Ironically, the end of the show ‘Lost’ this quarter has left financial markets to take up this mantle instead. Let’s rise above the confusion this week (= diplomatic way of saying ‘the worryingly bad market action’) to put on the wide-angle lens and take a broader look at the bigger picture: the key moments in the second quarter of 2010:
Round the energycommodityworld(tm) in sixty seconds:
US natural gas first up; natty started Q2 a nickel higher than the prompt month low of the year at $3.81, and gradually rallied through the quarter on a mild end to spring, a hot start to summer, and an expectedly busy hurricane season. That was, however until last week, when it ran full steam into a key technical resistance level around $5.23 and got knocked onto the canvas, waking up around the $4.62 mark where it finished the quarter. UK natural gas has been one-way traffic, starting the quarter sub-30p, but closing out here nearly 50% higher in the mid-40 pennies, as outage after outage at Norwegian and North Sea facilities have caused gas flows to be volatile, and traders to be skittish. European power markets prompt and calendar strips have taken a nod from natural gas, while also tracking recovering coal and carbon prices. Finally, black gold, Texas tea started Q2 in the lofty position of the mid-$80s, before having a rollercoaster ride as low as $64.24 on a fourteen-day trouncing which saw it lose over 26% from the high of the year made at $87.15. This fall was due to a tumultuously tumbling euro / strong dollar relationship, as sovereign debt worries across the Eurozone sprung up like sprinklers on a golf course. Prices have recovered somewhat to finish the quarter at $75. Stop the clock.
Scores on the doors for Q2, 2010:
US natural gas prompt month: +19.3%
US natural gas Calendar 2011 strip: +0.01%
NBP UK natural gas prompt month: +48.1%
NBP UK natural gas Calendar 2011 strip: +40.9%
German power prompt month: +34.2%
German power Calendar 2011 strip: +16.7%
WTI crude oil prompt month: -11.9%
WTI crude oil Calendar 2011 strip: -13.3%
Biggest energy-related event of the quarter: The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. You probably heard about it.
Macro-economic event of the quarter: It’s difficult to pick one from many good ‘uns, but the jobless recovery in Q2 has been as good as anything to provide smoke and mirrors for clarity on an economic recovery in the US. The smoke has mostly been blown and the mirrors held by census workers, who have temporarily boosted / distorted unemployment data, although like all good discolorations, this will all come out in the wash.
Biggest financial non-event of the quarter: The revaluation of the Chinese Yuan. Just like getting excited about Christmas or a vacation, the arrival of this event didn’t quite live up to the hype. Despite the initial excitement it caused, the revaluation was a political manouver by the Chinese to avoid it being a key discussion point at the G20 meeting in Toronto last week. In that respect, mission accomplished. In terms of having maximum impact, minimal movement, mission accomplished too. All in all, a bold hand, cheekily played by the Chinese.
Chart of the Quarter: The below chart tells a number of stories; that crude and equities continue to be best friends; that their fortunes have continued to improve over the past eighteen months, and that if you are culpable for the biggest oil spill in US history, your stock price will get absolutely spanked:
Stealth datapoint move of the quarter: I have been a bond bull and wrong for a very long time (note: Pinky and the Brain post), so am not surprised to see Treasuries quietly rally throughout Q2 to pierce the 3% level. The downside to this move is what it indicates: that investors are worried about either deflation or a double dip recession. Unfortunately, the financial crisis and subsequent bailouts come with a steep price to pay; as we say in England, you pays your money and you takes your choices.
Q3….bring it on.