The Overnight Report: Now We Can Talk Oil

The Dow closed up 15 points or 0.1% at 12,965. The S&P gained 0.1% to 1362 while the Nasdaq lost 01.%.

Thank God that’s over. Well – it’s at least over until the April election in Greece and whatever outcome that might bring, and otherwise over until Greece is due its next tranche of the money and has to prove it has behaved itself – something it didn’t do in 2011 which is why we got to this point.

In short, everyone gave up some ground in the end to get the deal over the line, after 14 hours of negotiations. Greece agreed to tighter austerity measures, private bondholders agreed to a 53% haircut, eurozone lender nations agreed to lower the interest rate on the bail-out money and so on and so forth. I have no desire to bang on about it any further. Greece has E130bn to take it through to 2014 and with a bit of luck we’ll never hear about it again. Well okay – a lot of luck.

At least for the time being, we can return to Planet Normal. And if the US is the guide, things are normalising rather rapidly, it would seem. Last night the Dow breached 13,000 – twice. This number has no technical significance other than the fact it is a round number milestone, but it does have a psychological implication. And the last time the Dow saw 13,000 it was May 2008 and Lehman was still just a concern and not a smouldering corpse.

US stockbrokers have been hoping that 13,000 would provide enough confidence to draw some of that big pile of cash off the sidelines and back into the market. There was never going to be an enormous upside reaction to the Greek deal going through (witness the ASX 200 yesterday) given much anticipation had already been built into prices. As it was the Dow was up by 55 points by midday to just above 13,000 where it failed, regrouped, tried again, and failed again. It would be easy to assume that there was an element here of “sell the fact”, coupled with an element of profit-taking after a 20% rally.

This may be true, but floor representatives on the NYSE reported a pick-up in buying interest at 13,000, as hoped. Sellers, on the other hand, did not cite “sell the fact” but rather another slightly insidious factor – oil. Apparently when the West Texas price breached US$106/bbl last night the sellers stepped up the pace.

I believe there have been some recent warnings in this Report of oil’s sneaky move up of late in the shadow of European issues, and it’s potential implications.

Last night WTI closed up US92c to US$105.84/bbl while the “real” oil price (Brent) rose another US$1.42 to US$121.66/bbl. Clearly the easing of European fears, improvement in the US economy, and further monetary easing from Beijing all imply strength in the world’s most consumed commodity. But the ongoing cold war with Iran along with constant problems in Nigeria are adding a geopolitical premium which could continue to blow out. And all the while, North Sea oil reserves (Brent) decline.

We have also been distracted enough by Europe and the local result season to forget that the long-tailed US result season is still ongoing. Last night 10% of the Dow by capitalisation reported with Wal-Mart and Home Depot the most watched. Home Depot was close to the money but Wal-Mart disappointed enough to see its shares down over 4%. Wal-Mart is a big one-stop shop for US consumers and has lately been suffering the same problems as Woolies at home – too big and too successful recently with nowhere much to go. Clearly Wal-Mart earnings are impacted by the oil price which both tightens consumer budgets and also increases significant transport costs. In other words, the price of oil is now very much in the frame in the US.

The biggest positive reaction to the Greek bail-out came from London, where metal prices had been waiting for the US long weekend to end. Every metal was up 2-3%.

The euro did not make much more of a gain last night so the US dollar index finished up slightly at 79.09. Gold took off however, rising US$22.30 to US$1756.40/oz. Americans had not yet had a chance to respond to China’s monetary easing which adds to all the other easing going on around the globe, except in Australia. Forex markets must have taken yesterday’s RBA minutes as a signal another rate cut may yet be coming, so the Aussie is down just under a cent to US$1.0662.

US bond markets were not in any panic last night, with the ten-year yield up 4 basis points to 2.04%. The VIX volatility index actually rose last night (call buying?) to be just over 18.

The SPI Overnight traders were possibly hoping for a more positive response from Wall Street and hence have sold down the futures by 19 points or 0.4%.

There are loads of local earnings reports out today including Coca-Cola Amatil (CCL) and Woodside ((WPL)). Today also sees HSBC’s flash estimate of China’s February manufacturing PMI.


Greg Peel

About Greg Peel

Greg Peel joined Macquarie Bank in 1986 and acquired trading experience in equities, currency, fixed income and commodities derivatives, ultimately being appointed director of equity derivatives trading. He later published In With The Smart Money (a plain English guide to the mysterious world of financial markets and derivatives) and acted as a consultant to boutique investment funds. In 2004 Greg joined FNArena as a contributing writer. He is now a director and principal of the company. Greg compliments the journalistic background of the FNArena team with lengthy experience as a financial markets proprietary trader.

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