Commodity Corner

Views on commodities and energy

from Global Investing:

There’s oil in them thar wealth funds

Some interesting new data on sovereign wealth funds from State Street Global Advisors, a huge fund firm that does a lot of business with them. Most interesting, perhaps, is that the vast majority of sovereign wealth fund money comes from oil and gas revenues rather than from countries building up large foreign reserves from other trade, eg China.

    -- The U.S. firm identified 37 major sovereign wealth funds worth a total of $3 trillion. -- More than two-thirds, or 70 percent, of that money came from oil and gas interests. -- Of the 37, all had at least $3 billion in assets. -- Eight of them had more than $100 billion. -- Only 13 of the 37 funds were not based on commodity wealth. -- Asia had the largest number of SWFs at 13. -- The 10 funds based in the Middle East had nearly half the wealth, or 46 percent, between them.

These funds, incidentally, are becoming more like mainstream investment companies by the day. State Street says they are eventually going to turn into the equivalent of large public sector pension funds and could well start becoming more active as shareholders in companies in which they invest.

There’s room at the OPEC inn, but only for a price

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One of the many traditions of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is that the holder of the group’s rotating presidency should host one of the group’s policy-setting meetings, typically the last of the year.
While regular conferences at OPEC’s Vienna home are a relatively straightforward affair, taking the group offsite has a tendency to generate major logistical challenges.
Last year, the highest hurdle for journalists attending an Algerian-hosted meeting in Oran was getting a visa to travel there.
This year, a big theme of the Angolan conference taking place on Tuesday in Luanda has been where to stay in a capital of scarce and exorbitantly-priced hotels.
Some of the journalists have resorted to sharing rooms in guest houses, far from the action, meaning a long crawl through the city’s traffic jams before they can get any access to the story they have already flown thousands of miles to cover.
The ministers meanwhile are staying in Luanda’s most opulent and very newest hotel, the Hotel de Convencoes de Talatona, where the biggest concern is that the paint is not yet dry.
It was inaugurated on Friday, just in time to accommodate the ministers in return for some serious petrodollars. Prices range from $600 for a standard single room to $5,000 a night for the presidential suite or $3,500 for one of the hotel’s luxury villas. Across the road, many Angolans live in shacks they have built themselves.

from Global Investing:

It’s the dollar

Two graphs (from Scott Barber) to remind that what you get from assets depends on the currency:

from Environment Forum:

Calling Dr. Strangelove!

Perhaps you've heard about the Russian submarines patrolling international waters off the U.S. East Coast (if you haven't, take a look at a Reuters story about it) in what feels like an echo of the old Cold War. The Pentagon's not worried about this particular venture, but there are concerns from the U.S. energy industry about another Russian foray -- this one in concert with Cuba. In rhetoric that may ring a bell with anyone who saw the 1964 satirical nuclear-fear movie "Dr. Strangelove,"
the Washington-based Institute for Energy Research is sounding the alarm about a Russian-Cuban deal to drill for offshore oil near Florida.

"Russia, Communist Cuba Advance Offshore Energy Production Miles Off Florida's Coast," is the title on the institute's news release. Below that is the prescription for action: "Efforts Should Send Strong Message to Interior Dept. to Open OCS in Five-Year Plan." OCS stands for outer continental shelf, an area that was closed to oil drilling until the Bush administration opened it last year in a largely symbolic move aimed at driving down the sky-high gasoline prices of the Summer of 2008.

from MacroScope:

Running out of resources

Oil prices are more than double the December-February troughs and commodity prices generally are going up as the market cheers signs of an economic recovery.

Jeremy Grantham, chairman of U.S.-based money monager GMO, warns that the world is running out of resources in the long run yet is not correctly pricing the fact.

Oil Market Contango Widening

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0709-contango-fig-11The spread between front-month oil futures and contracts for later delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange (see Fig. 1) has widened dramatically this month. (See Fig. 2)0709-contango-fig-2The widening contango frequently portends a rise in inventories. For example, in Fig. 3, it can be seen that when the discount for fronth-month crude to second-month crude widened to near $4 a barrel earlier this year, inventories jumped to 19-year highs. The relationship between inventories and the outright futures price can be seen in Fig. 4. 0709-contango-fig-30709-contango-fig-41

from Summit Notebook:

No more green shoots, but lots of bottoms

From the start, "green shoots of recovery" was not necessarily the British government's wisest choice of words and after a few months of being on everyone's lips, has given way to a more lowly metaphor.
Business Minister Baroness Vadera raised the hackles of the political opposition in January when she spotted "a few green shoots" on a day of large-scale job losses and collapsing share prices.
Evidence of economic revival is still elusive, but there are ever louder hints that we have at least seen the worst -- or bottomed, to use the mot du jour.
Bottom as a noun and a verb was widely brandished by speakers attending Reuters Global Energy Summit this week, who based on their analysis on a slight increase in available credit, a tentative pick up in energy demand and rising commodity prices.
OPEC Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri has an interest in spotting the kind of confidence that has driven oil prices up from a low below $35 a barrel in December to almost double that.
"I have no doubt that the recession has bottomed out, but is it a V shape or a U shape?" he asked during a Reuters summit session.
Others were less convinced and the most bearish of them all was a representative of the very oversupplied tanker market, where freight rates have sunk to their lowest levels in decades, with not a green shoot in sight.
"We have seen lower than the bottom," said Erik Ranheim, a manager at oil tanker association Intertanko.

from LEGACY Reuters Summits:

The best geologists want to be in Tullow’s team

Tullow Oil is the Manchester United of the energy world -- at least when it comes to recruiting the finest talent.
The oil industry has long complained of the difficulty of recruiting enough highly-qualified staff, but as Europe's largest independent oil explorer by market value, Tullow says it is a magnet for all those geologists ambitious to add discovering a new field to their CVs.
"If you are successful, you will always attract... like everyone wants to play for Manchester United," Aidan Heavey, chief executive of Tullow Oil, told the Reuters Global Energy Summit.
Many oil companies, he said, have ceased exploring, partly because of a difficult financial climate, partly because of a lack of opportunities.
Tullow's exploration successes include major finds in Uganda and offshore Ghana.
Apart from snapping up the finest geologists, Tullow has also been busy grabbing credit. Heavey said banks had made available $2 billion in credit in March this year.
"It's a huge achievement in the current market," Heavey said. "It's probably soaked up most of the credit available for small oil companies."

from Summit Notebook:

OPEC’s special relationship with the U.S.

The United States may fondly dream of independence from imported oil, but it would do well to remember that the traffic is not one way.
OPEC Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri told the Reuters Global Energy Summit he had been hearing for years that the world's biggest oil consumer was seeking ways to avoid importing OPEC oil, but he was confident it would carry on burning fossil fuel for years to come.
"I am of an age when I can tell you I have been hearing this for the last 40 years," Badri said. "We will see another president, with two terms, before we see any change."
He also warned the U.S. it should be careful what it wished for.
"We would like to tell them they buy most of the resources of our member countries. We are sending them back more than 50 percent of that income to OECD countries, and the U.S. is one of them, to buy medicine, equipment, aeroplanes, spare parts, clothes."
"Don't forget the medicine," he added.

Correlation Between Oil and Equities Markets

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oil-vs-stock-market

Oil prices have been trading in an unusually strong positive correlation with equities markets over the past few months on hopes that signs of an economic recovery could mean a boost for energy demand.

But with oil and product inventories swelling and little sign of demand improving in the United States and other big developed economies, analysts warn that the linkage may be hard to maintain, especially if U.S. motorists cut back on vacations this summer.