Markets Update

U.S. job growth surged more than expected in June and employers increased hours for workers, with signs of a labor market strengthening that is likely to keep the Federal Reserve on course for a 3rd interest rate increase this year, despite lackluster inflation. Non-farm payrolls increased by 222,000 jobs in June beating expectations for a 179,000 gain. Data for April and May was revised to show 47,000 more jobs were created than previously reported. US unemployment rose to 4.4%, from a 16-year low of 4.3%, because more people were looking for work; a sign of confidence in the labor market. The jobless rate has dropped 0.4% this year and is close to the most recent Fed median forecast for 2017.

UK data released on Friday showed output by British factories unexpectedly fell in May, indicating that the UK economy has struggled to gain any momentum after a slow start to 2017 and further raising questions about the likelihood of the Bank of England raising interest rates this year. Markets were expecting an increase of 0.5% in Manufacturing Production (MoM) but were surprised with a very poor reading of -0.2%. GBPUSD reacted immediately dropping from 1.2955 to 1.28664 (-0.7%) whilst EURGBP climbed from 0.87964 to 0.88602 (+0.55%). GBPUSD is currently trading around 1.2905 and EURGBP around 0.8840.

The G20 meeting in Hamburg over the weekend had little to no impact on the markets. The highlights were the first-time meetings of Trump, Putin & Xi Jinping. The general undertone was that this was the G19 plus 1 meeting as the US was not a particularly welcome attendee.
USDJPY initially dropped by 0.6% on Friday, to trade as low as 113.148, before rebounding higher following the NFP to reach a high of 114.176 – a 0.8% increase on the day. In early trading USDJPY is around 114.15.

EURUSD had a similar story reaching a high of 1.14393 after the data release before retracing down to a low of 1.13791 a relatively small loss of 0.2% on the day. Currently EURUSD is trading around 1.1410.

Gold had heavy selling pressure, dropping 1% on Friday to trade as low as $1,207.17 – close to a 4-month low. Gold is down over 1.6% on the week resulting in its worst performance since May. Currently Gold is trading around $1,212.

WTI closed down 4% on the week as the decline in US inventories did not convince traders that global production was anywhere near rebalancing. On Friday WTI traded down 1.8% to hit a low of $43.88pb. Currently WTI is trading around $44.65pb.

Today & Tomorrow is light on impactful economic data releases – traders are focusing on Wednesday July 12 when, at 09:30 BST, the UK will release its Average Earnings Index followed, at 15:00 BST, by the Bank of Canada interest rate decision and Fed Chair Yellen’s Testimony.

Cheerio,

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd

 

Oil Bull Is Bearish

One of oil’s most prominent bulls is starting to sound like a skeptic.

The global crude market has “materially worsened” and prices may be stuck around $50 a barrel or below, storied hedge fund manager Andy Hall said in an investor letter this week, reversing the optimistic tone he’d taken for months.

Crude prices are down 16 percent for the year, amid signs that rising U.S. output will undercut production cuts ordered by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies. After a rally last week, futures for West Texas Intermediate oil slipped 4.1 percent on Wednesday after Russian officials said they were opposed to deeper reductions.

“When the facts change … ” Hall wrote to investors in his Stamford, Connecticut, hedge fund, Astenbeck Capital Management LLC, in a July 3 letter obtained by Bloomberg News. “Not only did sentiment plumb new depths but fundamentals appear to have materially worsened.”

U.S. shale drilling is expanding “at a surprisingly fast rate, thus raising the odds for significant oversupply in 2018, even if OPEC maintains its production cuts.”

Hall’s career stretches back to the 1970s, including stints at BP Plc and legendary trading house Phibro Energy Inc., where he was chief executive officer. This year, he’s consistently pushed against the bearish tide, arguing in investor letters that data showing rising oil supplies was incompleteand that a sustained rally was on its way.

‘Rangebound’

U.S. producers have ramped up output and lowered their own costs faster than expected and growth in demand seems set to be lower than anticipated going forward, Hall wrote in the latest letter. While oil prices may recover somewhat in 2017, they look to be “rangebound for some time to come.”

“At the start of the year, the anchor was thought to be about $60″ for Brent crude “and rising over time,” Hall wrote. “Today, it appears to be closer to $50 (and possibly still falling.)”

A message seeking comment from Hall wasn’t immediately returned. Astenbeck managed $2.4 billion as of the end of 2016, according to a previous investor letter reviewed by Bloomberg. The most-recent letter doesn’t mention the size of the Astenbeck fund or its latest performance.

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd

 

Low Oil

Oil traded near the lowest closing level in seven months as U.S. gasoline supplies unexpectedly rose for a second week.

Futures were little changed in New York after slumping 3.7 percent Wednesday, the first drop in four sessions. Motor-fuel stockpiles expanded by 2.1 million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration reported. Most analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast a decline. Crude output climbed while nationwide inventories fell less than predicted.

Oil has declined almost 8 percent this month amid speculation that rising U.S. supplies will offset output curbs by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russia. New production from OPEC rivals will be more than enough to meet demand growth next year, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday in its first forecast for 2018.

“Any build in U.S. commercial stocks gives us an indication of the uphill battle OPEC is facing,” said Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd. in London. “Although last week the big bearish surprise came in the form of significant builds across the board, this time around gasoline was responsible for the consequences.”

West Texas Intermediate for July delivery was at $44.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 3 cents, at 10:01 a.m. London time. Total volume traded was about 46 percent above the 100-day average. Prices dropped $1.73 to $44.73 on Wednesday, the lowest close since Nov. 14.

Brent for August settlement was up 10 cents at $47.10 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Prices slid $1.72, or 3.5 percent, to $47 on Wednesday. The global benchmark crude traded at a premium of $2.14 to August WTI.

U.S. crude stockpiles dropped by 1.66 million barrels last week, the EIA reported Wednesday. Inventories were forecast to decline by 2.45 million, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. Production rose by 12,000 barrels a day to 9.33 million barrels a day.

Oil-market news:

  • The Qatar crisis is reverberating in Libya, inflaming political divisions in the war-torn oil exporter and dragging commodity-trading giant Glencore Plc into a dispute over crude sales.
  • Iraq is driving up crude-oil exports to the U.S., the world’s second-biggest import market, just as there are signs Saudi Arabia is honoring a pledge to restrict such deliveries, according to tanker-tracking data.

Cheerio

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd.

People Getting Serious About Marijuana

The taboo’s about even discussing the green weed have slowly relaxed over the last decade. It’s medical benefits have long been lauded despite the obvious stigma.

Imperial Brands Plc gained the services of a leader in the field of medicinal cannabis as the British tobacco manufacturer seeks to further its push beyond cigarettes.

Simon Langelier, a 30-year veteran of Philip Morris International Inc., joined the board as a non-executive director this week, the Bristol-based company said in a statement Tuesday.

Langelier is chairman of PharmaCielo Ltd., a supplier of medicinal-grade cannabis oil extracts. He joined the Canadian-based company in 2015 after a career at Philip Morris that included heading up the next-generation products unit from 2007 to 2010. Imperial stands to benefit from his experience in tobacco and “wider consumer adjacencies,” Chairman Mark Williamson said in the statement.

About 18 months after jettisoning the word “tobacco” from its name, the appointment advances Imperial Brands’s efforts to move beyond its main product, as smoking rates in developed nations dwindle. While focusing on e-cigarettes, Imperial previously resisted another alternative to cigarettes — heated tobacco devices, but that stance could be easing. Philip Morris’s main reduced-risk product is a heated tobacco device called iQOS.

In May, Imperial’s Chief Development Officer Matthew Phillips said the company was assessing whether demand for heated-tobacco devices would pick up outside of Japan, where iQOS has captured 7.1 percent of the country’s cigarette market since its launch in 2015. The company could have a product on the market within months, if needed, he said.

“Imperial’s one-pronged strategy in next-generation tobacco isn’t particularly wise,” Eamonn Ferry, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, said by phone. “It’s sensible that they appear to be now softening their stance on heat-not-burn, given the success of the format in Japan.”

At Philip Morris, Langelier established a joint venture for the worldwide commercialization of the company’s smoke-free products.

His experience at PharmaCielo will be beneficial in helping Imperial eke out opportunities should marijuana be legalized at the federal level in the U.S., Ferry said. The expertise tobacco firms have in crop farming and distribution has spurred speculation that they may eventually seek to enter the cannabis market. Cowen & Co. estimates the U.S. part of the industry will surpass $50 billion in sales this decade.

Cheerio.

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd.

Sugar Not So Sweet.

It’s not this year’s price crash that haunts the $150 billion sugar industry. It’s the fear of worse to come.

Raw sugar’s 16 percent drop ranks it bottom of the 22 raw materials on the Bloomberg Commodity Index. Shocks to demand in top consumer India and prospects of more European supply are helping shift the market to a surplus, hurting prices. Yet beyond such market dampeners, hang darker clouds.

After decades of stable demand growth, almost doubling per person since 1960, the world is heading for a tipping point as shoppers turn against the cola and candy blamed for an obesity epidemic in the rich world. At the same time, sugar has to compete with cheap syrups increasingly used in processed food.

Demand is rising by some estimates at the slowest since at least the global financial crisis as companies like Coca-Cola Co., consuming about 14 percent of all sugar traded, and Nestle SA, the world’s biggest food company, react to such trends. Group Sopex and Green Pool Commodity Specialists see growth in 2017-18 below the average 2 percent a year of the past decade or so. The U.S. Department of Agriculture sees the first drop in demand in a quarter century.

“Growth is not what it’s been,” Tom McNeill, managing director of Green Pool, said in an interview. “There is undoubtedly a move by global bottlers and by a lot of global food manufacturers to reduce the sugar content in their products.”

Consumption may sink below 1 percent for a second year in the 2016-2017 season, less than half the average pace in the previous decade, Sopex figures show. The slowdown may mark a turning point for an industry that’s seen near linear growth for half a century on an expanding world population and rising wealth, concentrated most recently in dynamic economies like China.

Indeed, food giants are only just beginning to respond to noisy calls from customers, lobby groups and lawmakers to cut empty carbs from products.

Coca-Cola has 200 reformulations of products in the works to lower sugar content, Chief Executive Officer James Quincey said in October. PepsiCo Inc. has vowed that at least two-thirds of the company’s volume will have no more than 100 calories from added sugars per 12-ounce serving by 2025.

Coca-Cola’s Biggest Challenge Under Next CEO: Cutting Calories

Nestle said late last year it had found a way to reduce sugar in chocolate as much as 40 percent and would lower sugar in the chocolate and confectionery it sells in the U.K. and Ireland by 10 percent. Globally, companies curbed ingredients that raise health concerns such as sugar and salt in about a fifth of their products in 2016, says the Consumer Goods Forum, a retailing lobby.

“We are hearing from right, left and center all the intentions of the industrial users — food and beverage companies — to reformulate their products,” said Sergey Gudoshnikov, senior economist at the International Sugar Organization, representing producing nations. “Sooner or later it will work.”

U.S. cities such as Philadelphia and San Francisco and countries such as France and Mexico have added “sin taxes” previously reserved for tobacco or alcohol to sugary sodas, with others lining up to join them. The World Health Organization says its research shows that a 20 percent increase in the retail price of fizzy drinks results in a proportional drop in demand.

The industry is now having to adapt to what some have dubbed a war on sugar.

Cutting sugar alone won’t solve obesity concerns, according to Courtney Gaine, president and CEO of the Sugar Association, a Washington-based lobby group. Replacing sugar with starches or fat doesn’t reduce total calories, she said.

Blame Game

“It’s very important that the sugar industry preaches moderation and doesn’t say, ‘Hey, it’s not our problem’ because it’s the whole food and beverage industry’s problem to try and help the world be a healthier place,” Gaine said. “I would like for sugar not to be blamed as the sole cause, but we are also not innocent.”

Beyond the developed world, consumption of sugar isn’t going to fall off a cliff as long as the world’s population is still expanding and there are burgeoning middle classes in Asian and African cities, according to Rabobank International.

Trends in richer countries with more money to spend are significant, nevertheless. Demand is set to sink in Germany, France and the U.K., according to Tropical Research Services data for the season that starts in October.

Some middle-income nations are also hurting from weak economies. Brazilian demand has dropped by about 1 million metric tons over the past three to four seasons, according to Sopex. It’s also down in Argentina.

More significantly, sugar is losing out to cheaper sweeteners as food manufacturers protect profit margins. Soda makers in China and the Philippines are using more high-fructose corn syrup. The processed sweetener, made from corn starch, is about 3,680 yuan ($534) a ton cheaper than sugar, Sopex says.

“That’s seriously eroding demand,” said John Stansfield, an analyst at Sopex who has worked in the sugar industry for two decades.

High-fructose corn syrup displaced 3.3 million tons of sugar in China alone in 2016, according to the USDA.

The drop in raw-sugar futures prices this year in New York to 16.26 cents a pound can mostly be blamed on short-term problems such as the weak Brazilian economy and currency policies in India that disrupted demand.

But beyond such squalls, others hear distant thunder.

“Some of the changes are temporary, others are not,” said Sean Diffley, head of sugar and ethanol research at TRS, which advises hedge funds. “I suspect the food and beverage industry doesn’t go back to larger bars of chocolate or full-sugar Coca-Cola.”

Cheerio

The Pinstripe and Bowler Cub shares information with MF Solutions Ltd.

Trump Bomb Boosts Gold

Gold’s getting a boost from the turmoil in Donald Trump’s West Wing. The haven rose for a fifth day as the president’s latest controversy prompted references to the 1970s Watergate scandal that helped to sink predecessor Richard Nixon, hurting the dollar as investors cut back on risk.

The president “perhaps is facing his toughest time in the office,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst in London at Think Markets U.K. Ltd. Investors are questioning whether there is “any possibility of impeachment becoming a reality, because certainly that would hit the confidence massively.”

Bullion for immediate delivery climbed as much as 0.6 percent to $1,245.07 an ounce, the highest since May 3, and was at $1,243.78 at 9:41 a.m. in London, according to Bloomberg generic pricing, as the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index sank to the lowest since November. The precious metal’s winning run is the longest such stretch in a month, and takes gains this year to 8.4 percent.

Gold has risen after Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey a week ago, and following reports he shared intelligence with Russia. In the latest twist Trump is said to have asked Comey in February to drop an investigation into a former national security adviser, raising questions that he may have obstructed justice. The problems are seen as drawing the administration’s focus away from policies to aid growth, and have spurred recollections of former President Nixon, who was ensnared in Watergate and resigned.

“It’s a political dogfight,” Ole Hansen, head of commodities strategy at Saxo Bank A/S in Copenhagen, said by phone. “That does mean that his ability to act as a president, and to do what he’s promised, is sharply reduced and in that lies the risk of dollar weakness.”

Democrats say reports Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn amount to obstruction of justice, if true. “I hope you can let this go,” Trump told the FBI director, according to a Comey memo, as cited by the New York Times. The White House has denied that version of events.

‘Ability to Deliver’

On Trump’s position and the Comey fallout, “it’s much too early to say,” Hansen said, when asked whether the current situation is reminiscent of the Watergate era. “I don’t think the sum of that adds up to something that could potentially lead to the removal. But what it does do, is really just is bucking down the White House and the ability to deliver on promises.”

The concerns surrounding the White House may slow economic policy decisions, according to Westpac Banking Corp., which recommends investors short the dollar. “Regardless of the ultimate conclusion of the political storm over Trump’s actions on Russia and the security services, it will at the very least linger as a distraction that makes it more difficult for the White House to pass pro-growth policies,” said Sean Callow, a senior currency strategist.

“The rise in gold is largely a dollar play, with the dollar weakening because of Trump,” said Barnabas Gan, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., who also flagged overseas tensions. “There’s still more downside risk to gold in the long run, but in the short-term, given what the North Koreans are doing and what Trump is doing, the dollar is inherently weak.”

Bullion has advanced in 2017 — posting a run of four monthly gains through April — even as the Federal Reserve tightens monetary policy, with a rate rise in March and more increases likely to follow. Higher rates tend to curb the appeal of non-interest-bearing assets like gold.

While this year is a “pretty hazy year for bullion, the path of least resistance is on the bearish side,” said Singapore-based Gan, highlighting the Fed’s tightening cycle. “If we divorce away all the uncertainty, the rate-hike story should at least bring gold prices to $1,100.”

Cheerio.

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd.

All Quite On the Oil Front

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy and Industry echoed Alan Greenspan in warning against “irrational exuberance” that his country, or OPEC, would support oil prices simply so rivals could get a free ride. In the weeks since, Khalid Al-Falih has swapped out Greenspan for another central banker: the European Central Bank’s Mario “whatever it takes”Draghi.

Just over a week ago, Al-Falih used that very phrase to emphasize OPEC’s commitment to draining the glut of oil inventories weighing on prices. And just this weekend, he apparently put substance behind the rhetoric: He said Saudi Arabia and Russia — which together produce more than a fifth of the world’s oil — favor prolonging through the first quarter of 2018 supply cuts they and other countries announced last November. As it stands, OPEC is due to meet on May 25 to decide whether to extend the cuts to the end of the year. Oil prices duly jumped.

“Jumped” maybe the wrong metaphor in this case, though; “stepped back from the brink” could be more apt:

The net long position of managed money in WTI and Brent crude oil futures shows the arc of belief in OPEC’s power from November to now. Like any good central banker, or aspiring one, Al-Falih’s verbal intervention was designed to revive flagging confidence in the power of his office.

Without it, prices might well have turned south again. The same weekend, it was reported that oil production in Libya, exempt from production cuts due to its civil strife, hit its highest level since October 2014, before the crash really hit its stride. This came after a report on Friday that Indian oil demand — a critical element of the bull case for prices — had risen in April after three months of declines, but was still lagging far behind the gains witnessed in 2016.

Saudi Arabia’s ultimate aim, along with that of fellow producers, is to shift the futures curve for oil to a point where it no longer makes sense for traders to put oil into storage and sell it for a higher price down the line. Undermining this carry trade means reducing the discount at which physical oil trades relative to longer-dated futures. You can see that this has moved somewhat in OPEC’s favor over the past week, helped by a drop in U.S. oil inventories reported last Wednesday and, of course, this weekend’s well-chosen words:

With 10 days to go until OPEC’s meeting, a combination of well-chosen words and the short positions built up by hedge funds suggest prices could go higher.

Yet it would be a mistake to conclude the tide has shifted in favor of Saudi Arabia, Russia and the rest.

That curve has flattened out before, almost flipping in February, only to dip again when it becomes clear there is no quick fix to what ails oil exporting nations. Higher prices, regardless of their foundation, encourage the rebound in U.S. shale development, which counteracts the supply cuts.

Above all, once the speculative heat around the May meeting dissipates, the reality of the situation should re-emerge, with Al-Falih’s own odyssey providing the essential narrative. In January, he speculated the initial cuts probably  beyond June. By March, he was sounding that warning about irrational exuberance. Come early May, he let it slip the cuts might extend into a vaguely defined “beyond.” And now, not long after, the cuts look set to push into 2018.

For those encouraged by the minister’s adoption of the Draghi doctrine, it is worth remembering the ECB chief took that stance as a desperate measure — and that, five years on, he is still playing backstop and choosing his words very carefully.

Cheerio

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd.