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Surging Energy Prices May Not Ease Until Next Year

By Andrea Pescatori, Martin Stuermer, and Nico Valckx Soaring natural gas prices are rippling through global energy markets—and other economic sectors…

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This article was originally published by IMF Blog

By Andrea Pescatori, Martin Stuermer, and Nico Valckx

Soaring natural gas prices are rippling through global energy markets—and other economic sectors from factories to utilities.

An unprecedented combination of factors is roiling world energy markets, rekindling the memories of the 1970s energy crisis and complicating an already uncertain outlook for inflation and the global economy.

Energy futures indicate that prices are likely to moderate in the coming months.

Spot prices for natural gas have more than quadrupled to record levels in Europe and Asia, and the persistence and global dimension of these price spikes are unprecedented. Typically, such moves are seasonal and localized. Asian prices, for example, saw a similar jump last year but those didn’t spill over with an associated similar rise in Europe.

Our expectation is that these prices will revert to more normal levels early next year when heating demand ebbs and supplies adjust. However, if prices stay high as they have been, this could begin to be a drag on global growth.

Meanwhile, ripple effects are being felt in coal and oil markets. Brent crude oil prices, the global benchmark, recently reached a seven-year high above $85 per barrel, as more buyers sought alternatives for heating and power generation amid already tight supplies. Coal, the nearest substitute, is in high demand as power plants turn to it more. This has pushed prices to the highest level since 2001, driving a rise in European carbon emission permit costs.

Bust, boom, and inadequate supply

Given this backdrop, it helps to look back to the start of the pandemic, when restrictions halted many activities across the global economy. This caused a collapse of energy consumption, leading energy companies to slash investment. However, consumption of natural gas rebounded fast—driven by industrial production, which accounts for about 20 percent of final natural gas consumption—boosting demand at a time when supplies were relatively low.

Energy supply, in fact, has reacted slowly to price signals due to labor shortages, maintenance backlogs, longer lead times for new projects, and lackluster interest from investors in fossil fuel energy companies. Natural gas production in the United States, for example, remains below precrisis levels. Production in the Netherlands and Norway is also down. And Europe’s biggest supplier, Russia, has recently slowed its shipments to the continent.

Weather has also exacerbated gas market imbalances. The Northern Hemisphere’s severe winter cold and summer heat boosted heating and cooling demand. Meanwhile, renewable power generation has been reduced in the United States and Brazil by droughts, which curbed hydropower output as reservoirs ran low, and in Northern Europe by below-average wind generation this summer and fall.

Coal supplies and inventories

While coal can help offset natural gas shortages, some of those supplies are also disrupted. Logistical and weather-related factors have crippled production from Australia to South Africa, while coal output in China, the world’s largest producer and consumer, has fallen amid emissions goals that disincentivize coal use and production in favor of renewables or gas.

In fact, Chinese coal stockpiles are at record lows, which increases the threat of winter fuel supply shortfalls for power plants. And in Europe, natural gas storage is below average ahead of winter, adding risk of more price increases as utilities compete for scarce resources before the arrival of cold weather.

Energy prices and inflation

Coal and natural gas prices tend to have less of an effect on consumer prices than oil because household electricity and natural gas bills are often regulated, and prices are more rigid. Even so, in the industrial sector, higher natural gas prices are confronting producers that rely on the fuel to make chemicals or fertilizers. These dynamics are particularly concerning as they are affecting already uncertain inflation prospects amid supply chain disruptions, rising food prices, and firming demand.

Should energy prices remain at current levels, the value of global fossil fuel production as a share of gross domestic product this year would rise from 4.1 percent (estimated in our July projection) to 4.7 percent. Next year, the share could be as high as 4.8 percent, up from a projected 3.75 percent in July. Assuming half of this increase in costs for oil, gas, and coal is due to reduced supply, this would represent a 0.3 percentage point reduction in global economic growth this year and about 0.5 percentage point next year.

Energy prices to normalize next year

While supply disruptions and price pressures pose unprecedented challenges for a world already grappling with an uneven pandemic recovery, the silver lining for policymakers is that the situation doesn’t compare to the early 1970s energy shock.

Back then, oil prices quadrupled, directly hitting household and business purchasing power and, eventually, causing a global recession. Nearly a half century later, given the less dominant role that coal and natural gas plays in the world’s economy, energy prices would need to rise much more significantly to cause such a dramatic shock.

Moreover, we expect natural gas prices to normalize by the second quarter as the end of winter in Europe and Asia eases seasonal pressures, as futures markets also indicate. Coal and crude oil prices are also likely to decline. However, uncertainty remains high and small demand shocks could trigger fresh price spikes.

Tough policy choices

That means central banks should look through price pressures from transitory energy supply shocks, but also be ready to act sooner—especially those with weaker monetary frameworks—if concrete risks of inflation expectations de-anchoring do materialize.

Governments should act to prevent power outages in the face of utilities curtailing generation if it becomes unprofitable. Blackouts, particularly in China, could dent chemical, steel, and manufacturing activity, adding to global supply-chain disruptions during a peak season for sales of consumer goods. Finally, as higher utility bills are regressive, support to low-income households can help mitigate the impact of the energy shock to the most vulnerable populations.

 

 

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Economics

Markets stay booster’ed

Equities rally continues US markets managed to maintain omicron is weak, buy everything rally overnight, albeit at a much less frenzied pace than the day…

Equities rally continues

US markets managed to maintain omicron is weak, buy everything rally overnight, albeit at a much less frenzied pace than the day before. That sits nicely with my V for Volatility outlook for December and readers should not be fooled into thinking the risks of whipsaw price have now disappeared. I’ll say it again, volatility will be the winner in December, not directional plays.

Having said that, I am not calling for the end of days for the 21-month stock market rally, merely that we can now expect a lot more two-way volatility going forward. A case in point is the Nasdaq, which has once again bounced off its mighty March 2020 trendline support and will probably be a classical technical analysis case study for years to come. Here’s what CFD from OANDA looks like, the actual physical chart is even sexier, and I’ll leave readers to draw the lines on that one themselves.

 

Another sign that we may need to wait for next week’s FOMC meeting to climb aboard the taper trade again comes from currency and bond markets. The Australian dollar, the risk sentiment indicator to rule them all, rallied powerfully overnight. Even the euro managed to recover, and the US dollar generally had a tough day at the office. That came as US 10-year yields rose back above 1.50% to 1.53%.

The divergence in price action is a warning sign for tomorrow night’s US CPI. It suggests that the street is positioned for a “risk-off” taper move. With the US 10-year rising around 20 basis points over the last few sessions, reversing recent losses, there may not be much juice in the tank at a 7.0% CPI print. Quid pro quo, US dollar selling and equity buying hint that a 7.0% CPI is increasingly priced in. We likely need to see a print much higher than 7.0% to revive the taper trade in the near term and it wouldn’t surprise me if an on-expectation CPI release sees US yields fall, the US dollar fall, and equities jump once again. Remember what I said about V for Volatility and whipsaw price action?

Helping things along, although with a gentler market impact, were comments from Pfizer and Moderna suggesting a third shoot would do the job against omicron. Given that the US and Europe can’t even get 65% of their populations to have even two shots, let alone a third, we can assume two things. Omicron will yet have a role to play in surging cases over the winter, and vaccine hoarding by rich countries will continue until 35% of their populations stop taking advice from social media and saying me, me, me, instead of we, we, we. That means that the poor in the rest of the world will be waiting longer, thus allowing a higher chance of more nasty variants to arise. And thus, the cycle continues, sigh…

Today’s data calendar in Asia is thin. New Zealand Manufacturing Sales in Q3 fell a dismal 6.20%, suffering from the Auckland Covid lockdown hangover. You can’t buy anything in New Zealand these days anyway; it’s either too expensive thanks to the RBNZ, or there’s none of it left thanks to Covid-19. The New Zealand dollar continues to underperform its Australian cousin, thanks to being another 2,250 kilometers (1,400 statute miles for non-decimal dinosaurs) east of Australia, and the RBNZ hitting the W for Wimp button at its last policy meeting.

On a brighter note, Japan’s Large Manufacturing Index QoQ for Q4 outperformed, rising by 7.90%. Some Q3 baseline effects are in there, but overall, it bodes well for next week’s Tankan survey and suggests that Japan is recovering after it Q3 delta wave. Services may have a more difficult time as the country shut its borders to Johnny Foreigner again this month.

China’s Inflation data has proved benign as well, giving regional markets a small sigh of relief. YoY Inflation for November rose to 2.30% (2.50% exp), while MoM Inflation rose by 0.40% (0.70% exp), giving markets a nil-all draw. That should provide more relief to local equity markets which despite the bad news pouring in from the property developer space this week, is taking their pleas for debt restructuring as meaning the government will facilitate “something.” At least Kaisa suspended trading of their stock in Hong Kong, I’m surprised Evergrande still is. A debt restructuring is not usually good for stock prices, even if they have already fallen by 90%.

The rest of the day’s calendar globally is second-tier. Some regional inflation measures from Europe and Germany’s Balance of Trade. The focus will be on US Initial Jobless Claim with markets hoping for sub-200k prints to resume. Overnight, US Jolts Job Openings for October jumped to 11 million unfilled jobs. That doesn’t really compute with US Non-Farms falling to 210,000, or even a Household Survey suggesting 1.1 million jobs, or unemployment falling to 4.20% with a 61.80% participation rate.

The Federal Reserve may have shot itself in the foot with its unlimited free money we’ll backstop the dumbest investment decisions monetary stimulus which should have been a short term “shock and awe,” and not a monetary Vietnam. Macroeconomics is a beautiful thing when the orchestra all plays in tune, but too often, sticking your finger in one leak sees another pop up nearby. By enriching substantially, any American who owns a home, crypto, a meme or any other stock, they have created a situation where people don’t have to go back to work or have retired. The inflation trade may waver this week, but don’t put it to bed just yet. If James Bond can return from his most diverse and politically correct movie ever (the end credits said he would), inflation sure can as well.







Author: Jeffrey Halley

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Economics

FT-IGM US Macroeconomists Survey for December

The FT-IGM US Macroeconomists survey is out (it was conducted over the weekend). The results are summarized here, and an FT article here (gated). Here’s…

The FT-IGM US Macroeconomists survey is out (it was conducted over the weekend). The results are summarized here, and an FT article here (gated). Here’s some of the results.

For GDP, assuming Q4 is as predicted in the November Survey of Professional Forecasters, we have the following picture.

Figure 1: GDP (black), potential GDP (gray), November Survey of Professional Forecasters (red), November SPF subtracting 1.5ppts in Q1, 05ppts in Q2 (blue), FT-IGM December survey (sky blue squares), all on log scale. FT-IGM GDP level assumes 2021Q4 growth rate equals SPF November forecast. NBER defined recession dates peak-to-trough shaded gray. Source: BEA 2021Q3 2nd release, Philadelphia Fed November SPF, FT-IGM December survey, and author’s calculations.

In the figure above, I’ve used the SPF forecast of 4.6% SAAR in 2021Q4; the Atlanta Fed’s nowcast as of yesterday (12/7) was 8.6% SAAR. A new nowcast comes out tomorrow.

Interestingly, q4/q4 median forecasted growth equals that implied by the Survey of Professional Forecasters November survey (which was taken nearly a month before news of the omicron variant came out).

The q4/q4 forecast distribution for 2022 is skewed, with the 90th percentile at 5% growth, the 10th percentile at 2.5%, and median at 3.5%. I show the corresponding implied levels of GDP (once again assuming 2021Q4 growth equals the SPF ).

Figure 2: GDP (black), November Survey of Professional Forecasters (red), FT-IGM December survey (sky blue squares), 90th percentile and 10th percentile implied levels (light blue +), my median forecast (green triangle), all on log scale. FT-IGM GDP level assumes 2021Q4 growth rate equals SPF November forecast. NBER defined recession dates peak-to-trough shaded gray. Source: BEA 2021Q3 2nd release, Philadelphia Fed November SPF, FT-IGM December survey, and author’s calculations.

On unemployment, the median forecast is for a deceleration in recovery,

Figure 3: Unemployment rate (black), November Survey of Professional Forecasters (red), FT-IGM December survey (sky blue square), 90th percentile and 10th percentile implied levels (light blue +), my median forecast (green triangle). NBER defined recession dates peak-to-trough shaded gray. Source: BEA 2021Q3 2nd release, Philadelphia Fed November SPF, FT-IGM December survey, and author’s calculations.

The survey respondents also think that the participation rate will take a long time to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Source: FT-IGM, December 2021 survey.

On inflation, the median is higher than the November SPF mean estimate for 2022 of 2.3% (and Goldman Sachs’ current estimate).

Source: FT-IGM, December 2021 survey.

The entire survey results are here.


Author: Menzie Chinn

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Economics

FT-IGM Survey for December

The FT-IGM survey is out (it was conducted over the weekend). The results are summarized here, and an FT article here (gated). Here’s some of the results….

The FT-IGM survey is out (it was conducted over the weekend). The results are summarized here, and an FT article here (gated). Here’s some of the results.

For GDP, assuming Q4 is as predicted in the November Survey of Professional Forecasters, we have the following picture.

Figure 1: GDP (black), potential GDP (gray), November Survey of Professional Forecasters (red), November SPF subtracting 1.5ppts in Q1, 05ppts in Q2 (teal), FT-IGM December survey (teal squares), all on log scale. FT-IGM GDP level assumes 2021Q4 growth rate equals SPF November forecast. NBER defined recession dates peak-to-trough shaded gray. Source: BEA 2021Q3 2nd release, Philadelphia Fed November SPF, FT-IGM December survey, and author’s calculations.

In the figure above, I’ve used the SPF forecast of 4.6% SAAR in 2021Q4; the Atlanta Fed’s nowcast as of yesterday (12/7) was 8.6% SAAR. A new nowcast comes out tomorrow.

Interestingly, q4/q4 median forecasted growth equals that implied by the Survey of Professional Forecasters November survey (which was taken nearly a month before news of the omicron variant came out).

The q4/q4 forecast distribution for 2022 is skewed, with the 90th percentile at 5% growth, the 10th percentile at 2.5%, and median at 3.5%. I show the corresponding implied levels of GDP (once again assuming 2021Q4 growth equals the SPF ).

Figure 2: GDP (black), November Survey of Professional Forecasters (red), FT-IGM December survey (teal squares), 90th percentile and 10tth percentile implied levels (blue +), my median forecast (green triangle), all on log scale. FT-IGM GDP level assumes 2021Q4 growth rate equals SPF November forecast. NBER defined recession dates peak-to-trough shaded gray. Source: BEA 2021Q3 2nd release, Philadelphia Fed November SPF, FT-IGM December survey, and author’s calculations.

On unemployment, the median forecast is for a deceleration in recovery,

Figure 3: Unemployment rate (black), November Survey of Professional Forecasters (red), FT-IGM December survey (teal square), 90th percentile and 10th percentile implied levels (blue +), my median forecast (green triangle). NBER defined recession dates peak-to-trough shaded gray. Source: BEA 2021Q3 2nd release, Philadelphia Fed November SPF, FT-IGM December survey, and author’s calculations.

The survey respondents also think that the participation rate will take a long time to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Source: FT-IGM, December 2021 survey.

On inflation, the median is higher than the November SPF mean estimate for 2022 of 2.3% (and Goldman Sachs’ current estimate).

Source: FT-IGM, December 2021 survey.

The entire survey results are here.


Author: Menzie Chinn

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