GLOBAL ECONOMICS AND POLITICS

Leo Haviland provides clients with original, provocative, cutting-edge fundamental supply/demand and technical research on major financial marketplaces and trends. He also offers independent consulting and risk management advice.

Haviland’s expertise is macro. He focuses on the intertwining of equity, debt, currency, and commodity arenas, including the political players, regulatory approaches, social factors, and rhetoric that affect them. In a changing and dynamic global economy, Haviland’s mission remains constant – to give timely, value-added marketplace insights and foresights.

Leo Haviland has three decades of experience in the Wall Street trading environment. He has worked for Goldman Sachs, Sempra Energy Trading, and other institutions. In his research and sales career in stock, interest rate, foreign exchange, and commodity battlefields, he has dealt with numerous and diverse financial institutions and individuals. Haviland is a graduate of the University of Chicago (Phi Beta Kappa) and the Cornell Law School.


 

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US NATURAL GAS: A VIEW OF THE PAST, A VISION OF A FUTURE © Leo Haviland, January 21, 2017

Bob Dylan’s song “All Along the Watchtower” states:
“There must be some way out of here,’ said the joker to the thief
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief”.

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CONCLUSION AND OVERVIEW

Is the major bull trend for NYMEX natural gas (nearest futures continuation) that began in early March 2016 finished? Probably not, though it is a difficult call. In any event, assuming normal weather and moderate United States economic growth, it nevertheless will be very hard for the NYMEX front month price to exceed 12/28/16’s high bordering 4.00 by much (if at all) anytime soon.

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The probable longer run bullish US natural gas inventory situation suggests the likelihood of eventual further moderate rises in NYMEX natural gas prices (nearest futures continuation). The days coverage perspective underlines this, particularly in light of anticipated stockpiles at end October 2017 and thereafter. A comparison of the recent bull move that started in March 2016 to the prior major bull move inaugurated on 4/19/12 at 1.902 offers insight into past and potential trends.

Marketplace history does not necessarily repeat itself, whether entirely, partly, or at all. But all else equal, since 2016’s natural gas rally was less than average in time and (percentage) distance terms, this also indicates the move that commenced in March 2016 probably has more time and price to run. NYMEX natural gas (nearest futures continuation) rallied about 148 percent in about ten months from its 3/4/16 bottom at 1.611 to its 12/28/16 high at 3.994. The distance and duration for eleven major bull moves in NYMEX natural gas (nearest futures continuation) since trading began in 1990 is about 246 percent and twelve months and three weeks.

Some bull voyages took a very long time to complete. For example, the April 2012 to February 2014 advance lasted about twenty-two months and a week. September 2003-December 2005’s flight took 26 months and three weeks; the August 1998 to December 2000 adventure was 28 months.

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However, the move above December 2016’s height may not be substantial and could take at least a few months to occur. Why?

First, US natural gas inventories in days coverage terms at end March 2017, though they likely will slip slightly below those at end March 2013, nevertheless will hover around end March long run averages.

A few major (over 120 percent) bull charges were shorter in extent or briefer in time than 2016’s leap, so an assertion that the 2016 rally ended in December 2016 is not “unreasonable”. Besides, the NYMEX natural gas 26 year trading history is relatively short; compare wheat or the Dow Jones Industrial Average. In any case, one big bull move voyaged up around 123.5 percent, another 129.2pc. For the time horizon parameter, three major bull moves from 1990 to the present were completed quickly. One finished in about two months, another in about three and a half months, and a third in four months. In this context, and although marketplace history is not marketplace destiny, several major peaks in NYMEX natural gas occurred in calendar December, with another one in early January. NYMEX natural gas often attains its major peaks and valleys around the day of the actual nearest futures contract expiration.

The CFTC’s Commitments of Traders reveals a massive net noncommercial long position in the natural gas complex. An elevated net noncommercial position in natural gas has often (but not always) been associated with key marketplace trend changes. The current net noncommercial long position in the petroleum complex likewise is extremely large from the historical standpoint. Both natural gas and petroleum currently are vulnerable to liquidation by the net noncommercial long fraternity, which would tend to pressure prices.

For predicting NYMEX natural gas price trends, monitor those in the petroleum complex. NYMEX crude oil’s 2/11/16 trough at $26.05 (nearest futures continuation) occurred shortly before the NYMEX natural gas bottom on 3/4/16 (and alongside the S+P 500’s 2/11/16 trough at 1810). NYMEX crude oil made important interim lows in its rally, $39.19 on 8/3/16 and $42.20 on 11/14/16; critical interim lows in NYMEX natural gas occurred near in time to these. Remember 8/12/16’s 2.523 and 11/9/16’s 2.546. NYMEX crude oil’s recent high occurred 1/3/17 at $55.24, adjacent in time to 12/28/16’s 3.994 natural gas elevation.

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US Natural Gas- a View of the Past, a Vision of a Future (1-21-17)

US NATURAL GAS: TRAVELING FORWARD © Leo Haviland June 13, 2016

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Bob Dylan’s song “All Along the Watchtower” states:
“’There must be some way out of here,’ said the joker to the thief
“’There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief’”.

****

CONCLUSION

The United States natural gas (NYMEX nearest futures continuation basis) major bear trend that followed 2/24/14’s major peak at 6.493 ended with 3/4/16’s 1.611 bottom. For the next several months, however, natural gas likely will remain in a sideways pattern. The probable range for the United States natural gas marketplace remains a relatively broad avenue between major support at 1.60/1.90 and significant resistance at 3.10/3.45. This sideways outlook partly results from two currently contending marketplace stories.

For the near term, substantial natural gas oversupply exists, weighing on prices. Containment risks still loom for end of build season 2016. If noteworthy containment problems erupt, March 2016’s bottom may be attacked, even though current prices hover significantly above 1.60/1.90 and even if an assault on that support does not last for much time. What if a torrid summer 2016 dramatically reduces the stock build total and thus helps containment fears for end build season 2016 to disappear? Then prices likely will not revisit the 1.60/1.90 range, but instead will maintain their ascent toward 3.10/3.45.

The US natural gas supply/demand perspective over the so-called long run is moderately bullish. Assuming normal winter 2016-17 weather, moderate US economic growth, and no renewed collapse in the overall commodities complex (particularly petroleum), gas prices probably will march higher.

 

NATURAL GAS: (PARTLY) DANCING IN STEP WITH OTHER MARKETPLACES

Natural gas prices often travel substantially independently of both petroleum (and commodities “in general”) and so-called “international” or “financial” marketplaces and variables. Trend changes in NYMEX natural gas need not roughly coincide with one in the petroleum complex or commodities in general, or currency, stock, or interest rate playgrounds.

However, especially since mid-to-late June 2014 (NYMEX natural gas nearest futures interim high 6/16/14 at 4.886) and into calendar 2015 (gas interim top 5/19/15 at 3.105), bearish natural gas price movements intertwined with those in the petroleum complex (and commodities in general) and the bull move in the broad real trade-weighted US dollar. Such natural gas retreats to some extent paralleled slumps in emerging marketplace stocks. Note also the timing coincidence between May 2015’s natural gas top and the S+P 500’s 5/20/15 peak at 2135. In regard to the timing of the S+P 500’s May 2015 high, the nominal broad trade-weighted dollar (Federal Reserve, H.10, which has daily data) made an interim low at 112.8 on 5/15/15 before appreciating further.

The recent low in NYMEX natural gas nearest futures, 3/4/16’s 1.611, occurred fairly close in time to the first quarter 2016 peak in US dollar and an assortment of notable intertwined 1Q16 lows in other important marketplaces. The trend shifts (price reversals) in first quarter 2016 in various marketplaces assisted the upward move in natural gas that emerged in early March 2016.

**The broad real trade-weighted United States dollar (monthly average) peaked at 101.2 in January 2016; the nominal TWD (which has daily data) established a top 1/20/16 at 126.2 (Federal Reserve, H.10).

**NYMEX crude oil (nearest futures continuation): bottoms $26.19 on 1/20/16 and $26.05 on 2/11/16.

**Broad Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI): 268 on 1/20/16. January 2016’s GSCI low occurred midway between the calendar month times of its 2008-09 bottom (12/24/08 at 308 and 2/19/09 at 306).

**S+P 500: Note the sharp rally from lows of 1812 on 1/20/16 and 1810 on 2/11/16.

**MXEF (MSCI emerging stock markets index; Morgan Stanley): 687 on 1/21/16, 708 on 2/12/16.

**Ten year US Treasury note: 1.53 percent yield low 2/11/16.

 

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US Natural Gas- Traveling Forward (6-13-16)

US NATURAL GAS: CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE © Leo Haviland February 1, 2016

“So much trouble in the world…
The way earthly thin’s are goin’
Anything can happen”. Bob Marley and the Wailers, “So Much Trouble in the World”

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CONCLUSION AND OVERVIEW

In economics, politics, and other cultural fields, players create a variety of competing perspectives. They select between and arrange a variety of diverse variables to produce their arguments and conclusions. In commodity, currency, interest rate, and stock marketplaces, bulls and bears therefore tell a variety of contending stories. In natural gas as in other marketplace battlegrounds, an array of speakers creates assorted viewpoints fighting to attract attention and persuade eager audiences.

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“Dangerous Times in US Natural Gas” (11/2/15) concluded: “The probable range for the United States natural gas marketplace (NYMEX nearest futures continuation basis) for the next several months is a relatively broad avenue between major support at 1.65/1.90 and significant resistance at 3.10/3.45.” The NYMEX natural gas major bear trend that followed 2/24/14’s major peak at 6.493 smashed through 4/27/15’s 2.443 minor low, 10/27/15’s 1.948 interim low, and the last prior major bottom (1.902 on 4/19/12), crashing to 1.684 on 12/18/15. Assuming normal weather for the balance of winter 2015-16 and spring/summer 2016, this range probably will persist for the next several months as well.

The high since December 2015’s low is 1/8/16’s 2.495. What would enable US natural gas prices (nearest futures) to sustain travels over 3.00? It probably will require significantly colder temperatures for the balance of winter, a blazing spring and summer, or (and especially) noteworthy cuts in natural gas production. Stronger than expected US (and global) economic growth would help rally natural gas prices. A major bull move in commodities “in general” (and especially in the petroleum complex) and a significant reversal of the major bull move in the broad real trade-weighted US dollar to some extent would assist a bull move in natural gas.

However, a somewhat significant containment risk (supplies too high relative to available storage capacity), nevertheless exists for US natural gas around the end of calendar 2016 build season. If containment fears grow stronger, and especially if actual problems develop, the 1.65 floor could be broken. In addition, US economic weakness (especially if accompanied by similar slumps around the globe), renewed feebleness in commodities (particularly in the petroleum world), and a continued strong trade-weighted US dollar would help to keep US natural gas prices under pressure.

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Historical analysis indicates the major bear trend in US natural gas from February 2014 to December 2015 voyaged sufficiently far in price and duration terms to conclude that a trend shift from bearish to sideways occurred with December 2015’s low. However, the dramatic February 2014 to October 2015 price tumble is not the greatest or longest on record. So a further descent in NYMEX natural gas would not be unprecedented.

Anticipated end March 2016 gas inventories probably will be high in both arithmetic (bcf) and days coverage terms, a bearish consideration. However, based upon US Energy Information Administration (EIA) anticipated end October 2016’s 52.1 days coverage level slides 3.4 days beneath the 2006-15 end October average of 55.5 days and 1.5 days under 1990-2015’s 53.6 days.

Nevertheless, modest days coverage levels for October 2016 does not eliminate a containment danger; one should focus closely on arithmetic levels. The days coverage perspective of course does not provide a complete viewpoint on the natural gas inventory situation and related price risks. After all, arithmetic quantities (bcf) of gas must be put in arithmetic storage places. Especially if little new natural gas storage capacity has been (and is being) created, containment problems could emerge around the end of the 2016 inventory build season (roughly around end October 2016). And currently, the containment risks for the end of build season 2016 are not insubstantial; this bearish potentiality weighs on prices.

Yet sustained low natural gas prices could reduce production more than some soothsayers forecast. This would help reduce containment risks. Note the big drop in US natural gas rig counts. A sustained slump back under 2.00 might boost electric power switching from coal to gas.

Everyone knows that much can happen between now and 2017, whether in natural gas or elsewhere. Yet based upon the EIA’s bcf prediction, natural gas days coverage at end October 2017 probably will be less than average, a bullish factor. And the EIA’s bcf arithmetic inventory forecast for end October 2017 implies there probably will not be a containment problem around the end of build season 2017.

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Natural gas prices often travel substantially independently of both petroleum (and commodities “in general”) and so-called “international” or “financial” marketplaces and variables. Trend changes in NYMEX natural gas need not roughly coincide with one in the petroleum complex or commodities in general, or currency, stock, or interest rate playgrounds.

However, especially since mid-to-late June 2014 (NYMEX natural gas nearest futures interim high 6/16/14 at 4.886) and into calendar 2015 (gas interim top 5/19/15 at 3.105), bearish natural gas price movements intertwined with those in the petroleum complex (and commodities in general) and the bull move in the broad real trade-weighted US dollar. Such natural gas retreats to some extent paralleled slumps in emerging marketplace stocks. Note also the timing coincidence between May 2015’s natural gas top and the S+P 500’s 5/20/15 peak at 2135. In regard to the timing of the S+P 500’s May 2015 high, note that the nominal broad trade-weighted dollar (Federal Reserve, H.10, which has daily data) made an interim low at 112.8 on 5/15/15 before appreciating further.

See “The Curtain Rises: 2016 Marketplace Theaters” (1/4/16), “Japanese Yen: Currency Adventures (2007-09 Revisited)” (1/14/16), “Commodities: Captivating Audiences” (10/12/15), and various related essays.

Natural gas prices indeed can trade “on their own”. But suppose a sustained bull move finally appeared in commodities “in general” (especially petroleum). Worldwide OECD industry and United States petroleum stocks are very elevated. OPEC next meets 6/2/16. It remains determined to capture market share and induce output cutbacks by high-cost oil producers around the world (including some American and Canadian ones). But is crude oil under 30 dollars a barrel “irrational”? The chairman of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Aramco said: “’The market has overshot on the low side and it is inevitable that it will start turning up’”, predicting higher prices by the end of the year.” (Financial Times, 1/22/16, p20). Will OPEC reach agreement with non-OPEC nations such as Russia to boost prices? Might OPEC hold an emergency meeting?

Key global central banks battle to ensure economic growth, create sufficient inflation (avoid deflation), and reduce unemployment. The European Central Bank recently suggested it might ease its already highly accommodative policies further (ECB Statement and Press Conference, 1/21/16). The Bank of Japan recently (1/29/16) eased its lax monetary policy even further, adopting negative interest rates. Will the Federal Reserve delay additional interest rate increases?

The Fed and its allies probably do not want the S+P 500 and related stock marketplaces to crash under their January 2016 lows. They also probably do not want the dollar’s bull move to extend much (if at all) beyond its January 2016 high. The US dollar’s major bull trend has been long and powerful. From its July 2011 major low around 80.5 to the recent January 2016 high at 101.2, the broad real trade-weighted dollar has climbed 25.8 percent (Federal Reserve, H.10; monthly average). What will happen to natural gas prices if the S+P 500 (and emerging marketplace stocks “in general”) rallied substantially? What if the US broad real trade-weighted dollar weakens notably (even if it remains relatively strong)?

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US Natural Gas- Caught in the Middle (2-1-16)

FORWARD GUIDANCE AND THE US DOLLAR © Leo Haviland September 23, 2013

The broad real trade-weighted United States dollar probably will remain weak. Continuing its major long run bear trend from its March 2009 high, it probably will challenge its record low of July 2011. Why?

Among assorted bearish factors, focus on two which are becoming increasingly significant. First, the Federal Reserve Board in its September 2013 meeting displayed its absence of a genuine forward guidance plan and a lack of an authentic comprehensive exit strategy. Thus marketplace faith in the Fed has declined and will do so further in the aftermath of that September gathering. Keep in mind that feeble (vague) Fed guidance and decreased confidence in the Fed occurs amidst ongoing (and long-running) gigantic money printing and interest rate repression. The central bank is doggedly determined to keep pinning the Federal Funds rate near the floor (and thus below current inflation rates and announced Fed inflation targets) for some time. So how attractive are and will be United States Treasury yields for much over much of the government yield curve? Second, America’s national political players currently display weak fiscal (economic) leadership, especially as the debt ceiling limit beckons.

The Federal Reserve Board’s overall exit strategy for its extraordinary sustained accommodative policy remains far more a sketch than a complete design or coherent practical plan. Prior to its September 2013 assembly, central bank communicators strongly hinted the Fed soon would reduce its massive money printing campaign. Yet the illustrious Federal Reserve Board generals surprised the great majority of observers by not cutting back on quantitative easing. Moreover, these Fed luminaries also underlined their flexible attentiveness to a wide array of intertwining variables which will influence their tapering and other decisions. The ever-watchful Fed thus implicitly demonstrated that its loudly-proclaimed forward guidance wordplay offers Fed watchers at best only modest enlightenment and direction. America’s central bank consequently did more than increase marketplace uncertainty. The Fed wounded its own marketplace credibility. By damaging its credibility, the Fed reduces the widespread belief that it can engineer or at least significantly influence “good” economic outcomes.

Unfortunately, the significant shortfall in forward guidance from the guiding lights at the Federal Reserve currently coincides with a badly fractured American national political scene. Of course politicians and parties disagree and compete vigorously. Yet in the United States in recent years, significant philosophical divisions, diverse and often well-entrenched interests, and quests by political players to capture attention and win elections have combined to create ongoing “overall” feeble national political leadership. Strong political individuals in combination do not necessary make a strong collective group.

Failing to satisfactorily resolve the funding and (especially) the debt ceiling issues (and related deficit spending questions) will call in question America’s political leadership as a whole. All else equal, growing doubts about the quality of that leadership (and related fiscal policies) tend to undermine confidence in the US dollar. Besides these current feuds, America’s national political leaders continue to make no progress in resolving or even significantly mitigating the country’s looming long run fiscal deficit problem. Debt crises do not occur only in emerging or developing nations or in countries on the European “periphery”.

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Forward Guidance and the US Dollar (9-23-13)