Commodity price, Commodity risk, Complexity, Economics, Expertise, Hedging, Market psychology, Market research, Market trends, Oil market, Risk management, Trend following

Market fundamentals, forecasting and the groupthink effect

Last month I had the privilege of meeting with Jaran Rystad of Rystad Energy to discuss strategic cooperation between our companies. On the occasion, he gave me a rather detailed presentation of his firm’s energy intelligence database. I must say, in my 20+ years trading in commodities markets this is by far the most impressive product of its kind I’ve ever seen. Even from the software engineering point of view, I was very impressed. For full disclosure, nobody asked nor encouraged me to write this. Much as you’d recommend a restaurant where you ate well or a doctor you respect, I wholeheartedly recommend Rystad Energy as a provider of energy market intelligence as a matter of giving credit where credit is due.

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With Jarand Rystad of Rystad Energy in Monaco – their oil market intelligence is impressive by any standard.

However, even with top notch data on economic supply and demand fundamentals, divining the future remains difficult and unlikely. John von Neumann rightly said that forecasting was “the most complex, interactive, and highly nonlinear problem that had ever been conceived of.” Continue reading

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Asset management, Central banking, Economics, Inflation, Market research, Market trends, Policy

US jobs: everything is awesome! Is it? Let’s take another look.

A few years back in an interview with Wall Street Journal’s “Heard on the Street” program , Elliott Management’s Paul Singer said that his greatest worry was the rise of inflation that could appear suddenly. He suggested that this could come about with small changes in perception of inflation risk. Specifically, “The first whiffs of either commodity inflation or wage inflation,” said Singer, “may cause a self-reinforcing set of market events … which may include a sharp fall in bond prices, … fall in stock prices, rapid increase in commodities…

However, government statistics keep churning out almost too-good-to-be-true data. With today’s report, unemployment is down, but wage pressure is “muted.” But is it? Last month’s Average Hourly Earnings ticked down from a 3.4% annual growth rate to 3.2%. The small down-tick prompted the collective market komentariat to declare that wage pressures are abating. But are they really? A look over the longer-term trend gives quite the opposite impression: wage pressures are in an upward trend that appears to be accelerating. Here’s the official data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

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The main worry about this trend is percisely inflation – you know, the thing Warren Buffett likened to an economic equivalent of the hydrogen bomb for a debtor nation. Should we remain relaxed and complacent because at present there’s little inflation discernible in the official data?

Historical research published by Alliance Bernstein indicated that significant changes in inflation almost always come as a surprise: “elevated money and credit growth is a warning sign. Another warning sign occurs when the level of aggregate demand begins to bump up against supply constraints. And a third is a rise in wages. None of these factors alone causes inflation, but in combination they are extremely likely to signal inflationary risk.” Still, says complacency: “we don’t expect any surprises.” Live and see.

 

Alex Krainer [alex.krainer@altanawealth.com] is a hedge fund manager and commodities trader based in Monaco. He wrote the book “Mastering Uncertainty in Commodities Trading

Description: Trading and hedging commodity price risk

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Commodity price, Commodity risk, Economics, Energy crisis, Hedging, Market research, Market trends, Oil market, Policy, Social development

The coming oil price shock: troubling news from Saudi Arabia

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Commodity price, Commodity risk, Economics, Energy crisis, Hedging, Inflation, Market research, Market trends, Oil market, Politics, Risk management, Trading

The coming oil price shock: could the crisis in Venezuela trigger an energy crisis?

Measured by historical standards, the price of oil has been extremely volatile in recent years. From over $114 per barrel in the summer of 2014 it collapsed more than 75% in only 18 months’ time. Then it tripled to $86/bbl in October 2018, only to drop by 40% to $52/bbl two months later. The question is, why is the oil price so very volatile? Is the market foreshadowing greater disruptions in the future? A closer look into oil supply and demand fundamentals suggests that a great crisis could be in the making – possibly with alarming repercussions.

The looming oil shortage

In 2012 a report produced by the UK Ministry of Defence predicted that oil prices would rise significantly out to 2040, and by “significantly,” they meant to $500 per barrel. From today’s perspective, this may seem farfetched. However, we should not dismiss UKMOD’s warning lightly. This could turn out to be the most important development facing humanity for decades to come. Continue reading

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Asset management, Commodity price, Commodity risk, Economics, Hedging, Market trends, Risk management, Trading, Trend following

How trend following can help industry hedgers: the Palladium edition

Palladium price has more than doubled since the early 2016 making the white metal more valuable than gold for the first time since 2002. Its impressive performance attracted much attention from the financial press, which published numerous articles and analyses about the palladium market. If you diligently read the analyses, you may learn that automotive industry accounts for some 75% of demand for palladium, that its global production is as little as about 200 metric tons per year (vs. about 3,000 tons for gold), that only two countries (Russia and South Africa) produce more than three quarters of its global supply, and that the demand for palladium is expected to continue to grow. Presumably that implies that palladium price should remain high and possibly continue to rise. Continue reading

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Economics, Eurasia, History, Inflation, Politics

3/6: the strangulation of Russian economy in the 1990s was a deliberate IMF policy

… if the notion of billions of barrels of proven oil reserves and billions of tons of gold fills your dreams with visions of red-hot cash flow and ice-cold vodka, then Boris Yeltsin just might find some work for you. – Paul Hofheinz, Fortune Magazine, 23 September 1991[1]

The foregoing article is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of my book “Grand Deception: the Truth about Bill Browder, Magnitsky Act and Anti-Russian Sanctions.” Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Shock therapy gave Russia one of the worst and longest economic depressions of the 20th century, an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe for a peace time crisis, and a criminally inequitable privatization of public assets. The reasons why things happened this way in Russia generally aren’t well understood in the west. Even among better informed intellectuals, the failure of shock therapy is often thought to be vaguely related to some sinister flaw in the Russian society. It is what Bill Browder characterized as “the dirty dishonesty of Russia,” or “Russia’s evil foundation,” which spawned corruption and criminality of staggering proportions. In this toxic environment, the sweet fruits of western democracy and capitalism simply could not grow in spite of the generous benevolence of Russia’s western friends. Continue reading

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Economics, Eurasia, History, Policy, Politics

1/6: How Russia decided to go from communism to capitalism in the 1990s

The foregoing article is an excerpt from the third chapter of my book, “Grand Deception,” which I wrote in response to Bill Browder’s bestseller, “Red Notice” but also as a retort to the relentless demonization campaign against Russia and its leadership in the West. Browder, an investor and hedge fund manager who made his fortune in the 1990s Russia, describes his fascinating experience during that time. However, he almost entirely glosses over the broader context within which events played out. Instead, he offers the same terse explanation he had regurgitated countless times in his various presentations and speeches, and it goes like this: after the collapse of the USSR, the government of Russia decided to go from communism to capitalism.[1] They thought that the best way to do this would be by giving everything away practically for free through various privatization schemes. Very rapidly, they transferred the nation’s economic resources into private hands.

But the unusual aspect of this transfer was that the private hands that received Russia’s wealth were not the same ones that had built it up since there were no restrictions on who could participate in the privatization program. As a result, the crown jewels of the nation’s productive resources ended up in the hands of a small group of oligarchs, most of whom covertly represented the interests of various western financiers. Continue reading

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