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Energy & precious metals – weekly review and outlook

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Energy & precious metals - weekly review and outlook
© Reuters. — It’s OPEC+ week ahead and we can expect the drone on how much higher crude prices can go to continue all week.

After a near 30% gain in the third quarter, it’s not surprising that the greed side of the market wants more.

The enablers of that on the production side of OPEC+ – Saudi Arabia and Russia – are, however, facing some challenges in growing the rally.

Already, India’s imports of Saudi oil in September are set to come in at below 500,000 barrels per day – the lowest monthly level in almost a decade – as global crude benchmark Brent peaked at nearly $98 from a March low of just above $70.

Also, the Saudis might have to ease production cuts in October – instead of adding to them – due to contractual obligations. Crude shipments from Saudi ports likely rose between 300,000 and 400,000 barrels per day last month from August – despite their so-called “lollypop cut” of one million barrels per day – and the trend might continue, noted in a roundup of market intelligence gathered from various sources.

The Saudis have also been quite restrained in adding to the Official Selling Price, or OSP, of their crude despite Brent’s runaway rally, that market roundup showed. Saudi Arabia’s medium sour crude grades were hiked by $0.10 per barrel each, moving Arab Light to a $3.60 per barrel premium vs Oman/Dubai. The only Saudi crude grade that saw a notable increase in October was Arab Super Light, a very rare condensate-like grade that sees 1-2 cargoes per month, which rose by $0.50 per barrel.

“In an environment like this, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company Saudi Aramco (TADAWUL:) was expected to hike Asian prices by a solid margin,” the OilPrice roundup said. “Surprisingly, the anticipated OSP increase did not happen.”

“Overall, the lack of pricing ambition reflected wider worries about the health of Chinese demand into the remaining months of 2023, as well as significantly lower Indian nominations lately.”

To Moscow’s benefit, India has begun buying Russian urals crude at around $80 per barrel – markedly higher than the $60 price cap set by the G7, but still lower than the flat price of Brent.

But Russia, which has committed to the Saudi production squeeze plan by announcing a 300,000-barrel per day cut of its own, is also under pressure to keep up with deliveries promised to customers.

Moscow recently eased its separate ban on fuel exports introduced to stabilize the domestic market. Analysts do not expect those restrictions to stay for long because they may hit refinery runs and impact relations with customers.

Turkey, Brazil, Morocco, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia were among the main destinations for Russian diesel this year, JPMorgan said in a note.

“(A) protracted export ban would negatively impact the relationship with the new customers that Russian oil companies have so painstakingly built over the last year and a half,” according to JPMorgan.

Even so, Russia has not discussed a possible crude oil supply increase to compensate for Moscow’s fuel exports ban with OPEC+, the Kremlin has said.

That communication might be made directly when the Russians and Saudis hold talks at the Oct. 4 meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

After having psyched the trade into believing their production cuts could go on indefinitely and against market reality, it would be important for neither side not to publicly admit anything to the contrary and work instead in keeping up the narrative they have created.

Oil: Market Settlements and Activity

Crude prices fell on the last trading day of September on growing uneasiness over how the world might cope in the coming months with exploding energy costs, even as the U.S. economy and inflation appeared to have escaped the worst of such impact right away. Those long oil also won big on the month and quarter, helped largely by chokes on Saudi and Russian supply.

New York-traded West Texas Intermediate, or , crude for delivery in November did a final trade of $90.77 per barrel on Friday after officially settling the season at $90.79, down 92 cents, or 1%, on the day.

While WTI fell on the day, it rose 0.8% on the week, resuming its rally from the end of August after a one-week hiatus last week. For the month, the U.S. crude benchmark rose 8.5%, making September its best since July’s gain of nearly 16%.

The July-September period, where WTI rose 26.5%, also marked the best quarter for the U.S. benchmark since the first three months of 2022. Then WTI traded as high as $130 a barrel as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine opened the way for Western sanctions on Moscow that began the long-running disruption in global commodity flows. Now, WTI is approaching triple-digit pricing again, reaching a 13-month high of $95.03 on Sept. 28.

London-traded for the most-active December contract did a final trade at $92.09, after officially settling at $92.20 a barrel, down 90 cents, or 1%, on the day. The global crude benchmark rose 0.3% on the week, 6.8% on the month and 23% for the quarter. The global crude benchmark reached a 13-month high of $95.35 on Sept. 28.

“After an amazing week, month and quarter, oil was ready for some profit-taking,” said Ed Moya, analyst at online trading platform OANDA. “Energy traders quickly realized this wasn’t the time for oil to rally above the $100 a barrel level, so they are cautiously locking in some profits.”

Oil prices have gained between $25 and $30 from May lows of beneath $64 for WTI and $72 for Brent. The rally was largely in response to cumulative production squeezes of at least 1.3 million barrels per day by Saudi Arabia and Russia. The two say they are trying to “balance” the market – though the reality is they are creating a supply deficit so great versus stagnant demand that prices would have no choice but to rise.

The two prime movers of OPEC+ – an alliance that bands the 13-member Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries with 10 independent oil producers steered by Russia – have also benefited from tacit collusion on output from U.S. oil producers.

While antitrust laws forbid U.S. energy companies from participating in OPEC-like schemes that are against the spirit of free-market competition, American oil firms, lured by the Saudi bent in getting a barrel back to above $100, have restrained production too whenever possible in the name of returning cash to shareholders.

Demand for U.S. crude has, meanwhile, exploded internationally as it begins to fill some pockets underserved by the Saudi-Russian squeeze. That has led to a plunge in inventory levels at the Cushing, Oklahoma hub that serves as a central delivery and storage point for U.S. crude. This is especially so with the pick up in shipments of a new U.S. crude grade called WTI Midland – which is comparable to the viscosity of the heavier Arab and Russian oils versus the typically light-grade that’s WTI.

OANDA’s Moya isn’t the only one who thinks the oil rally will have to cool with the global economy.

Reuters’ market analyst John Kemp says oil traders have placed so many bullish bets on crude prices that the trade has become overcrowded and was due for a correction. The ratio of bullish to bearish bets on oil and fuels had risen to almost 8:1, he said. According to Kemp, this is a sign that oil prices may start reversing their gains before too long.

Other analysts, however, anticipate even higher prices, with those at JP Morgan saying Brent could reach $150 per barrel.

But Wall Street’s forecasters are often too caught up in chasing a market one way that they ignore counteracting forces. And one of the bigger risks to the oil rally remains the Federal Reserve and its higher-for-longer regime for U.S. interest rates.

Fed Chair Powell told a news conference last week that energy-driven inflation was one of the central bank’s bigger concerns.

The Fed has raised interest rates 11 times between March 2022 and July 2023, adding a total of 5.25 percentage points to a prior base rate of just 0.25%. It could add another quarter point in November or December and more likely in 2024.

Oil: WTI Technical Outlook

WTI could be poised to go below $90 this week if some of the bearishness from the just-ended week stays, though jawboning by OPEC and market mania to buy every dip was likely to send the U.S. crude benchmark back towards recent highs, said Sunil Kumar Dixit, chief technical strategist at

“Concerns about higher interest rates ahead caused WTI a pullback of about $4 from 13-month highs to close the week with indecision, but fairly bullish on month/quarter,” noted Dixit.

“Going further, immediate support shifts to the 5-week EMA, or Exponential Moving Average, dynamically positioned at $89.50,’ he said. “A break below this support is likely to initiate a short-term correctional wave targeting 100 week SMA $86 which has turned into horizontal support.”

On the higher side, $96.10 remains as active resistance, Dixit added.

Gold: Market Settlements and Activity

Gold prices fell for a second quarter in a row after losses that began in August and held through September, underscored by the current week’s drop – the worst in more than two years.

Gold’s most-active futures contract on New York’s Comex, , did a final trade of $1,864.60 an ounce on Friday, after officially settling at $1,866.10, down $12.50, or 0.7% on the day. The benchmark for U.S. gold futures was down 4% for the week, its biggest weekly decline since a near 6% plunge during the week to June 11, 2021.

For the third quarter, the drop in Comex gold was around 3%, after declines of 2% in August and 5% in September that offset July’s gain of 4%. In the second quarter, gold futures fell almost 4%.

The , more closely watched by some traders than futures, settled at $1,848.73, versus the prior session’s settlement of $1,864.56. A week ago, spot gold settled at $1,924.99. At the close of June, it was at $1,919.57.

More significantly, gold gave up in September its hold on the key bullish level of $1,900 an ounce that the yellow metal had held since mid-August. That came after some investors found the dollar – the archrival to gold – a better safe haven as U.S. economic growth remained relatively superior to the rest of the world.

Gross domestic product in the United States grew 2.1% year-on-year in the second quarter, after 2.2% in the first. GDP is projected to expand 2.1% for all of 2023. The euro area economy, in contrast, is projected to grow just 0.7% this year.

Bond yields, dollar seen pressuring gold further despite retreat

But more than all these, gold was negatively impacted by a selloff in U.S. bonds that sent the dollar flying as investors chased yields.

Bond yields, benchmarked to the return on the note, hovered at just under 4.58 on Friday after reaching a 16-year high of nearly 4.69 on Thursday.

Gold is getting crushed here despite some calm in the bond market as investors pile back into equities. Real yields are not backing away anytime soon and that still has gold on the ropes.

The remained stubbornly at around 106 – adding to the weight on gold – after a 10-month high of 106.84 on Wednesday.

The dollar held up despite the latest inflation data that raised hopes that the Federal Reserve might extend its hold on interest rates at its November policy meeting. The Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) Index, a price gauge closely followed by the Fed, rose 0.4% last month, just below Wall Street expectations for a 0.5% rise.

Gold: Price Outlook

Dixit of SKCharting noted that last week’s loss in gold was one of the biggest in months, with futures losing $80 from $1,927 to settle at $1,846, as the dollar hit a 10-month high of 106.84.

“The reaction to the bullish dollar has been strong enough to push gold through major support levels that include the 50-week EMA of $1,899 and the 100-week SMA, or Simple Moving Average, of $1855, which aligns with the monthly Middle Bollinger Band,” said Dixit.

He said the daily time frame price action indicates gold has approached oversold conditions and the next major support was seen at the 200-week SMA of $1,812.

“A bounce back towards the support-turned-resistance zone is likely to start towards $1,855, above which sits the $1,885 and $1,900 resistance levels,” Dixit added.

Natural gas: Market Settlements and Activity

finished the last trading day of September down while posting weekly, monthly and even quarterly gains as the price of America’s favorite fuel for indoor heating and cooling neared the key psychological bullish $3 mark.

The most active November gas contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s Henry Hub did a final trade of $2.930 per mmBtu, or million metric British thermal units, after officially settling the session at $2.929 — down 1.6 cents, or 0.5% on the day.

For the week though, November gas rose 11%. For the month, it was up 5.8% while for the third quarter, it gained 4.7%.

“Window dressing by commodity funds and other entities with mandated monthly or quarterly reports and/or rebalance schedules may have played a role in the earlier selloff, as today is the final traded session with any meaningful liquidity prior to the beginning of Q4,” analysts at Gelber & Associates, a Houston-based energy trading advisory, said in a note to their clients.

“Also significant is [the] price’s proximity to the $3.00 level of resistance,” Gelber’s analysts said. “Prices reaching such significant levels can drive those with much longer-term price sensitivities to hedge, such as producers.”

This month’s breakout to near $3 pricing marks the third attempt by gas bulls to get the market to that pivotal point since its fall from a high of $4.40 in January. For most of the year, the most-active gas contract on the Henry Hub has been stuck at mid-$2 levels, hampered by benign weather that neither needed too much cooling or heating.

Record daily production, often crossing 100 billion cubic feet, or bcf, per day has been another problem.

A huge stockpile overhang had also depressed the market. As of the end of last week, U.S. gas in storage stood at 3.359 trillion cubic feet, up 13.4 from a year ago and 6% higher than the five-year average.

With fall season now having begun in the United States, forecasts of cooler weather in the coming weeks could lead to higher heating demand and change in the dynamics of gas storage and pricing, analysts say.

Natural gas: Price Outlook

Since mid-June, gas futures on Henry Hub have maintained stability above the Middle Bollinger Band, settling the current week on a strong bullish note, noted Dixit.

“Next on the higher side, we have $3.18 and $3.24 as key resistance, followed by the 50-week EMA $3.35 as a short-term challenge,” said Dixit. “Effective support is seen at the Weekly Middle Bollinger Band of $2.59. which has kept the positivity intact.”

But he also noted that the November contract had a runaway gap at $2.78 that was due for filling at some point and this could push it back towards support levels.

Disclaimer: Barani Krishnan does not hold positions in the commodities and securities he writes about.


Gold prices steady above $2,000 with nonfarm payrolls in focus

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Gold prices steady above $2,000 with nonfarm payrolls in focus
© Reuters – Gold prices moved little in Asian trade on Friday, sticking above key levels as markets awaited a potentially softer U.S. nonfarm payrolls reading, which comes just days before a Federal Reserve meeting. 

The yellow metal had raced to record highs at the beginning of the week, helped by a mix of rate cut bets and safe haven demand. 

But it had lost the record highs as abruptly as it had reached them, as traders locked in profits amid some uncertainty over U.S. monetary policy.

steadied at $2,030.26 an ounce, while expiring in February were flat at $2,046.05 an ounce by 01:17 ET (06:17 GMT). Both instruments had touched record highs above $2,100 an ounce on Monday, before swiftly reversing most gains.

Still, the yellow metal had now maintained the $2,000 an ounce level for nearly three weeks, indicating increased optimism over gold’s prospects in the coming months.

Nonfarm payrolls in sight, markets seek softer reading 

Focus was now squarely on data for November, due later on Friday.

The reading is expected to show further cooling in the labor market, after a drop in and data signaled some unwinding in the sector.

Any further cooling in the labor market gives the Federal Reserve less impetus to keep interest rates higher for longer-a scenario that benefits gold.

While the central bank is when it meets next week, its outlook on monetary policy, particularly on when it plans to begin trimming rates, remains uncertain. 

Bets that the were a key point of support for gold prices earlier this week. But traders scaled back those bets, given that the Fed has largely maintained its stance that rates will remain higher for longer. 

Still, the yellow metal may be poised for more strength in the coming months, especially if interest rates fall and global economic conditions deteriorate further.

A raft of recent economic readings from the U.S., Asia and the euro zone suggested that growth was set to cool in 2024.

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Factbox-Australia’s Woodside, Santos in talks for $53 billion oil-gas merger

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Factbox-Australia's Woodside, Santos in talks for $53 billion oil-gas merger
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: View of a model of carbon capture and storage designed by Santos Ltd, at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association conference in Brisbane, Australia May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Sonali Paul/File Photo/File Photo

(Reuters) – Australia energy companies Woodside (OTC:) and Santos Ltd said late on Thursday that they are in preliminary merger talks, in what could be the latest big deal in a wave of global consolidation the in oil and gas sector.

A potential combination of the companies, which together have a market value of about $52 billion, comes amid challenges faced by both in their domestic projects from Indigenous people as well as rising pressures of decarbonisation.

Both companies have seen their share performance lag global peers.


Woodside in October cut its its 2023 production outlook and missed third-quarter revenue estimates, while it was ordered by the Australian federal court to seek new approval to conduct seismic blasting under the seabed for its $12 billion Scarborough gas project after a legal challenge by an Indigenous woman.

Santos is contending with legal challenges from a traditional land owner from the Tiwi Islands on undersea pipeline works for its $3.6 billion Barossa gas project and has forecast lower output in 2024 as its Bayu-Undan gas field reached the end of its life and its West Australian offshore field’s output declined.

Below are key details on both companies, including production and reserves measured in million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe):

Woodside Santos

Market cap ($ in billion) 37.39 15.56

Revenue ($ in billion)

16.9 7.8


Production (mmboe) Domestic 136.6 61.3

International 21.1 41.9

Total 157.7 103.2

Proved plus probable reserves (mmboe) 3,640.3 1,745


Production forecasts (mmboe)

183-188 (2023) 84-90 (2024)



Woodside operates major liquefied (LNG) export facilities in Australia, including North West Shelf and Pluto LNG, and three floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) facilities in western Australia. The company also owns a stake in the Chevron-operated Wheatstone LNG project.

The company is involved in oil-gas joint ventures in the Bass strait and partners with Santos at Macedon, a gas field off western Australia. Woodside has been trying to sell ageing domestic oil and gas assets where production is declining and high decomissioning costs are required.

The company received approval for its Scarborough and Pluto Train 2 projects in Australia in 2021, with first LNG cargo expected in 2026.

Globally, Woodside operates in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico with three offshore platforms, as well as an offshore processing facility in Trinidad and Tobago.

In Senegal, Woodside is targeting first oil production at the Sangomar Field Development Phase 1 in 2024. Woodside has also made a final investment decision to develop the large, high-quality Trion resource in Mexico, with first oil output targeted for 2028.

Other Woodside projects include proposed hydrogen and ammonia projects H2Perth and H2TAS in Australia and another hydrogen project, H2OK, in North America.


Santos operates Gladstone LNG and holds a stake in Papua New Guinea LNG.

The company expects production at the Timor-Leste Bayu-Undan field to cease in 2025 and plans to backfill Darwin LNG with supply from the Barossa field.

Santos is the second-biggest producer of domestic gas in Western Australia and has invested in two offshore oil fields, Van Gogh and Pyrenees.

On the Australian east coast, Santos portfolio includes the Cooper and Eromanga Basins as well eastern Queensland production.

In the U.S., Santos is advancing its Pikka Phase 1 project in Alaska, expecting first oil production in 2026.


If the companies merge, they would have a 26% share of Australia’s east coast gas market.

Combined oil and gas production in 2022 for the two totaled slightly over 260 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe), and their total proven plus probable reserves are 5.39 billion mmboe, based on data from the companies.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said on Thursday it would consider whether a public merger review into the impact on competition was required if the deal goes ahead.

“Given ACCC’s focus on East Coast gas, we expect a (merged company) may be a forced seller of the Cooper Basin,” Macquarie bank analyst Mark Wiseman said in a note.

($1 = 1.5154 Australian dollars)

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Oil heads for seven week decline for first time in five years

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Oil heads for seven week decline for first time in five years
© Reuters. An aerial view shows an oil factory of Idemitsu Kosan Co. in Ichihara, east of Tokyo, Japan November 12, 2021, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Picture taken on November 12, 2021. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDE

By Paul Carsten

LONDON (Reuters) -Oil benchmarks were on track for a seven-week decline on Friday, their first in half a decade, on worries about a supply surplus and weak Chinese demand, though prices rebounded after Saudi Arabia and Russia lobbied OPEC+ members to join output cuts.

futures were up $1.51, or 2%, at $75.56 a barrel at 1234 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up $1.42, or 2%, to $70.76 a barrel. Brent had earlier risen by $2.

Both benchmarks slid to their lowest since late June in the previous session, a sign that many traders believe the market is oversupplied. Brent and WTI are also in contango, a market structure in which front-month prices trade at a discount to prices further out.

OPEC+’s “weakening position in providing support coupled with record high US production and sluggish Chinese import figures can only mean one thing: there is an abundance of oil available, which is neatly reflected in the contangoed structure of the two pivotal crude oil benchmarks,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM in a note.

Friday’s gains, meanwhile, are a “correction and nothing else,” Varga said.

Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s two biggest oil exporters, on Thursday called for all OPEC+ members to join an agreement on output cuts for the good of the global economy, only days after a fractious meeting of the producers’ club.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, agreed to a combined 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in output cuts for the first quarter of next year.

“Despite OPEC+ members’ pledges, we see total production from OPEC+ countries dropping by only 350,000 bpd from December 2023 into January 2024,” said Viktor Katona, lead crude analyst at Kpler.

Some members of OPEC+ may not adhere to their commitments due to muddied quota baselines and dependence on hydrocarbon revenues, Katona said.

Brent and WTI crude futures are on track to fall 4.2% and 4.5% for the week, respectively, their biggest losses in five weeks.

Fuelling the market’s downturn, Chinese customs data showed its crude oil imports in November fell 9% from a year earlier as high inventory levels, weak economic indicators and slowing orders from independent refiners weakened demand.

In the United States, output remained near record highs of more than 13 million bpd, U.S. Energy Information Administration data showed on Wednesday. [EIA/S]

The market is also looking for monetary policy cues from the official U.S. monthly job report due later today, which is expected to show November job growth improving and wages increasing moderately. That would cement views that the U.S. Federal Reserve is done raising interest rates this cycle.

In Nigeria, the Dangote oil refinery is set to receive its first cargo of 1 million barrels of crude oil later on Friday, the start of operations that, when fully running at 650,000 barrels a day, would turn the OPEC member into a net exporter of fuels after having been almost totally reliant on imports.

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