past, both times in 1970.
FINSUM: Okay so our big concern with the oil market right now is that these higher prices are not sustainable. The fundamental oversupply of oil has not been solved. The only thing holding up prices is the fact that OPEC members, for the moment, are happy to let the US benefit disproportionately from their output cuts. This output figure might change that.
Oil prices have done very well over the last several months. Prices have been rising at the pump, making producers happier and consumers less so. However, gloomier days may lay ahead. The IEA thinks US shale oil output may soon surge on the back of higher prices. If this happens, it would undue the supply reduction OPEC’s cuts have created and send the market downward. Additionally, it would likely lead to an unwind of OPEC’s cuts, as if they were maintained, the reductions would be disproportionately benefitting OPEC’s competitors.
FINSUM: Oil prices have been doing better, but that does not change the fact that world has a fundamental oversupply of oil. This is not a problem by any means, but is a factor that will weigh on prices for years to come.
Oil has been in a bear market for about three years. While it has not been consistent and there have been ups and downs, oil prices have been mostly stuck, plagued by oversupply. However, Citi thinks that paradigm is about to disappear, with prices rising to $80 per barrel. Citi says a host of geopolitical risks, including sanctions on Iran, broader Middle East tensions, and North Korea are three issues which will send prices higher.
FINSUM: We aren’t big fans of this prediction. Not so much because we don’t think oil could move higher, but because forecasting political risks is a hopeless exercise. Here is a different view: the OPEC agreement falls apart because the only producer it is helping is the US (which is not in OPEC), sending prices much lower.