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The price of oil dropped 13% on Friday (26/11/21), marking the commodities worst single day in 2021.

A drop in oil prices this large was last seen in January/February 2020, when WTI was making its way down to unprecedented negative per barrel territory. No one expects oil to veer this low again, but the comparison to 2020 is apt, with Coronavirus responsible for the commodity's downfall on both occasions.

price of oil

New Coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa

An effort to lower the price of oil had begun before the new Coronavirus strain, named the Omicron variant, appeared.

Led by the US, a strategic release of Oil reserves was being enacted or considered by members of the International Energy Alliance (IEA) in an attempt to lower the price of oil, which they saw as hampering their respective economic recoveries.

It has been claimed that the strategic release would have little effect on the oil price, as the quantity to be released is half of the world's daily consumption. Yet, oil has fallen from its 2021 highs of US ~$85 per barrel since the announcement.

In response, OPEC+ was said to be reconsidering its plan output increase to counter the strategic reserve release by the US and its IEA allies. The OPEC+ rumours helped plug some of the losses oil was experiencing, but not enough to stop consistent weekly losses in the commodity's price. By Friday, oil had rung up five weeks of straight price decreases.

Is the Omicron threat overshooting the fair price of oil?

The Omicron variant is possibly the worst coronavirus variant known, as reported by the BBC. However, uncertainty exists as to how vaccine resistant, virulent, and deadly the strain is compared to its predecessors. As such, countries quickly moved to restrict travel from South Africa, reminiscent of January/February 2020, when international travel came to a screeching halt, and the price of oil fell from US $63 per barrel to sub-zero.

Countries that have placed travel restrictions on South Africa (and other African nations) include the US, the UK, and Germany.

As of writing, WTI is trading at US $68.16 per barrel, as mentioned above, 13% lower than Thursday's price.

Two questions come to mind:

  1. Has the market reacted too severely to the threat posed by Omicron?
  2. Can the strategic release of oil by IEA nations now be halted or pared back?

Regarding the former, Goldman notes that Omicron should have only warranted a ~6.5% drop in the price of oil and that the commodity should quickly recoup some of Friday's dip.

Regarding the latter, it might not be too late to turn this tap off. IEA nations have pledged to release as much as 80 million barrels of oil, with 50 million of these barrels coming from the US. However, a genuine commitment from IEA members has yet to be agreed upon, with discussions still underway as of Friday.

Markets are Frothy

Here's an interesting juxtaposition. There are currently just over 25 Million Currently Infected Patients of Covid-19, with 2.4 million deaths*. However,

The point is, main street continues to grapple with the Coronavirus. However, if you were looking at the financial markets, you would've thought we were in one of the largest economic expansions in history.

Warren Buffet's favourite indicator is signalling mania

So much so, Warren Buffet's favourite indicator is flashing signs of mania. Currently, the U.S equity market cap is more than double the GDP of the United States. The last time this happened was during the bubble of the 2000s.

That is a long, convoluted, and somewhat poor segue to the main point of this article. A lot has happened in the past couple of days, with many asset classes at significant highs during one of the worst pandemics in history – here's an article to summarize them.

Pound Has Broken 1.39 Against The U.S Dollar

GBP/USD breaks 1.39, eyeing up 1.40 and beyond

As vaccinations pick up in the United Kingdom, alongside lockdown restrictions starting to show results in lower cases and deaths, investors have been flocking the pound as optimism for the United Kingdom's economy. It is important to note that 1.45 was the bid before Brexit was announced in 2015, making it a ripe target for bulls to take.

United Kingdom's decision not to join the European Union's vaccine effort has helped them attain a high vaccination distribution rate
Cases are way down from all-time highs

Vaccines have played a considerable part in the strengthening in confidence in the United Kingdom, helped by the fact that they did not join the European Union's vaccine effort. This enabled them to approve and administer vaccines at a faster rate than their European counterparts.

Brent Crude is at $63 a barrel

Nearing the same time last year, we had an unprecedented event occur – traders saw the price of WTI Crude Oil on their terminals go negative. A year of supply cuts, recovering demand, and recently a rise in tensions in the middle east has pushed the black Gold back to pre-pandemic levels.

Bitcoin flirting with $50,000

Bitcoin's volatility is less than it was in 2017, making its insane rise in value less intimidating

After an influx of institutional attention dawning upon the digital currency, including the likes from Mastercard, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, and of course, Tesla, Bitcoin has reunited with bulls taking the price up to just under $50,000 per Bitcoin. To note, Around the end of November last year, we saw Bitcoin at around $20,000.

Stocks are at all-time highs

S&P 500 at all time highs

The S&P 500 has closed at an all-time high, touching 3,950 in futures trading. The index is up 7% year to date. If we lived in an ordinary world, all-time highs in the equity markets would be the headline of the day.

However, it seems like stocks are too boring nowadays, and everyone wants to know which altcoin is next to return 1000x. However, many companies in the index are producing blowout or at least better than expected earnings. Considering the macro-environment we are currently living in, is quite an achievement.

Gold doing its job as a safe-haven asset

I had concerns about the notion that investors were considering Gold's valuation – not something you want to be talked about in a safe-haven asset. I believe a safe-haven asset should be there to ballast your portfolio in times of risk-off periods, meaning investors should be able to flock to it / rely on it to hold their portfolio in steady shape.

Gold's steady decline eases my concerns, with Gold trading at around $1,816 an ounce, way off its $2,000 highs. We can see a continuation of the trend should see prices around the $1,700 - $1,750 level.

Markets are frothy – stay safe, and trade safe.

*For you tinfoil hats-wearers out there, I will entertain you by including the fact that there are up to 650,000 deaths due to the flu each year. Take that what you will

Crypto, Oil & Stocks Hit All-Time Highs

The headline says it all – market euphoria has reached an all-time high. However, given the events that have occurred in 2020, it feels like it is just another day at the office. For the most part, it is.

Bitcoin Reaches All-Time Highs

Bitcoin Licking $44,000

Bitcoin reached an all-time high earlier in the U.S Trading session, touching $43,000. This is primarily due to Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, revealing in an SEC filing that they had purchased over $1.5 Billion in Bitcoin in January.

They stated that they invested “To further diversify and maximize returns on our cash that is not required to maintain adequate operating liquidity” - or in other words, a bet on Bitcoin using cash not required to run the business. They also stated that they “expect to begin accepting bitcoin as a form of payment for our products in the near future.”

Musk x Dogecoin - All-Time Highs

Elon Musk Continues To Talk About Dogecoin
Elon Tweeted This Photo About Dogecoin

This interest in cryptocurrencies does not just stick to Bitcoin. The meme currency Dogecoin has returned to all-time high levels at around 8 cents after many celebrities like Snoop Dog and, of course, Elon Musk, continue to talk about the currency.

Like I wrote in my previous article, it was relatively common for people to hold hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Dogecoins in 2014. Assuming those people held them till now, we would have miners and investors with life-changing wealth – all from a meme currency.

Oil Back At Pre-Pandemic Levels

Brent Crude Back To Pre-Pandemic Levels

In the commodity markets, Oil has made a legendary comeback. Brent Crude topped $60 as vaccines, and unexpected Saudi cuts have made tailwinds for the Black Gold.

However, some analysts are concerned about the quick rise in price, stating that further tension between Russia and Saudi may ensue due to the higher prices. The last time Russia was not on board with OPEC, prices plummeted below $30 a barrel. Brent currently sits at around $60.60 a barrel.

Equity Markets At All-Time High

S&P 500 In Orange, NASDAQ in Blue, Dow Jones in Teal - All Positive Year-to-Date

Equity markets saw a breath of fresh air, with the Dow Jones, S&P 500, and the NASDAQ up over 0.4%. Stimulus positivity, alongside vaccination numbers, boost the possibility of a strong fiscal 2021.

John Stoltzfus, Chief Investment Strategist at Oppenheimer, stated, “as people feel safer, investors can expect the economy to experience a rebound that should contribute to revenue and earnings growth as the economy reflates.”

At such inflated valuations in many asset classes, investors and traders should be ready for a sudden pullback on any negative sentiment.

Brent Crude Oil Reaches Yearly Highs

Brent Crude broke a critical fundamental level of $57 a barrel, a psychological resistance that may see Brent continue to price pre-Coronavirus levels.

Brent Crude Oil Bulls Looking for $58

This is likely on the news that more Americans have received at least one dose of a Coronavirus vaccine than having tested positive for the virus. The United States has been administering vaccines to citizens faster than any other country, with Bloomberg estimating the administration rate at around 1.34 Million doses a day.

Oil Supply Side Providing Headwinds, Complementing Demand Strength

With the demand side of Oil improving exponentially, OPEC has started to increase crude supply by 300,000 barrels to the market in January – showing their confidence in oil prices' stability now and going forward. However, disruptions and African nations Nigeria and Libya have slightly offset the supply hike, with a leak in a fundamental pipeline in Libya alongside a suspension in deliveries in Nigeria pulling away around 110,000 barrels of supply off the market.

Brent Crude Oil Timespread

With Brent Crudes futures month's spreads trading at the highest backwardation in a year, alongside Royal Dutch Shell Plc purchasing the most benchmark-grade cargoes in a single day in 10 years, the physical and financial markets are showing supply tightness and demand for the Crude Oil.

Analysts Are Tentatively Positive on Oil Markets

Ole Hansen, head of commodities research at Saxo Bank A/S, stated that currently, the oil market is "supported by the combination of tightening fundamentals, as seen through the rising backwardation and the renewed risk appetite in the U.S stock market.

Other analysts share this perspective, with Bill O'Grady, Executive Vice President at Confluence Investment Management, stating that "the market is going to see supply contract, assuming OPEC doesn't immediately move to fill the gap."  Furthermore, Goldman Sachs' commodity analysts estimate of 500,000 a day restriction on supply has been greatly surpassed, with the average supply deficit ranging at around the 900,000 barrels a day mark.

Oil's financial price comes from physical pressures

It is important to note that with commodities and other hard asset such as Silver and Gold – the futures market may say one thing. Ultimately, however, it is what happens in the physical market that sets the final price. And in this case, the physical market for Oil is more robust than it was at the peak of the pandemic. Pair that with positive sentiment regarding the vaccine rollouts around the world and a continuation of a supply restriction by OPEC+, and you have a breeding ground for Oil to move higher.

Oil markets seeing a brighter future

24th February 2020 was when the last time we saw oil hovering around the $55.80 mark. The Oil markets were hammered in 2020, taking investors and traders back to their economics 101 classes.

However, unlike traditional markets, the Oil markets have something traditional markets do not – controlled supply.

24th February 2020 was when Brent was last at this price level

OPEC+ controlling the supply of Oil

OPEC+, a 24- country cartel, took drastic measures as of late to control the drop in oil price by restricting supply. The most recent supply cut by 1 million barrels a day by Saudi Arabia has pushed Oil markets to levels not seen since 24th February last year. Saudi's unexpected move was on the back of the OPEC+ decision to gradually bring back supply to the market in January.

However, the de-facto leader claims the Oil market throne

The Energy Minister of the Oil-dependent country, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman stated that "[Saudi Arabia] are the guardian of the [Oil] industry", showing their influence in the Oil markets.

Oil markets getting bullish recommendations from institutions

Since December, Oil prices have rebounded 18% on the vaccine's slow rollout, peaking at around $56 a barrel. With the rollout of Vaccinations, analysts at Goldman Sachs are becoming bullish on the Black Gold, stating that they predict Brent could rise to $65 a barrel by the summer of this year, bringing the timeline half a year from their previous prediction. However, they stated that "given the magnitude of the recent rally, however, markets are likely to consolidate near-term,"

Given the Coronavirus situation worldwide, the demand situation has not improved to the point where it was on the 24th February, giving the price of oil the characteristic of a forward-looking stock instead of a spot looking commodity.  However, if the vaccine continues to make its way around the world and demand truly starts picking up, we may see the Oil markets return back to a relative norm.

Are the oil markets seeing something we don’t?

Oil is currently hovering at two-month highs. Brent, the global benchmark of Oil, now sits comfortably above $44 a barrel, approaching a strong resistance area of $45 and $46 a barrel.

Brent Crude is fragile

Oil has retested this resistance level multiple times in the past couple of months, with price rejecting the area firmly due to weak fundamentals.

Oil and it's past weak fundamental's are strong compared to current fundamentals

However, the "weak fundamentals" were during the holiday season in both Europe and the United States, where lockdown restrictions were lifted due to governments thinking that they had put the Coronavirus behind them. Under these conditions, with restricted supply from OPEC, Oil was still unable to break that $45-$46 barriers.

What chance does it have of breaking that resistance area now? Arguably, the fundamental environment oil sits in is worse now than it was a couple of months ago. Currently, Coronavirus cases in the United States' look like it has no intention of stopping, with new cases topping 140,000 yesterday. For reference, cases the day before we're 130,000

Furthermore, the supply of Oil is set to increase, with Libya is set to ramp oil output from 500,000 – 1m Barrels per day. Libya is not part of the OPEC Organizations.

Price action has been fueled by optimism that the Pfizer vaccine with 90% efficacy will arrive before the year-end. If this happens, risk-on will continue and will be enough to send Oil past the $45 - $46 resistance area.

Oil and it's success hinges on a vaccine

However, if there is any doubt about this vaccine's release, this will hit that resistance like a brick and may throw it straight back down to $40 levels. Furthermore, with Biden being President-Elect promising to enact $2 Trillion fight against climate change, the opportunity cost for using Oil will slowly taper off. Policies include restricting oil drilling on public lands and waters, increasing federal mileage standards for vehicles, block pipelines that transport fossil fuels across the country, and providing incentives to develop renewable energy.

Currently, it looks like Oil may be aiming for the 23.6% level at around $43.70 to retest for a move higher on positive news regarding a vaccine. However, worsening Coronavirus conditions and further delays on a vaccine may see Oil fall below this level to retest the 50% retracement level, at around $41.1 a barrel.

Oil's catalyst hinges on a vaccine. If your research suggests a vaccine is possible before year-end, Oil may be a fair trade to the upside.

Oil needs a supply cut or risk another deep dive

It is no surprise that Oil has had a rough couple of patches this year, with the Coronavirus shattering oil demand. What will it take for Oil to push back past $45?

WTI Struggling to push past $45

Oil getting some help from mother nature

There has only been a couple of times where Oil has made strong moves to the upside, notably today and a couple of weeks ago when hurricanes approached the Gulf coast, forcing oil rigs to shut down and restricting supply. Any good demand hopes have been thwarted by what people can see with their eyes. Sure, investors and traders and see oil inventories are declining. However, they can still see the Coronavirus weighing down on demand.

What's the future for Oil Markets on new US Leadership?

More importantly, the election is more or less a week away, and one of the markets that will get scrutinized the most is Oil. It's the common opinion that if Trump is re-elected, Oil and the initial price movement would most likely be to the upside. However, if Biden is elected, this would be bad for Oil, and the initial price movement would be to the downside. However, is that the case?

Financial Times did an excellent summary of what the future holds for Oil if either candidate gets in.

Biden

· Fixing the Iran Nuclear deal, freeing up more barrels of Oil from Opec members for export (i.e., an increase in supply)
· A $2 Trillion push for renewable energy and infrastructure to reach 'net zero' emissions by 2050
· Ban on Fracking on federal land
· Proposed new drilling limits on Fracking

Trump

· Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement
· Supports de-regulation for the fossil fuel industry
· Close relationship with Saudi Arabia

The consensus on the street is that Oil will fall on a Biden win. Amrita Sen from Energy Aspects stated that "[the market] is going to focus on Iran, so a Biden win is bearish for oil prices immediately". Furthermore, Amy Jaffe, an energy policy expert and professor at Tufts University, stated that "A Biden victory will be a shot in the arm for oil competitors, putting the federal government's weight behind the energy transitions and low-carbon technologies".

However, a Biden win is the least of Oil's problems. As Amy put it, "Tougher milage don't mean much if people cant afford a new car."

Longer-term may see oil prices increase - but may not be a good thing

Even Oil Major BP predicts oil demand to plateau

In the longer term, how will Oil fair with a Biden presidency? A push to greener energy sources would restrict the use of fossil fuels. The Biden presidency may do this by limiting further exploration of deposits / making it more expensive. This increases the cost of research and development, in which buyers will ultimately have to pay the price through an increase in oil prices.

This would make the opportunity cost of using greener, more expensive energy alternatives like solar. However, there will be a point where greener energy investment alongside increasing fossil fuel prices will make the greener alternative more desirable. Sure, oil prices will be relatively higher – however, demand will slowly plateau.

Bob Mcnally, a former adviser to US President George W Bush and analyst at Rapidan Energy that a Biden win may see a boost in crude in the long term on the idea that Biden "will push for a policy that prohibits / limits exploration for new oil."

Trump win should see Oil taking a predictable trajectory

A Trump win should see a practical trajectory for Oil. An initial upside on his victory, with support for Fracking alongside the delaying for the impasse of greener energy and Oil, talked about above.

Are you looking at Oil?

Markets bounce back on stimulus hopes

Markets today bounced back as stimulus talks have come back into question. The NASDAQ is up around 0.7%, while the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones were up 0.8% and 0.43%, respectively.

NASDAQ in Blue, Dow Jones in Teal, SPX in Orange

This is after the Market's fell around 1.4% a couple of days ago on Trump's tweet, stating that he has entirely stopped stimulus talks, saying Nancy Pelosi has been negotiating in "bad faith." However, Trump has slowly come back on the statement, as Trump allies believe it may have created the political risk he'd be blamed entirely for the economic fallout. He told Fox Business that he has reinstated talks about a stimulus bill and is now "starting to work out." "We started talking, and we're talking about airlines and we're talking about a bigger deal than airlines. We're talking about a deal with $1,200 per person, we're talking about other things."

The contested stimulus bill was between the Democrat's $2.4 Trillion dollar proposal versus the Republican's $1.6 Trillion dollar proposal. The Democrats have countered with $2.2 Trillion. However, the white house has not provided a counteroffer to that proposal. Nancy Pelosi is also pressing for language in the bill to limit Trump's ability to deliver virus testing and treatment funds to other projects.

Oil Markets seeing a rise

WTI up 3.3%

Furthermore, we saw Brent Crude and WTI rise around 3.3% as energy companies on the Gulf coast evacuated 183 offshore oil platforms and halted nearly 1.5 million barrels per day as a safety precaution to Hurricane Delta. WTI and Brent are hovering around $41.25 and $43.32, respectively.

Europe Markets seeing a slight sell-off

In the European markets, we saw the EUR/USD sell-off after ECB officials signaled that they were ready to ensure inflation moved towards their mandate, including slashing their already negatives rates and broadening their Targeted Longer-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTRO's), which stimulates banks to lend. EUR/USD is down around 0.2%.

Risk off as markets plunge

Markets sold off as risk-off sentiment continue to seep into investors and traders' heads.

Dow Jones in Orange, S&P 500 in Blue, NASDAQ in Red, Brent Crude in Teal

The largest move downward was in the Oil markets, where Brent Crude and WTI were down 7 and 8% respectively, fearing that the demand recovery as stalled. The Summer Holiday in the United States, primarily associated with peak demand in Oil, currently marked its close on the Labour Day Holiday.

Stephen Schork, the editor of the oil market newsletter The Schork Report, highlighted that "demand recovery at this point is certainly done" and that the "entire oil complex is under threat right now."

As suppliers slowly bring back their supply to the oil markets alongside demand tethering off, the weak fundamentals play into any risk-off sentiment the needs may have. IHG Markit analysts, Roger Diwan, stated that "The weak state of fundamentals and the lack of any catalyst improvement in the near term are resetting price expectations."

However, it wasn't just the oil markets that sold off. US equities had a deep day in the red, with the NASDAQ down 3.67%, with the Dow Jones and S&P 500 down 1.68% and 2.16%, respectively.

Risk-off continues in the equity markets

As expected, tech stocks being the highest growers, were also the fastest fallers. The question arises whether the current situation is a healthy pullback or a continuing trend. Tom Essaye, a former Merril Lynch trader, stated that "some froth has come off the market, which is a good thing, but keep in mind we still remain well over levels that could be considered as "fair value" in stocks.."

This pullback in the markets comes at a turbulent time politically and economically. Amidst the pandemic, Brexit talks have continued. US-China tensions are heating up again, China Hong Kong relations are heating up again. Elections are not in months – they're in weeks. Federal Reserve continues to pump liquidity into the markets. It is interesting to note there is not much movement in Gold, suggesting that the sell off may be due to profit taking, not pure risk off sentiment.

What was interesting about today's sell-off is that if you re-read the text before this, you will see no fundamental change/data released to suggest a sell-off. Whatever the actual reason is, be it options traders unwinding their positions, or general profit-taking, stick to your analysis and don't get swayed by a swing in price during a turbulent period – as it is to be expected. Remember, volatility goes both ways. If you're a trader, you may want to sit this period out or take the time to backtest your strategies. If you're an investor, you may want to buy the dip as your analysis shouldn't have changed today just because of the sell-off.

Trade safe!

Oil struggling to find momentum

For most of my investing life, I have been a part of the upwards bull run spanning nearly a decade. Growth stocks outperformed cyclical and value, interest rates were kept low, and oil was at favorable prices. However, this year I experienced two unprecedented events: The Pandemic and negative oil prices.

Brent Crude Oil

Both the pandemic and negative oil prices come hand in hand

Pandemic forced everyone in their houses, forcing a build up in oil inventories. So much so, that storage was filled to the brim, and oil producers were paying buyers (what a weird statement) to take their oil – hence, negative prices.

Since that historic day, oil prices have doubled, and Brent Crude has stabilized around the $40 - $45 range. However, it struggles to find momentum getting back to the glory days of $60 and $70 a barrel for oil.

If New Zealand is to be followed, higher prices for oil may be unlikely

We are all optimists at heart – no matter our opinion, we want things to be better than expected. Better than expected results for earnings means we get a boost in a stock price. Better than expected, Coronavirus vaccine results mean we can return to a life of normal quicker. However, in the words of Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, “Things will get worse before it gets better.”

Jacinda's statement was on the back of New Zealand recording more Community transmitted cases after 102 days of no community transmitted cases. Two things can be deduced from this:

Oil isn't just about supply

This is important because no matter how much suppliers restrict the supply of oil, there are two sides to the picture – the other side being demand. If New Zealand, after fully flattening the curve for 102 days, goes into another lockdown, can we assume that the rest of the world will follow a similar trajectory? Not to mention that countries like the United States and places like Victoria, Australia, have not been able to achieve what New Zealand has. Countries like Japan and Australia were initially praised for their low Coronavirus cases. However, they both have seen spikes due to community transmission.

That is a long-winded argument to back up the idea that Oil demand (and therefore oil prices) are inversely correlated to potential second lockdowns. And that may be the reason as to why we do not see oil push past $50 a barrel anytime soon.

Oil producers are hoping that that the Coronavirus doesn't force a second lockdown

The International Energy Association (IEA) reported they predict oil demand would average around 91.9 million barrels a day (BPD) in 2020. This is 8.1 Million barrels a day lower than the average of 100m BPD last year. Quick maths

That $15.4 Billion is assuming that oil prices stay at $45 and demand staying at an average of 91 Billion barrels a day this year. If a second lockdown occurs, we will see oil demand drop and the price of oil drop, causing a double blow to producers.

IEA noted that “Recent mobility data suggests the recovery has plateaued in many regions” and that the global oil supply was expected to be roughly steady in August. Assuming that demand is constant in August, we should see Brent Crude oil stay around the $45 mark. However, a second lockdown across the world as OPEC slowly increases its supply will lower oil prices.