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Wheat prices add to CFO concerns

Wheat prices rose 25% yesterday, the biggest one-day rise ever, as Kazakhstan imposed restrictions on wheat exports. The rationale for today’s rising prices is three-fold: • US farmers have shifted land over to corn, to meet increased ethanol demand, and US wheat inventories are forecast to hit 60 year lows • Emerging countries are now […]

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60 is the new 40 for BP

Very few non-OPEC oil projects have been financed in recent years, although market prices have risen from $20/bbl to $100/bbl. This is because oil companies and banks assumed that current prices would fall back to $40/bbl, or even lower, within 3 – 5 years. But a new reality has been dawning, summed up by Total’s […]

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Selling the rallies

Stock markets are usually good indicators of future economic conditions. Their savage downturn since the start of the year suggests that investors now feel a growth slowdown is almost inevitable. Barrons (the major US investment paper) today highlights another very worrying development. It notes that ‘selling rallies aggressively is (now) more fruitful than buying every […]

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2008 crude outlook

I had the opportunity last night to learn current thinking within the oil industry on the current outlook for oil markets, by attending the annual lecture of the British Institute of Energy Economists, kindly hosted by BP. A year ago, at the same event, the crude price was $51/bbl. Last night, the headlines were ‘major […]

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Forecasting crude oil prices

I have often wondered how the major investment banks arrive at their forecasts for long-term crude prices. Last night I found out how it is done at the biggest player, Barclays Capital. Dr Paul Horsnell, Head of Commodities Research, said that when he started in the role in 2003, he began by keeping close to […]

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Financial players increase their bets on crude

Financial investors are already quite disruptive in crude oil markets. And their influence is set to grow this year. That’s the message from surveys by Barclays Global Investors and JP Morgan. $120bn is now invested in commodities as a class, with oil a major target. Even your own pension fund may be about to invest, […]

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China freezes energy costs, bans plastic bags

Reaction to $100 oil has been swift. Yesterday, the Chinese State Council decided to freeze the prices of oil products, natural gas and electricity, as well as public transportation. A measure of the government’s concern is that the meeting to approve the freeze was attended by premier Wen Jiabao. Chinese inflation is now at 6.9% […]

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$100 crude – US manufacturing close to recession

Oil prices touched $100/bbl today, a new record in nominal and inflation-adjusted terms. At the same time, the US Institute of Supply Management (ISM) index signalled that the manufacturing sector ‘failed to grow in December’, with ‘industries close to the housing market struggling more than others’. All the ISM’s main indicators were negative, with inventories […]

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The yuan also rises

Bloomberg reports today that China’s yuan has now risen 12% against the US$, since the dollar peg was scrapped in July 2005. And the rise is accelerating, with the currency up 6% so far this year. Significantly, China’s Commerce Minister Chen Deming said that the yuan’s rise ‘fits China’s economic needs’. A strong exchange rate […]

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OPEC targets stocks, not prices

There is some interesting material on the OPEC website, following this week’s Summit, which clarifies their current strategy. The key points are: • OPEC is currently targeting inventories, not prices. Their policy is to keep OECD crude stocks within the 5 year average. OPEC says its previous production cutbacks ‘minimised the excessive overhangs that existed […]

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