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October 14 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

NIO, BYD Shares Hit Record on Wall Street Vote of Confidence

This article by Esha Dey for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Chinese electric carmaker NIO Inc. received confidence votes from at least two Wall Street analysts on Wednesday, after JPMorgan and Citi both upgraded their ratings on the stock.

While JPMorgan’s action was based on the expectation that the use of new-energy vehicles in China will quadruple by 2025 from last year’s levels, Citi pointed to multiple factors, including a very strong order backlog during the country’s Golden Week national holiday, an increase in NIO’s market share and a drop in battery costs.

JPMorgan analyst Nick Lai expects the penetration of new- energy vehicles in China to accelerate, jumping to 20% of the market by 2025 from less than 5% in 2019. Shifting customer preferences will help drive the trend, along with an expected drop in the cost of electric-car and battery production, the
analyst wrote in a note.
 

Eoin Treacy's view -

300 miles of ranges appears to be good enough for most investors. Whether that is the case for consumers is another question entirely. The practicality of daily life means 300 miles is probably enough 99% of the time but it also depends on ready access to charging facilities.



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October 08 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesla Lithium Foray Is Sign of Robust Demand, Top Producer Says

This article from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Rather than a threat to existing producers, Tesla Inc.’s push into lithium mining is a sign of future demand strength, according to the largest producer of the key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles.

“They’re kicking the industry in the pants,” Eric Norris, head of lithium at Albemarle Corp., said in an interview. “The market interpreted it as a strong signal of value erosion, but I view it differently. It’s a sign of what needs to come to drive the vision they have for 2030.”

Tesla’s foray into mining is at the center of the carmaker’s plan to cut battery costs and deliver on a promise to bring a $25,000 electric vehicle to market. Elon Musk told investors last month that Tesla has secured access to 10,000 acres of lithium-rich clay deposits in Nevada and planned to use a new, “very sustainable way” of extracting the metal. That news helped send lithium-producer shares tumbling, with Albemarle falling 16%, the the most on record.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Tesla has set an ambitious target of compressing battery manufacturing costs faster than any of its competitors. That means sourcing materials cheaply, redesigning the bed of the vehicles and taking over responsibility for manufacturing its own cells. It’s a couple of year project and represents the same kind of scale and expense as building the original Gigafactory did.



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October 06 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.S. Boosts Crude Sales to China, Forcing Saudis to Find Other Markets

This article from Dow Jones Newswire may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Earlier this year, China agreed to buy U.S. crude as part of a broader deal meant to ease rising trade tensions between the two world powers. The Trump administration agreed to cut some tariffs on Chinese goods in exchange for purchases of American farm, energy and manufacturing exports. ~

China's buying so far is a long way from fulfilling commitments made in that deal, and to some extent it is simply restoring crude flows that were cut off amid the earlier U.S.-China trade tensions. As part of a deal, Beijing agreed in January to buy $52.4 billion worth of oil and liquefied-natural-gas from the U.S. by the end of 2021. The buying was delayed by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, but has ratcheted up more recently.

“The Chinese had to catch up," said Petro-Logistics Chief Executive Daniel Gerber. That is now upending traditional oil-trade routes world-wide and further depressing some prices. Global prices have been hammered by falling demand caused by the pandemic.

Amid the new U.S. shipments to China, Saudi Arabia recently cut prices for its crude for buyers in Asia, a move that could make that oil more attractive to other regional buyers. It is also now resorting to storing unsold oil at home and overseas, including at depots in Egypt, Singapore and China. Saudi Arabia's domestic crude-oil inventories rose 7% to 81 million barrels in the two weeks to Sept. 20, a level not seen since June, said Paris-based commodities-analysis company Kayrros.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China has a significant energy deficit and that is not about to change in the next few years. In fact, assuming continued economic recovery it may widen significantly. At the other end of the spectrum the USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia has large quantities of oil and gas available for export. That pretty much ensures competition for end markets will remain active and explains why Russia and the USA remain at odds on a wide number of issues. 



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October 01 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Oil Drops in Wake of Stimulus Uncertainty and OPEC Supply Fears

This article by Andres Guerra Luz and Alex Longley for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Oil slid to a two-week low as conflicting signals over the prospect of U.S. fiscal relief added to concerns over rising supply from major global producers.

Futures in New York tumbled as much as 6.5% on Thursday as the dollar moved off session lows. The U.S. benchmark fell below its 100-day moving average and if futures close below the key technical level, it will signal further selling pressure ahead.

Chances for a much needed boost for demand remains uncertain, with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying there are still major differences to be bridged in the negotiations over a fiscal stimulus package. Meanwhile, investors are also concerned with the unexpected return of Libyan output and higher oil exports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Russian exports are also expected to increase.

Eoin Treacy's view -

$40 is not a high enough price to cover the costs of most oil producing nations. The ensures many OPEC members will continue to cheat on production goals and countries outside OPEC have an incentive to pump as much as possible too.



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September 30 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

After underperforming the stock market for years, alternative energy is red hot

This article by Debbie Carlson for Market Watch may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Energy-market watchers say what makes today different than 10 years ago, when interest in clean tech also was hot, is that these power sources are now economically viable as subsidies fall away.

Peter McNally, global lead for industrials, materials and energy at research firm Third Bridge, says aggressive investment by utilities in renewable energy has lowered the cost of clean tech and showed it was viable at scale. Just as utilities invested in natural gas 20 years ago at the expense of coal, they are now doing the same with alternative energy.

"Clean-tech businesses are starting to stand on their own, and I think they got a big boost from the utilities," he says.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Even though Joe Biden disavowed support for the green new deal in last night’s debate, that did nothing to hamper enthusiasm for the sector today. Part of the reason for that is its success is less dependent on political whim than it was a decade ago.



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September 25 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 23 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesla unveils battery puzzle pieces of smart material science, design, and manufacturing innovation

This article by Fred Lambert may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“Over the last few years, Tesla has been making a lot of moves related to batteries.

We are talking about buying companies like Maxwell and Hibar, and applying for patents on new technology, like a tabless battery cell and a cell to pack design.

While all these moves were mostly evaluated on their own merits, it wasn’t clear how all those things would fit together.

That’s exactly what Tesla demonstrated at its Battery Day.

Tesla explained how they have made major improvements in five key aspects of batteries:

Cell design, specifically form factor.
Battery cell factory design with manufacturing innovations
New anode materials
New cathode materials
New battery pack design

And then, by combining all these things together, Tesla achieves a battery cost breakthrough with a 56% reduction in cost per kWh:

What is most impressive is how all those innovations work together. Each result in an incremental improvement to battery technology, but if you combine them together, you get breakthrough-level performance and cost:

Eoin Treacy's view -

Tesla has the ambition to become a truly globally significant car company. The much-hyped battery day supplied a long list of potential solutions to achieve that goal. The challenge is what is being suggested is complicated to begin with and that is before the manufacturing headaches have been fully appreciated. Above all else building out cell manufacturing capacity to the scale suggested is going to be expensive.



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September 17 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Australia Unemployment Drops as Half of Jobs Lost Recovered

This article by Michael Heath may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The data’s strength was surprising because the period spanned Melbourne’s shift to Stage 4 restrictions and a curfew to contain a rapidly spreading outbreak, as well as nervousness in neighboring New South Wales that it was headed down the same path. The labor market’s ability to absorb this weakness and maintain its recovery is testament to the government’s signature JobKeeper employment subsidy -- that will extend into 2021 -- and central bank stimulus.

Self-employed workers drove the monthly jobs increase. As part-time jobs returned at twice the pace of full-time, the ubiquitous food delivery services, with its riders pedaling the streets of Australia’s cities, are expected to be responsible for much of this rise.

“The upshot is that the unemployment rate is now unlikely to climb to 8.5% over the coming months as we had anticipated, let alone the 10% predicted by the RBA and the Treasury,” said Marcel Thieliant, senior economist for Australia at Capital Economics. “Indeed, with restrictions in Victoria set to be loosened toward year-end, employment should continue to rise.”

The Reserve Bank of Australia, which has kept its benchmark interest rate near zero since March, when it began buying government bonds to ensure the yield on three-year remained around 0.25%, had predicted the jobless rate would climb to around 10% later this year.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Australia has successfully contained the coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne but the whole economy benefits from the monetary and fiscal stimulus to aid Victoria. With the RBA’s cash target rate at 0.25% Australia’s higher growth sectors that can benefit from access to abundant liquidity should continue to prosper.



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September 16 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

12 frightful slides before Halloween: Stocks boil and bubble, investors toil and trouble

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Stifel which contains a number of insightful charts and may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The long-term charts contained in this report are helpful from the perspective of an investor either looking to monitor the potential for a bubble to evolve in the tech sector or the potential for cycles to rebound from depressed levels as a global recovery takes hold.



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September 16 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bull Case for Chinese Commodities Enhanced by Stronger Yuan

This article from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Elsewhere, Shanghai is taking steps to promote hydrogen vehicles, with a plan to get 10,000 cars on the road by 2023. Just this week, Sinopec has flagged its intention to include hydrogen in retail fuel stations, while top vehicle-maker SAIC Motor said it’s accelerating its push into the alternative energy source.

And also in the news, Cargill has bought a new soy-processing plant in China as the nation’s pig herd recovers from the ravages of swine fever. Hog numbers expanded for the seventh consecutive month in August, signaling growing confidence among breeders, according to the farm ministry.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Hydrogen is the market which has long been promised but never really made it into commercial reality. The question today is whether all the good will in terms of investment in renewables and technological innovation can translate into reducing the cost of production to economic levels. The low price of natural gas is a big enabler but the green lobby won’t be happy until the process is fossil fuel free.

This report from Jeffries may be of interest. Here is a section:
 



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September 10 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Desert Mountain Energy Announces Significant Helium Percentages in Two New Wells In Arizona

This press release may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Based on normal accepted industry operation procedures, the company at this time and prior to further engineering and flow testing, would entertain a possible daily flow rate of between 4,100 and 5,600 MCFGPD based on aggregated production from both wells. The Company has compared these wells to the closest established and documented helium production located approximately 35 miles NE in the Pinta Dome Field.  Note: Desert Mountain Energy’s wells have been completed in members of the Pennsylvanian-aged Formations which are lower in depth than the helium productive Permian-aged Coconino Formation found at Pinta Dome (AZOGCC archives).  Production comparisons with a number of wells from the prolific Pinta Dome Field, specifically the Kerr-McGee Barfoot State#1, clearly shows that large artificial formation stimulation was not required to exceed the original projected calculated reserves by over 500%, over a 13-year production life (Olukoga 2016, AZOGCC Barfoot #1 well files).

Eoin Treacy's view -

There have been a number of articles over the last couple of years about the lack of new supply for helium, against a background of continued strong demand growth. Here is a link to an article from Forbes, dated April 2019, making a number of points about supply inelasticity meets rising demand. 



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September 04 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tenth Annual Energy Paper

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from JPMorgan which may be of interest. Here is a section:

We expect some of the “base” decline from existing shale wells to be replaced by new wells; the harder question is by how much. Operating and development costs have declined, well productivity has improved and there are large sunk costs in Appalachia (i.e., lease agreement options) that may compel many producers to keep drilling irrespective of lifecycle economics. Furthermore, if the onshore shale boom fades, we might see a revival of US offshore oil & gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. US oil production is also very sensitive to price: $55-$65 oil prices could add 1-3 mm bpd to US production when compared with JP Morgan’s $40 base case WTI price forecast. Even so, the US may now be close to peak oil and natural gas production and peak energy independence given financial pressures on the shale industry, and environmental pressures discussed next.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

This report is laden with interesting graphics and statistics which highlight the challenges of developing renewable as well conventional and unconventional energy solutions. The correlation between renewable stocks and oil prices broke down late last year. That was a meaningful event and suggested the market has moved on from thinking of renewables solely in terms of cost competition with oil. That implies an alternative set of metrics is now be used to value the sector.



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September 02 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on uranium pricing

Your ticker UXA1 COMB Comdty has not refreshed for a few days. Could you please look into this? Thanks

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question. Here is the response I received from Bloomberg because it was not updating on their system either.

“There is no open interest on the current active contract, UXAU0 Comdty. The exchange only provides a daily settle price if there is open interest. Once there is a trade for the September contract, it will have open interest, and it will receive a daily settlement price.”

Reliable uranium pricing data is difficult to find. The 4th month continuation contract traded two contracts in September so far. I’m not going to change the ticker to address this because it would mess with the back history. The original uranium price ticker from Metals Bulletin, which had history back to 1996, stopped updating in 2017. That’s when I introduced the futures traded price. No other measure is reliable or up to date either because it is an extremely illiquid market.



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August 28 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Wind Turbine Behemoth Plans for Future by Getting Into Hydrogen

This article by William Mathis and Laura Millan Lombrana for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

It could be a compelling model. Danish utility Orsted A/S is already exploring a number of hydrogen projects for its wind farms and Royal Dutch Shell Plc plans to produce the gas from a park it’s going to build off the Dutch coast. Making and selling hydrogen could provide a new source of revenue for wind projects that would offset the risk in the sometimes volatile electricity market.

No one before has used wind power alone, without a grid connection, to produce hydrogen, Nauen said. It’s a project that will provide insight that could be crucial to scaling up the technology to much larger turbines and wind farms both on land and at sea.

Earlier this year, Siemens Gamesa announced plans to build a 14-megawatt offshore turbine with a rotor diameter of 222 meters (728 feet), a few meters larger than the previous record.

The company expects to conduct testing at the hydrogen pilot from October to December and then start hydrogen production in January. A Danish hydrogen fuel company called Everfuel will distribute the gas for vehicles including taxis and buses to use in Copenhagen.

European governments aim to spend billions of dollars to help nurture domestic industries to produce hydrogen. The funding could help scale production and bring down costs.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Europe and Japan’s legacy automotive sector has been developing hydrogen fuel cells for decades with little to show for the investment. There was never a catalyst to spur the change from reliable internal combustion engines. The clean diesel scandal and competition from battery-driven alternatives has forced these companies to do something; anything. They don’t have experience with battery innovation but they have been developing hydrogen for a long time.



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August 26 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on electric vehicles.

I really love your audio comments every day and I think they are very useful. Commenting on the EV mania that is on lately...I don't understand why people are so crazy about tesla enc... at the moment the batteries don't last for a long time and when an EV car catches fire, this fire is unstoppable, a safety problem where nobody ever talks about. On top of that, the power grid of older city centers are not equipped to charge an EV... so where is the point in buying one?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email and I am delighted you are enjoying the audios. The charging question is a big one in cities. I called around yesterday to get quotes to install a charging station. They ranged from $700 to $985 before labour. The majority of US houses run on 110 volts and an EV needs 220V to charge in a timely manner. That requires an additional breaker at the fuse box and running cables to where you wish to charge the vehicle. Besides the cost, that is not an option for people who live in apartments. It would require a big expensive communal decision to install chargers in an apartment building.



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August 26 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on a layman's description of nuclear batteries.

I suddenly seem to be bombarding you with communications, after years in the wilderness.    Don't worry, this will only be a brief interlude, I am sure.

   I just wanted to comment on the extract on "nano-diamond self-charging batteries" that you publish today.

I read Loz Blain's whole article, and it seems a very important development indeed.   But in keeping with all articles on technology for the "layman", the story doesn't start at the beginning, but begins a bit down the down the road, and soon focusses on the applications alone.    This applies even more to your extract.

I feel that this patronises the reader unnecessarily.    The average reader should be able to understand a brief well-structured explanation that starts from the beginning.   (This objection applies even more to articles on Covid-19 -- but that is another story.   In that case, I don't believe any politicians, or even some of their scientific advisers, have any real grasp of the subject.)

Re. the batteries, we have to start from the energy source.   There are only 3 (or maybe 4) energy sources:-    Radiation (sunlight), Chemical energy (in fossil fuels, wood etc.) and Nuclear energy (stored in the nuclei of all atoms, and released from the unstable ones).    The 4th source would be Gravitational (hydro-electric power, tidal, possibly wave).
 

The source in nano-diamond is nuclear, but the products (nitrogen gas) are harmless, and the beta radiation is contained (or so they claim).    The beta radiation (carrying the nuclear energy as kinetic energy) then transfers its energy to electrons, and creates the voltage.

The prefix nano is jargon which could be avoided - it simply means "using minute quantities of material", or possibly "operating with minute quantities of material at a time (i.e. on a very small scale), within a larger structure".    (This is what is happening in living things, and thus in the cells of our bodies, 24/7.     Man has only just caught up with this technology, in a rudimentary manner.)
 

"Self-charging" is superfluous and confusing.     I suppose it means that electricity is being continually formed from the nuclear energy store.    But this is equally true of a conventional battery;  the energy in that case is chemical, and there is far less than in the carbon-14 nuclei in nano-diamond batteries.

The carbon-14 is nuclear waste - from the used graphite (graphite is a form of carbon) "moderator" blocks from the cores of nuclear power stations, of which there is a huge store apparently.

Well it seems to me that if just 10 or so lines from what I have given above were used, that would be understandable to the average reader, and give them a good working knowledge.     (You may be interested to know, or probably already suspected, that I tutor A level physics and chemistry.   My great passion is communicating these matters clearly.   Granted, it is a great help if the reader has some facility in handling spatial ideas, but that applies to so many technical areas.)

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this informative explanation which I’m sure will be of interest to the Collective. I’m sure your students benefit greatly from the clarity your provide.



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August 25 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Nano-diamond self-charging batteries could disrupt energy as we know it

This article by Loz Blain for NewAtlast.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

And it can scale up to electric vehicle sizes and beyond, offering superb power density in a battery pack that is projected to last as long as 90 years in that application – something that could be pulled out of your old car and put into a new one. If part of a cell fails, the active nano diamond part can be recycled into another cell, and once they reach the end of their lifespan – which could be up to 28,000 years for a low-powered sensor that might, for example, be used on a satellite – they leave nothing but "harmless by-products."

In the words of Dr. John Shawe-Taylor, UNESCO Chair and University College London Professor: “NDB has the potential to solve the major global issue of carbon emissions in one stroke without the expensive infrastructure
projects, energy transportation costs, or negative environmental impacts associated with alternate solutions such as carbon capture at fossil fuel power stations, hydroelectric plants, turbines, or nuclear power stations. Their technology’s ability to deliver energy over very long periods of time without the need for recharging, refueling, or servicing puts them in an ideal position to tackle the world’s energy requirements through a distributed solution with close to zero environmental impact and energy transportation costs.”

Indeed, the NDB battery offers an outstanding 24-hour energy proposition for off-grid living, and the NDB team is adamant that it wishes to devote a percentage of its time to providing it to needy remote communities as a charity service with the support of some of the company's business customers.

Should the company chew right through the world's full supply of carbon-14 nuclear waste – a prospect that would take some extremely serious volume – NDB says it can create its own carbon-14 raw material simply and cost-effectively.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I don’t know if the promises being made by this start-up are realisable in the two-year timeframe they anticipate. However, we do need to pay attention to these kind of technological advances because of the productivity enhancement potential they represent. Secular bull markets are driven by productivity growth. Therefore, anything that has the potential to allow us to do more with less has to be given due consideration because of the growth opportunities they offer.



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August 24 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesla resale values

This graphic from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers:


It’s early, but there are signs Tesla Inc.’s Model 3 could be as exceptional in the used market as it has been in the new-car world. The sedan has sold at volumes no other electric vehicle has come close to reaching, turning Tesla into the most valuable auto company in the world. Car-shopping websites still have small sample sizes to work with, yet so far, the Model 3s are retaining much more of their value than their small luxury-vehicle peers and they’re selling quickly once owners list them for sale -- on average just 29.3 days from March through June -- according to iSeeCars.com.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I took a test drive of a Model 3 and a Model Y on Saturday. It’s a pleasant experience. The acceleration, as reported, leaves every petrol driven car in the dust. For that reason, Tesla makes a big point of differentiating it product offering based on 0-60 times. I can’t fathom how anyone can really tell the difference between 3 and 4 seconds to 60 miles an hour in a city like Los Angeles where speeds of 30 miles an hour are the norm outside of the lockdowns.



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August 21 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on risk appetites and the value of a subscription.

I am a pre-subscriber (financial constraints, exacerbated since Covid-19, make it impossible for me to become a full subscriber, I'm afraid, so I may not qualify for a reply. But David did reply to me on more than one occasion;  he was always so kind, and is greatly missed).

I remember your being on the panel at a money show in the conference centre in Westminster Square (I forget the name - possible Westminster Conference Centre) - it must have been about 2009 because I remember asking a question as to whether there were any "good" banks left that might be worth investing in.
  
Anyhow, in response to a question from another attendee about companies drilling for water in Australia, (or possibly into wind power or solar or even lithium miners (if it wasn't too early) - I forget exactly which), I remember you replying that you never favoured chasing these early-stage stories, and in general you have been proved right since.   

I still tend to class hydrogen fuel and battery power for vehicles in the same category, but perhaps you feel that times have changed sufficiently now?    Since I am only a pre-subscriber, and not able to read the full article, I appreciate that you may have said more on this there, or in previous Comments of the Day.
    
It seems to me that since hydrogen when mixed with oxygen is a very explosive mix (although this could also be said to a lesser extent of petrol vapour, I suppose), it would only take one careless mistake or faulty construction to cause a serious explosion.   But perhaps the design features are so tight that this would be impossible.   

At least I would trust an electric vehicle more than a self-driving one! In fact, I am a bit nervous by nature. I would never trust a Toyota now, after that stuck accelerator pedal caused a fatality. What the last minutes of those poor occupants were like I cannot face thinking about.

Whether it is possible to reply to this or not, many thanks Eoin for the comments that I am able to read daily. They give a very sane and reassuring perspective, especially in these difficult times.

Eoin Treacy's view -

David always saw value in conducting a public discourse with subscribers because it helped to educate us as much as the Collective. It also ensures we are covering topics of interest. I agree and one of the things I enjoy most is attempting to provide satisfactory answers to subscriber’ queries. However, as someone who has been familiar with the Service for at least 11 years, might I suggest you at least take a trial subscription?

If that is too much of a financial constraint it may be time to reassess your investment/trading ambitions. Investing involves a degree of risk. If you are uncomfortable with driving a Prius because of a fault corrected more than a decade ago, it might be time to conclude investing is not for you.

The response to this email continues in the Subscriber's Area. 



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August 20 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ballard Power Gets Stock Upgrade as Hydrogen Vehicles Gain Steam

This article by Divya Baljifor Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Ballard Power, one of Canada’s best-performing stocks this year, just got an analyst upgrade as
governments and vehicle manufacturers around the world push for the development of battery and hydrogen vehicles. BLDP fell as much as 9.5% intraday Thursday in Toronto.

* Stock raised to outperform from sector perform, PT increased to C$20 from C$18 by National Bank of Canada analyst Rupert Merer

* Ballard is in discussions with potential partners in Europe and could form a joint venture with a top-tier supplier; China could have a detailed hydrogen plan come soon, targeting one million hydrogen vehicles by 2030

* Merer sees a number of positive catalysts this year and the stock is still well priced compared with its peers

* Ballard is up more than 110% this year, making it the fourth best performing Canadian stock, vs the S&P/TSX Composite Index’s 2.7% decline

* NOTE: July 29, Fuel-Cell Firm Stages Comeback 20 Years Later With Help of China

Eoin Treacy's view -

I’ve created a reasonably complete list of companies from all over the world focusing on the hydrogen/fuel cell sector in the Chart Library.

Weichai Power has been extremely active in buying up rights to use and commercialise fuel cell technology developed in Europe and North America over the last few decades. The sector has never gotten off the ground because it was not economically feasible and there was not real incentive to try it out. That is now changing.

Some of the factors combining to support the trend include:  



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August 18 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

GM Shares Soar on Electric-Vehicle Spin-Off Speculation

This article by David Welch for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

GM does plan to sell more than 20 EV models around 2023. That business could be spun off for $20 billion and eventually be worth as much as $100 billion, Deutsche Bank’s Rosner said. GM’s core business selling gasoline-powered sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks is generating cash but viewed as being in long-term decline and is less exciting to investors than the company’s electric-car plans, he wrote.

Despite the share gains this week, the Detroit-based automaker’s stock is down about 17% so far this year while all-electric rival Tesla Inc.’s value is eight times that of GM. By spinning off its EV business, GM could get the kind of momentum enjoyed by Tesla and a handful of startups that have lured capital despite their having no vehicles on the market.

Battery-powered cars have caught the imagination of investors in recent weeks, sending shares of Tesla to successive record levels and boosting the value of electric startups such as Nikola Inc., Fisker Inc. and Lordstown Motors Corp., all of which took a fast track chasing public listings after being acquired by special purpose acquisition companies.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The entire automotive supply chain has concluded there is no future in internal combustion engines. Not only are battery costs coming down and efficiency improving but the regulatory environment continues to squeeze traditional manufacturers.



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August 17 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Black silicon photodetector hits record-breaking 132% efficiency

This article by Michael Irving for NewAtlas may be of interest to subscribers.

Together, these advances made for a device with 130-percent external quantum efficiency. The team even had these results independently verified by the German National Metrology Institute, Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB).

The researchers say that this record efficiency could improve the performance of basically any photodetector, including solar cells and other light sensors, and that the new detectors are already being manufactured for commercial use.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The efficiency of solar cells has been improving steadily for the last forty years. The capital poured into the renewables sector following the collapse in interest rates a decade ago, has been the catalyst to greatly enhance the speed with which efficiency gains are being delivered.



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August 14 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Platinum Quarterly Presentation Q1 2020

This report carries a great deal of relevant information for the platinum market. Here is a section:

Automotive demand down only 17% (-132 koz) YoY despite a 24% fall in Q1 light global vehicle sales

Tightening global emissions standards, driving higher pgm loadings, partially counters lower auto sales/production

W. Europe diesel share decline slowed on increased diesel sales

Diesel vehicles still key for automakers to avoid or reduce heavy CO2 fines

German diesel car market share continued to recover (Q1’20 average 35%, up 1.3% over 2019 average)

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

It’s easy to think that diesel is a dead fuel but sales still continue. The damage to consumer confidence may, however, be impossible to overcome. That is creating a new market for transportation alternatives. 



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August 13 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Changes in the global value of ecosystem services

This report from Elsevier may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

3. Valuation is not privatization It is a misconception to assume that valuing ecosystem services in monetary units is the same as privatizing them or commodifying them for trade in private markets (Costanza, 2006; Costanza et al., 2012; McCauley, 2006; Monbiot, 2012). Most ecosystem services are public goods (non-rival and non-excludable) or common pool resources (rival but non-excludable), which means that privatization and conventional markets work poorly, if at all. In addition, the non-market values estimated for these ecosystem services often relate more to use or non-use values rather than exchange values (Daly, 1998). Nevertheless, knowing the value of ecosystem services is helpful for their effective management, which in some cases can include economic incentives, such as those used in successful systems of payment for these services (Farley and Costanza, 2010). In addition, it is important to note that valuation is unavoidable. We already value ecosystems and their services every time we make a decision involving trade-offs concerning them. The problem is that the valuation is implicit in the decision and hidden from view. Improved transparency about the valuation of ecosystem services (while recognizing the uncertainties and limitations) can only help to make better decisions.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Assigning a value to the natural world is at once both helpful and also deeply concerning. On the one hand it helps to ascribe a value to the benefit each of us receives from the place we call home, the air we breath and the water we drink. These are often factors we take for granted, but we are increasingly being re-educated to think of the unnatural way in which these gifts have been distributed.



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August 12 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on returning customers

Dear Eoin and team, I would like to thank you very much for the big difference you have made to my confidence in advising my clients, since I re-joined the service. If only I could find a way of explaining the benefit to my professional contacts! All the very best

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and welcome back. The one thing I would highlight for prospective subscribers is that in the evolving global tapestry of events, some big picture perspective is likely to be beneficial.



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August 06 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Natural Resource Market Commentary

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Geohring and Rozencwajg which takes an iconoclastic view on the outlook for oil. Here is a section:   

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Financial discipline has been imposed on the shale drillers so they no longer have endless supplies of cash to fund expansive drilling programs. Investors have, for the last few years, only been willing to support the most lucrative of potential operations. That has resulted in the best and most accessible resources being drilled as companies sought to achieve economic costs of production.



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August 05 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Shale Driller Devon to Pay Biggest Dividend In Its History

This article by Joe Carroll and Rachel Adams-Heard for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The debt buybacks will target an amount equivalent to about half of Devon’s outstanding net debt, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Devon stock was the best performer in the S&P 500 Index, rising 7.8% to $11.95 at 9:33 a.m. in New York after earlier climbing 8.3%.

Devon’s special payout and debt-reduction targets are the most aggressive efforts yet as shale explorers grapple with a virus-induced demand collapse and tumbling energy prices.

“These shareholder-friendly initiatives demonstrate our commitment to a new E&P business model, which moderates growth, emphasizes capital efficiencies, generates free cash flow and returns increasing amounts of cash directly to our shareholders,” Devon Chief Executive Officer Dave Hager said in the statement.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Instilling financial discipline on rapacious appetite for expansion at any cost is part of the ebb and flow of a commodity bull and bear markets. The gold mining sector went through exactly the same rationalisation process and it created healthier companies.



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August 03 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Baupost Group Letter

Thanks to a subscriber for this letter by Seth Klarman and team. Here is a section focusing on appetite for risk:

Fed policy has been magnificently successful in achieving its objectives not only of lifting securities prices but also of altering investor behavior. The Fed wanted to influence buyers of securities to be bolder in their pursuit of return. The head of a major pension fund recently authored a piece describing how the fund had responded to lofty markets and low yields on safe debt instruments. Their reaction was not to lower the fund’s currently aggressive 7% risk-adjusted return objective to a more realistic threshold, but instead to direct more assets into “lower volatility” private investments while leveraging the portfolio. Private investments, of course, have the same underlying risk and inherent volatility as public investments – though because they are not publicly traded, their intermittent and privately determined appraisals may make them appear to be less volatile. And as for the choice to leverage up, we can only note that leverage is a double-edged sword that enhances returns in good times while sinking them in down markets. If markets falter, this fund will have not solved its problems but rather have multiplied them.  

Eoin Treacy's view -

Pension funds, life insurance companies and other firms with predictable future outlays are in a difficult position. If they do not take on additional risk, they will certainly not be able to meet their obligations. Alternatively, if they do take on additional risks, they might be able to reach their goals. However, that chance at success comes with the implied understanding that the alternative is financial oblivion.



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July 30 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Conoco Plunge Shows U.S. Oil Struggling to Exit Crisis Mode

This article by Kevin Crowley for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

On the bright side, Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance said he’s encouraged by low premiums for shale acquisitions, citing Chevron’s recent agreement to buy Noble Energy.

When asked if Conoco also looked into buying Noble, Lance said “we did look,” but he was worried that Noble’s Israel assets might have been the source of political tension, since Conoco operates in other areas of the Middle East.

“The gem is certainly the Middle Eastern gas position,” he said. “With some of the other things we’re doing in the Middle East, that creates maybe a little bit of an issue and problem for us politically.”

Conoco’s earnings miss followed reports from three shale-focused explorers on Wednesday that signaled a grim rest of 2020 for the broader U.S. oil industry. QEP Resources Inc. cut its production outlook, WPX Energy Inc. further reduced its capital spending budget, while Concho Resources Inc. stuck with plans to keep crude volumes flat from 2019 levels, ending years of growth.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Bankruptcies in the oil patch are likely to continue to trend higher because so many projects have break-evens in the $60 area. That is creating buying opportunities for the majors and the chance to rationalise the onshore domestic US production landscape. That will be necessary in order to survive because global demand will take time to recover from the virus hiatus.



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July 28 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Once-Unpopular Carbon Credits Emerge as One of the World's Best Investments

This article from the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“It’s attracting hedge-fund speculators,” said Norbert Rücker, head of economics at Swiss private bank Julius Baer. “With this move, carbon has really come back to life this year and it’s attracted a lot of interest—we have clients reaching out to us asking about it.”

The resurgence in carbon-credit prices began in mid-2017 when EU policy makers agreed to sharply reduce the number of available credits. That has pushed up prices and allowed the carbon market to help fulfill its purpose of punishing excess polluters. With the market set up to constrict credit supply, prices should rise further still, analysts say.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The success of Tesla, in gaming the carbon credit system to its advantage, has woken the rest of the globe up to the possibilities government sponsored markets hold.



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July 23 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesla's $200 Billion Question Remains Unanswered

This article by Chris Bryant for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

And yet the earnings call — where Musk has in the past ranted about “fascist” virus lockdowns and attacked analysts for asking “boring, bonehead” questions — was a bit of a snooze. It even featured a long discussion about insurance and Musk’s appreciation for the actuarial profession.

In the current economic environment, such steadiness is an achievement. Most car companies will probably suffer huge losses because of the recent closures of factories and showrooms, even if things won’t be quite as bad as feared initially. By contrast, Tesla reported $104 million of net income in the April to June period, bringing its total profit over the past four quarters to $368 million.

Still, these are modest amounts for a company that’s valued at an inexplicable 800 times trailing earnings, giving it a $295 billion market capitalization. 

The profits are also more than accounted for by $1 billion of regulatory credits that Tesla sold to other carmakers during the 12 months to June, including $428 million in the latest quarter. It’s only able to earn this income because rivals haven’t gotten their act together yet on building enough electric vehicles and have to buy credits from Musk’s company to satisfy emissions regulators. Tesla acknowledges this good fortune won’t last forever.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Without clear support from green regulations the company would be incapable of generating a profit. That effectively means Tesla’s competitors are being forced to fund its expansion. It’s an odd situation which runs contrary to the basic conditions of capitalism, but it is the reality provided by the market. It’s part of Elon Musk’s genius that he realised that fact before everyone else.



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July 22 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Big Cycle of the United States and the Dollar, Part 2

This latest chapter of Ray Dalio’s book includes a number of interesting titbits to chew over. Here is a section:

The US dollar accounts for over 50% of reserves held and has unwaveringly remained the primary reserve currency since 1945, especially after it replaced gold as the most-held reserve asset after there was a move to a fiat monetary system.  European currencies have remained steady at 20-25% since the late 1970s, the yen and sterling are around 5%, and the Chinese RMB is only 2%, which is far below its share of world trade and world economic size, for reasons we will delve into in the Chinese section of this book.  As has been the case with the Dutch guilder and the British pound, the status of the US dollar has significantly lagged and is significantly greater than other measures of its power.

That means that if the US dollar were to lose its reserve status and significantly depreciate in value it would have a devastating effect on the finances of those countries holding those reserves as well as private-sector holders of dollar-debt assets.  Who would be the winners?  Those with dollar-debt liabilities and those with non-dollar assets would be the big winners.  In the concluding chapter, “The Future,” we will explore what such a shift might look like. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The massive increase in the supply of currency since the end of the quantitative tightening regime last year is a headwind for the US Dollar. The fact the monetary and fiscal assistance programs deployed by the USA are much larger than in other countries is certainly a near-term headwind for the Dollar but the big question is whether this is a secular change?



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July 21 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Frackers Are in Crisis, Endangering America's Energy Renaissance

This article by Bryan Gruley, Kevin Crowley, Rachel Adams-Heard and David Wethe for Bloomberg. Here is a section:

Texas oil people who’ve lived through past busts remain resolute. This spring the Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates the oil industry, considered limiting crude production in the hope of bolstering prices amid the Saudi-Russia price war. Some Texans reacted with disdain. “Texas, out of all states, represents a humble, steadfast resolve that refuses to sacrifice its principles due to foreign influence,” David Dale, a Houston-area land manager for oil and gas producer Ovintiv Inc., wrote to the commission. Troy Eckard of Eckard Enterprises LLC in Allen, Texas, told regulators that Russia and Saudi Arabia are “terrorists” whose “game of supply hostage is not the time to bow down and sell out. Let the weak go broke. Let the overpaid, poorly run private equity-back[ed] companies fall by the wayside. Leave us to our own free-market solutions.” The commission stood pat.

As oil historian Daniel Yergin has observed, companies go bankrupt, rocks don’t. Assuming prices slowly recover, producers will begin to turn wells back on—a process that’s never been tried at this large a scale—and maybe drill some new ones. Whether they start paying pumpers better remains to be seen. Opportune LLP, a Houston energy advisory firm, says pumpers and other service companies face “a test of survivability, not profitability.” Consolidation seems likely, with producers themselves possibly acquiring the smaller service companies on the cheap.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The initial surge in production from shale oil reserves was driven by wildcatters and the viability of the business model was predicated on high prices persisting. The reality that much of the USA’s shale production is higher cost is now leading to many of these companies going bankrupt or experiencing significant problems.



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July 20 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Out to pasture!

This is potentially Edward Ballsdon’s final post for his Grey Fire Horse blog and may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Recently there has been discussion about yield curve control (YCC), and whether the FED will introduce a new policy on managing interest rates. Do not be fooled - this is a rather large red herring, as the debt is now too large in the US (as it is in most major economies) to raise rates without the increased interest cost having a debilitating effect on annual government budget figures.

There is no longer $ 1trn of outstanding US federal Bills - in June the outstanding amount surpassed $ 5trn. If rates rise from 0.2% to 2%, the ANNUAL interest cost just on that segment of the outstanding $19trn debt would rise from ~$ 8.5bn to ~$ 102bn. Naturally you would also need to also factor in the impact of higher interest rate costs on leveraged households and corporates.

This is the red herring - the size of the debt will force monetary policy. To think that the central bank can raise rates means ignoring the consequence from the debt stock. And this is the root of my lower for longer view, which is obviously influenced from years of studying Japan, and which is now almost completely priced in to rates markets. Remember that the YCC in Japan led to a severe reduction of the BOJ buying of JGBs - it just did not have to.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Japanification of the developed world represents a massive challenge for investors in search of yield. 90% of all sovereign bonds have yields below 1% and the total of bonds with negative yields is back at $14 trillion and climbing.



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July 17 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chapter 4: The Big Cycle of the United States and the Dollar, Part 1

This is the most recent instalment of Ray Dalio’s book on big cycles. Here is a section:

Like Germany, Japan was also hit exceptionally hard by the depression and became more autocratic in response to it.  Japan was especially vulnerable to the depression because, as an island nation without adequate natural resources, it relied on exports for income to import necessities.  When its exports fell by around 50% between 1929 and 1931, it was economically devastated.  In 1931, the depression in Japan was so severe that the country went broke—i.e., it was forced to draw down its gold reserves, abandon the gold standard, and float its currency, which depreciated it so greatly that Japan ran out of buying power.  These terrible conditions and large wealth gaps led to fighting between the left and the right.  In 1932 that led to a massive upsurge in right-wing nationalism and militarism to forcefully restore order and bring back economic stability.  To that end, Japan’s military took control and pursued military options to get Japan the resources it needed by taking them away from other countries.  Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and later expanded through China and Asia to obtain natural resources (e.g., oil, iron, coal, and rubber) and human resources (i.e., slave labor).  As in the German case, it could be argued that this path of military aggression to get needed resources was the best path for the Japanese because relying on classic trading and economic practices wouldn’t have gotten them what they needed.   

Shifting to more autocratic, populist, and nationalist leaders and policies during times of extreme economic stress is typical, as people want strong leadership to bring order to the chaos and to deal strongly with the outside enemy.  In 1934, there was severe famine in parts of Japan, causing even more political turbulence and reinforcing the right-wing, militaristic, nationalistic, and expansionistic movement.  

In the years that followed, this movement in Japan, like that in Germany, became increasingly strong with its top-down fascist command economy, building a military-industrial complex with the military mobilized to protect its existing bases in East Asia and northern China and its expansion into other territories.  As was also the case in Germany, during this time, while most Japanese companies remained outside government ownership, their production was controlled by the government.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It makes sense that no one would enter a war under the assumption they are going to lose more than they gain. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude the increasing competition between China and the USA will not result in a war until one side clearly believes they can win. Nuclear weapons obviously complicate the calculus.



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July 15 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings From the Oil Patch July 15th 2020

Thanks to a subscriber for this report by Allen Brooks for PPHB. This issue includes a comprehensive discussion on the viability of a hydrogen economy. Here is a section:

The conclusion that comes from our examination of hydrogen is that without some major technological breakthrough that reduces the cost of producing it substantially, the economic hurdle will not be overcome.  That means the only way hydrogen could become an important energy source is with government intervention in the energy market and assigning a price to carbon, or subsidizing the hydrogen fuel.  At this point in time, as governments around the world struggle to reopen their economies and repair the financial damage done to their citizens and businesses by the response to the pandemic, it is difficult to see them embracing carbon prices, which raises energy costs for their people and companies.  This is why the strong push, especially in Europe, for tying net-zero carbon emission policies in government stimulus efforts to rebuild their economies following Covid-19.  We suggest energy executives, analysts and investors worry more about the debates over the economic rebuilding efforts than the short-term moves in oil prices, demand and supply.  The long-term future of the oil market will be impacted by the success of governments instituting carbon prices.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Natural gas and coal prices are low in both nominal and relative terms. Economics 101 dictates that when the price of a vital commodity falls, consumers will naturally migrate towards it and find new uses for the resource.



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July 10 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Skai revises targets for its liquid-hydrogen, long-range eVTOL

This article by Loz Blain for NewAtlas may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

One challenge for anyone who wants to work with liquid hydrogen is that you need to keep it extremely cold to keep it in its liquid state. At atmospheric pressure levels, we're talking just 20.28 kelvins above absolute zero (−252.87 °C, or −423.17 °F).

That temperature can rise a little if you're willing to pressurize as well as cool (using a cryogenic system running between 250 and 700 bar of pressure), but Gunter says that's not part of Skai's plans, as "even a moderately pressurized system has significant weight penalties."

So, super-cooling it'll be, and while that entails extra energy losses in the liquefaction stage, the cooling equipment, the conversion back into gas for use in the fuel cell and in boil-off in the tank itself, the net result will still be a much longer range aircraft than anyone dealing with gaseous hydrogen – or certainly lithium batteries – will be able to deliver.

It'll be interesting to see how Skai gets the job done, as really you've got to look to NASA and other space programs to find liquid hydrogen being used in serious volumes.

"The good thing in all of this," says Gunter, "is the notable developments that occur in this space on an increasing basis. The efficiencies we’ve seen in fuel cells and the same the industry is seeing regarding H2 production all point to increasing effectiveness of any form of H2 as a future focused solution."

"There's a number of naysayers about what we're doing with hydrogen," says Hanvey, "but we believe we've gone from the question to the possible, and it's now the probable. We know we can fly with hydrogen, and the question is just how quickly we can get it to the market. And based on our experience, we think we can get there a lot quicker than perhaps the market will give us credit for."

Eoin Treacy's view -

Hydrogen’s energy density is orders of magnitude greater than any other fuel currently used in the global economy. The only reason we don’t already use it is because of the technological difficulty of containing what is a highly combustible material. The whole world knows about the Hindenburg accident 83 year ago, which put an end to transatlantic zeppelin travel. It did to the hydrogen industry what the Fukushima accident did to nuclear.



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July 09 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Gold-Oil Ratio Revisited

Thanks to a subscriber for this article from Goehring & Rozencwajg which may be of interest. Here is a section:

However, looking only when the gold-oil ratio has exceeded 30:1 (i.e., oil is cheap relative to gold), crude has returned 32% on average over the next twelve months (over four times its long-term average), while gold has returned 4% on average. Oil was lower only 13% of the time (70% less often). On average, oil outperformed gold by 28% during these periods compared with 2% normally.

At the other extreme, when the gold-oil ratio was less than 10:1 (i.e., oil was expensive relative to gold), crude lost 7% on average over the next twelve months and was negative nearly 60% of the time. Gold returned 18% on average during these periods, outperforming oil by 25%. Since 80% of all observations occur when the ratio is between 10 and 30 you should expect the relative returns of both gold and oil to be like their long-run averages and that is exactly what occurred. When the ratio was between 10 and 30, oil returned 5% on average in the following 12 months, and was lower 41% of the time while gold returned 4% and was lower 33% of the time, roughly in line with long-term averages.

We last used this analysis in early 2016 to justify our investments in oil-related securities. At that point, the gold-oil ratio hit a then-record 47:1. We argued that oil prices were set to surge and invested in oil-weighted E&P securities as a result. Over the next 30-months, oil rallied by 191% from $26 per barrel to $76 per barrel by October 2018. Gold on the other hand fell by 4% over the same period. Oil stocks (as measured by the XLE ETF) advanced by 56%, well in excess of gold stocks (as measured by the GDX) which rose only 3% but lagging the S&P 500 which advanced 69%.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The gold/oil ratio spent much of the last couple of decades ranging mostly between 10 and 30. On the small number of occasions is veered outside of those bands the move was quickly reversed. It has therefore been reliable indicator of where value was present on repeated occasions. However, the current reading questions that conclusion. 



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July 08 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Has Already Declared Cold War on the U.S

This article by Niall Ferguson for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Yet the book that has done the most to educate me about how China views America and the world today is, as I said, not a political text, but a work of science fiction. "The Dark Forest" was Liu Cixin’s 2008 sequel to the hugely successful "Three-Body Problem." It would be hard to overstate Liu’s influence in contemporary China: He is revered by the Shenzhen and Hangzhou tech companies, and was officially endorsed as one of the faces of 21st-century Chinese creativity by none other than … Wang Huning.

"The Dark Forest," which continues the story of the invasion of Earth by the ruthless and technologically superior Trisolarans, introduces Liu’s three axioms of “cosmic sociology.”

First, “Survival is the primary need of civilization.” Second, “Civilization continuously grows and expands, but the total matter in the universe remains constant.” Third, “chains of suspicion” and the risk of a “technological explosion” in another civilization mean that in space there can only be the law of the jungle. In the words of the book’s hero, Luo Ji: The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost … trying to tread without sound … The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds other life — another hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or a tottering old man, a fairy or a demigod — there’s only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them.

In this forest, hell is other people … any life that exposes its own existence will be swiftly wiped out. Kissinger is often thought of (in my view, wrongly) as the supreme American exponent of Realpolitik. But this is something much harsher than realism. This is intergalactic Darwinism.

Of course, you may say, it’s just sci-fi. Yes, but "The Dark Forest" gives us an insight into something we think too little about: how Xi’s China thinks. It’s not up to us whether or not we have a Cold War with China, if China has already declared Cold War on us. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Three Body Problem is an excellent read and The Dark Forest follows on well from where it left off. The third book in the series, Death’s End, was too meandering for me and I did not finish reading it. For a non-Chinese reader, the names can be a bit of an obstacle but the story is compelling.



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July 02 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on hydrogen

I loved your article but why don't you mention the rise of hydrogen and the use of green hydrogen as being a valuable alternative as an energy storage tool for the future (we are talking about 2040!)? It's also more logical as energy source for trucks as batteries alone are far too heavy...

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and this email which raises some important points. I have been of the opinion for years that the low price of natural gas would seed a hydrogen economy. That now appears to be coming to fruition. Ultimately, the production of hydrogen will be replaced with less reliance on fossil fuels, but we are reliant on gas for at least the next decade to deliver supply.



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July 01 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesla China Plant Might Have Come to the Rescue Last Quarter

This article by Dana Hull for Bloomberg may be of interest. Here is a section:

“The lesson learned by now is that TSLA shares tend to ‘work’ when something new has launched,” Jeffrey Osborne, a Cowen Inc. analyst with the equivalent of a sell rating on the stock, said in a report Tuesday. “At this point both the Model Y and China built cars are ramping up.”

Musk, 49, suggested to Tesla employees early this week that the company could manage to avoid a quarterly loss.

“Breaking even is looking super tight,” the CEO wrote to staff in an email seen by Bloomberg. “Really makes a difference for every car you build and deliver. Please go all out to ensure victory!”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Tesla has done an admirable job of keeping production on line globally even as sporadic shutdowns at home impaired manufacturing. The decision by California to mandate emission free trucking by 2040 is an additional tailwind for the battery producer. 



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June 29 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chesapeake's Collapse Is Latest in Long Line of Shale Busts

This article by David Wethe for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

More than 200 North American oil and gas producers, owing over $130 billion in debt, have filed for bankruptcy since the beginning of 2015, according to a May report from law firm Haynes & Boone. This month alone, seven oil and gas companies have gone under, tying December 2015 for the busiest on record after crude prices plunged amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The shale boom spearheaded by the likes of Chesapeake a decade ago was fueled by debt. Profitability and shareholder returns have been consistently disappointing, and investors had already grown wary of throwing more money into shale before this year’s oil crash. The rate of default on high-yield energy debt stood at 11%, Fitch Ratings said in a June 11 report, the highest level since April 2017.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Unconventional drilling is capital intensive. Arguably, it would not have been a viable development option for new supply without the tailwind of very low interest rates and abundant liquidity. The challenge the sector faces is once a well begins producing, there is a very steep increase in supply, followed by a steep decline. That ensures companies are very exposed to near-term oil prices. The significant volatility in commodity prices has been a headwind for the sector, because most operations are profitable in the region of $60-$80 a barrel.



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June 25 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Occidental, AB InBev Lead Debt-Laden Firms Buying Back Bonds

This article by Molly Smith for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Occidental Petroleum Corp. and Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV are seeking to buy back bonds through separate tender offers launched Thursday. Both are targeting debt due in the next three years.

Companies are seeking breathing room on debt payments as they contend with lower earnings amid the coronavirus outbreak, threatening to push leverage even higher. Credit raters are running out of patience: Occidental, already one of the largest fallen angels of this cycle, may be cut again by Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings, while AB InBev was recently downgraded by S&P with a negative outlook.

Both companies largely amassed their massive debt loads by funding acquisitions. Much of Occidental’s nearly $40 billion of debt came from borrowing to help finance its takeover of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. last year, while AB InBev’s roughly $103 billion of obligations mostly stems from its purchase of SABMiller Plc in 2016.

While some firms are looking to buy back debt outright, others are pursuing different liability management exercises to push out maturities. Rite Aid Corp. launched a $750 million exchange offer Thursday, while Macy’s Inc. initiated one earlier this week. They’re also trying to amend certain covenants through what are known as consent solicitations.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Corporate debt issuance has surged over the last three years to a new all-time high and combined total of $2.4 trillion in only a couple of months. That is all aimed at ensuring they have enough capital to see them through a particularly uncertain period.



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June 15 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

BP Writes Off Billions as Covid Redraws Rules of Oil Demand

This article by Laura Hurst and Amanda Jordan for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

BP Plc will make the biggest writedown on the value of its business since the Deepwater Horizon disaster a decade ago, as the coronavirus pandemic hurts long-term oil demand and accelerates the shift to cleaner energy.

In a dramatic revision that prompted questions about the affordability of its dividend, the British giant cut its estimates for oil and gas prices in the coming decades between 20% and 30%. It also expects the cost of carbon emissions to be more than twice as high as before.

Under its new Chief Executive Officer Bernard Looney, BP has been quicker than many of its peers to plan for a low-carbon world. Yet moves toward a more sustainable future are bringing financial pain today, and investors are asking fundamental questions about the value of oil majors.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It’s a good time to take write downs for any major corporation. With the negative economic backdrop, global pandemic and collapse in oil prices, more than a few companies are likely to use this as an opportunity to clean their balance sheets.



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June 10 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on carbon credits

First of all, thanks for the excellent service, I have been a subscriber since 1987. One thing that confuses me is the obsession with carbon emission in the world. This has become a political issue, and media deny to debate it. Could you please elaborate a bit on this theme, and let me know what you rely on these days, where do you get your information on this matter, or is it simply follow the money?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and support over the years. When I think about carbon credits, I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s quip If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”



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June 08 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A Million-Mile Battery From China Could Power Your Electric Car

This article from Bloomberg news may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

CATL struck a two-year contract in February to supply batteries to Tesla, a major boon for the Chinese company as the U.S. electric-car leader has thus far mainly worked with Japan’s Panasonic Corp. and South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd. The deal followed months of negotiations, with Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk traveling to Shanghai to meet with Zeng.

The CATL batteries are set to go into Model 3 sedans produced at Tesla’s massive new factory near Shanghai, which started deliveries around the beginning of this year. Batteries are the costliest part of an EV, meaning suppliers of those components have a chance to reap a lion’s share of the industry’s profits.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A battery which does not lose its charging capacity for over one million miles is a significant technological advance for the electric car industry. One of the biggest inhibiting factors, apart from cost, which deterred consumers from buying electric cars was their low resale value. The degradation of the battery over only a couple of years basically made cars worthless. The introduction of the million-mile battery completely changes that calculus. The next obstacles are the recharging network and range on a single charge.



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June 05 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on caution at potential areas of resistance

“You have been calling for some ‘consolidation’ for equity markets for a number of weeks now (which I expected too), but this just hasn’t come to pass. Instead we have seen a relentless charge higher in virtually every market. You’ve stated that it’s liquidity driven which until recently at least, little participation from the professional money managers. Short term yields no longer can be relied upon as a risk indicator with the Fed deliberately compressing yields at the front end. To what extent, if any, has this recent episode viewed the way you look at markets through a charting lense. A despondent sceptic of this rally here, it seems the only winning strategy is just to ride the liquidity train, and rotate one’s positions towards riskier assets (travel, emerging etc) as the new safe havens (tech) reach maturity.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which may be of interest to other subscribers. In a response to a similar email on May 12th. I led with this observation. “The best time to buy is following a significant pullback. The next best opportunity is following the first reaction from an important low. The next will be when a breakout to new highs occurs.



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June 05 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

OPEC+ Set to Extend Oil Cuts as Meeting Called for Weekend

This article by Javier Blas and Grant Smith for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

But members of the 23-nation OPEC+ alliance have a lot to gain by preserving their agreement. They have helped engineer a doubling in Brent prices since April, easing pressure on their government budgets of oil-rich nations.

The accord has also revived the fortunes of major energy companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, and prompted some U.S. producers to consider restarting wells just weeks after they were idled.

The deal in April set out historic cuts of 9.7 million barrels a day, or roughly 10% of global oil supplies, to offset the unprecedented collapse in demand caused by the virus lockdowns. Then a few weeks later, Saudi Arabia and its closest allies in the Persian Gulf promised additional supply restraint of 1.2 million barrels a day in June.

Those reductions were set to ease to 7.7 million barrels a day from July 1. so failure to reach an agreement this month could have brought a flood of oil back onto the market and undermined a tentative recovery as countries start emerging from coronavirus lockdowns.

With American shale production starting to come back online, OPEC’s careful management of the demand recovery is crucial.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The coronavirus spread in a wave around the world and resuming demand for just about everything is also likely to come back sequentially. Chinese demand is recovering, European demand is also recovering and the USA will follow. Latin America’s infection rate is probably close to peaking which suggests demand will begin to recover in the middle of the summer.



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May 26 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Elon Musk's SpaceX Readies First Astronaut Launch by Private Firm

This article by Andy Pasztor for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

SpaceX’s efforts to launch astronauts into orbit have suffered various delays, totaling about four years, including two catastrophic explosions of its Falcon 9 rocket and nagging safety concerns about the Dragon capsule riding on top.

Having a reliable American system would mean NASA astronauts no longer need to piggyback on Russian rockets and spacecraft, as they have since the aging U.S. space-shuttle fleet was retired nine years ago. Looking ahead, NASA and White House officials envision emphasizing deep-space exploration as part of a commitment to relying on similar corporate-government teams. Those would include company-led endeavors, with relatively limited federal oversight, taking astronauts to the moon as soon as 2024 and later to Mars or beyond.

Along those lines, Mr. Musk’s team has proposed a mammoth rocket carrying a companion deep-space craft—partly stainless steel and reaching some 40 stories together—intended to eventually transport large numbers of passengers. So far, NASA has committed $135 million to help develop the portion that could serve as a lunar lander.

Some longtime NASA watchers see the current mission as a crucial steppingstone, perhaps as significant in some ways as the Gemini missions of the mid-1960s that paved the way for the Apollo moon landings. But this time, making the government “a customer rather than operator is as astonishing as it is bold for NASA,” said Mark Albrecht, a former White House space adviser and retired senior industry executive. “NASA will take the blame for failure and allow SpaceX to receive most of the glory of success.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Elon Musk will probably be remembered as the father of electric vehicles and simultaneously the father of interplanetary travel. However, while he is an engineering genius, his expertise in getting other people to pay for his aspirational dreams is truly worthy of praise. Tesla might be a battery company, but it would not exist without carbon credits where its competitors fund its expansion.



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May 14 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on inconsistency in medium-term trends.

Eoin - appreciate your use of both the P&F and weekly chart against the moving average in your discussion of Microsoft.  When evaluating the consistency pattern of stocks (Microsoft and others), how do you "adjust" for circumstances such as COVID 19?  Clearly, Microsoft was negatively impacted like many other equities in the COVID induced meltdown, but has also rebounded more smartly than others.  Thanks, as always, for your insight and willingness to share same.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which gets to the heart of a question I think most people are thinking at present. There are three important considerations when looking at market reaction. These are: where are we in the secular trend? Is liquidity expanding or contracting? What does the chart tell us about sentiment?



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May 05 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings From The Oil Patch May 5th 2020

Thanks to subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ every interesting report for PPHB. Here is a section:

These large stock buybacks, coupled with increased debt, despite low interest rates, have contributed to a remarkable decline in corporate cash balances.  Cash balances for S&P 500 Index companies have fallen to the lowest level since 1980, while debt has soared.  Based on how volatile these two measures have become, we wonder whether, following the recession we certainly are in, cash on company balance sheets becomes a prized asset.  Likewise, will debt become toxic?  Given very low interest rates, something not likely to change anytime soon, will corporate executives adjust how they manage their balance sheets?  

Traditionally, dividends account for about 2% and share buybacks about 3% of the historical annual average stock market return of 5%.  The cessation of share buybacks would cut investor return expectations more than in half, and returns will be further reduced to the extent that dividends are eliminated and/or restricted.  That will be a huge blow to investors who sought out stock market returns to replace those lost from bonds due to low interest rates.  The neighboring chart shows that about 6% of buyback programs, representing 14% of the expected value of buybacks for energy, have been suspended so far this year.  We certainly expect these numbers to rise as the year unfolds, regardless of legal restrictions imposed by government relief payments, due to cash-preservation steps by managements following the oil price collapse.  

As Exhibit 17 shows, energy in the S&P 500 Index was the fourth lowest sector, ranked by dollars committed to share buybacks.  Not a surprise, given the oil price crash of 2014, was the sharp decline in dollars spent on share buybacks over the last five years compared to the last 10 years.  The amount of money spent on energy share buybacks for 2015-2019 was only 31% of the 10-year expenditures.  We will not be surprised to see the next 5-year period having even less money spent on stock buybacks, unless there is a miracle recovery in oil prices.  

If we consider what investor returns by sector of the S&P 500 were in the fourth quarter of 2019, energy topped the list with nearly a 10.5% yield.  That was nearly 80% greater than the yield of the S&P 500 Index.  That will change in 2020, and likely in 2021, as we expect that is how long it will take for the oil market to balance.  The unanswered question is how the risk profile for investing in energy stocks may change, as well as investing in the stock market overall?

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Suibscriber's Area.

Royal Dutch Shell cuts its dividend last week which was a significant departure from its long-held policy of reliable payouts. However, the move was anticipated by the significant decline in the share over the last few months and the decision did have had a measure effect on the price. The primary reason investors look at the energy sector now is because of the attractive valuations. Meanwhile, the uncertain outlook for the oil price is the reason valuations have improved.



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April 30 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on dividend champions and contenders

I am really enjoying Mr Treacy’s comments of the day and look forward to it every morning.

Mr Treacy in today’s update mentioned key sectors that have the most chance of trending up over the next decade – and alluded to a couple shares (e.g. Google and Apple) that may make it to dividend aristocrat list in 10-15 years.

It would be great if Mr Treacy could provide a list of top 20-50 shares that have steadily increased dividends over the last 10 years and based on trends have the highest probably on making it to dividend aristocrat list in 10-15 years.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and this email which may be of interest. I mentioned in last night’s audio that technology companies are often among the most reliable in increasing their dividends once they eventually decide to initiate payments. That’s been true of companies like Apple and Microsoft but Google and Amazon do not pay dividends so even if they started today it would be 2045 before they become dividend aristocrats. For a list of companies with solid records of dividend increases, but which do not yet fulfil the criteria to be dividend aristocrats, take at a look at the dividend champions and contenders sections of the International Equity Library. 



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April 28 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

'Instead of Coronavirus, the Hunger Will Kill Us' A Global Food Crisis Looms

This article by Abdi Latif Dahir for The New York Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The coronavirus has sometimes been called an equalizer because it has sickened both rich and poor, but when it comes to food, the commonality ends. It is poor people, including large segments of poorer nations, who are now going hungry and facing the prospect of starving.

“The coronavirus has been anything but a great equalizer,” said Asha Jaffar, a volunteer who brought food to families in the Nairobi slum of Kibera after the fatal stampede. “It’s been the great revealer, pulling the curtain back on the class divide and exposing how deeply unequal this country is.”

Already, 135 million people had been facing acute food shortages, but now with the pandemic, 130 million more could go hungry in 2020, said Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program, a United Nations agency. Altogether, an estimated 265 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by year’s end.

While the system of food distribution and retailing in rich nations is organized and automated, he said, systems in developing countries are “labor intensive,” making “these supply chains much more vulnerable to Covid-19 and social distancing regulations.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Transportation networks have been severely impacted by the coronavirus lockdowns and that is having a significant knock-on effect for vulnerable communities all over the world. There is no shortage of food globally, but the uncertainty the lockdowns introduced have disrupted harvest and slaughter schedules. That is putting upward pressure on some commodities prices while depressing others. The international challenge will be in ensuring commodities get to where they are needed in time to protect the lives of people in the emerging markets.



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April 20 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on uranium

Thanks for the insightful video, as always, Eoin. Have you had a look at the uranium sector lately? The spot price has jumped along with the miners, including Cameco and Denison which jumped 26% yesterday. Is the long-awaited supply crunch coming into play and how long will the uptrend last? Your thoughts on this will be appreciated.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thanks for this question which may be of interest to subscribers. The shutting down of both transportation and some mining operations has created a short-term supply shortage which is supporting the outperformance of uranium. It’s the number one best performing commodity this year but the supply shortage is unlikely to last beyond the lockdown phase of the virus-induced recession.



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April 16 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

GM Plots an EV Comeback Inside Its Secretive Battery Lab

This article by Bill Howard for Extreme Tech may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In 2019, about 3 million pickups were sold out of 17 million vehicles. Nobody knows the size of the EV pickup market initially, or how badly EV range suffers under a heavy load (Tesla owners have known range tanks when a Model S or Model X tows a trailer), or if buyers are willing to pay extra to get the large batteries that allow 300 t0 400 miles of range on pickups.

As for the market for all plug-in vehicles – battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids – the final 2019 US sales numbers for light vehicles amount to combustion-engine-only cars, 98.1 percent of the market, BEVs and PHEVs 1.9 percent.

There is some hope – among environmentalists, at least – that Americans, in the wake of the coronavirus slowdown, will appreciate the cleaner skies in major cities and adopt plug-in vehicles to keep the air clear and clean. GM’s battery R&D is for its worldwide markets, not just the US, and it may find more traction outside the US. Depending on how many people and businesses have money to spend on new cars in the next year.

At the Ultium rollout, GM cited forecasters who called for EV volumes to double between 2025 and 2030 to 3 million units annually – one in six vehicles sold – and added its belief the numbers could be “materially higher.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The point in the above piece, that the global market influences the kind of cars US companies produce is an understatement. The most profitable market for conventional US automakers is the pick-up truck, which is a predominately North American vehicle. All other markets are heavily influenced by whatever China demands.



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April 09 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Saudis, Russians End Oil-Price War With Deep Output Cut

This article by Javier Blas for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Saudi Arabia and Russia ended a devastating oil price war on Thursday, agreeing to slash output together with other members of the OPEC+ alliance in an effort to lift the market from a pandemic-driven collapse.

The tentative deal came after strong pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump and American lawmakers, who fear thousands of job losses in the U.S. shale patch, not to mention Wall Street chaos. The price crash has also threatened the stability of oil-dependent nations and forced companies from Exxon Mobil Corp. to small independents to rein in spending.

OPEC and its allies, meeting by video conference, agreed to cut production by about 10 million barrels a day in May and June, delegates said, asking not to be identified ahead of an official statement. Saudi Arabia and Russia, the biggest producers in the group, will each take output down to about 8.5 million a day, with all members agreeing to cut supply by 23%, one delegate said.

“Both Saudi and Russia were going to have to cut anyway, and these cuts allow them to win political points too,” said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultant Energy Aspects Ltd.

While the headline cut equates to a historic reduction of about 10% of global supply, it makes up just a fraction of the demand loss, which some traders estimate at as much as 35 million barrels a day.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The oil price turf war is over, for now, but unfortunately the cuts announced are not near enough to rebalance the market in the near term. The very fact the Federal Reserve supplemented its stimulus with an additional $2 trillion in spending today, only a week after the last announcement is a testament to how weak economic activity is, even if it turns out to be short-term in nature.



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April 08 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch April 7th 2020

Thanks to a subscriber for this report by Allen Brooks for PPHB which may be of interest. Here is a section:

When we look at the company’s costs and expenses per barrel of oil equivalent (BOE), we find they totaled $14.01 for 2019.  Based on the company’s average oil price (which was not adjusted for its gas output given its low price), this translates into a cash profit margin per BOE of $36.88.  If we include the cost of depreciation, depletion and amortization expense (largely a non-cash expense), but indicative of the amount of investment the company needs to make to insure it replaces produced barrels and remains an ongoing enterprise, the cash profit per BOE falls to $19.06, or 37.4% of the average selling price after adjusting for hedging.  That is a pretty attractive return.  

With WTI oil futures prices falling to $20 per barrel, and assuming the location and quality discount remains at $6, Whiting Petroleum was looking at generating no positive cash from the oil it produced.  It also assumes cash operating expenses remain at 2019 levels.  This means Whiting Petroleum would be unable to invest in new exploration and development, which makes the company a self-liquidating entity.  In that condition, the company essentially has no value.  The bankruptcy filing indicates that reality, as current shareholders will only retain 3% of the shares of the reorganized company, as the debt holders will hold 97% in return for agreeing to cancel their bonds.  

Under today’s very depressed oil and gas prices, few producers will be able to fund operations.  If the companies have a significant amount of debt on their balance sheets, they will face serious challenges to sustain their businesses if they do not address their financial leverage.  To understand the precarious health of the producer sector, energy consultant Rystad has prepared a chart showing the debt maturity schedule and annual interest expense for a group of 29 significant producers.  While this represents only 29 producers, we believe it is indicative of the financial condition of the balance of the producer sector.  

Eoin Treacy's view -

The only way the unconventional oil sector is going to make it through the current crisis is to reduce the cost of production. There is no getting around the fact hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling operations are considerably more expensive than conventional drilling. Technological innovation will help improve that spread but it will be impossible to eliminate. Therefore, scale and proximity to end markets are the primary route to reducing costs.



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April 03 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on renewables

ETFs TAN and FAN: what is your opinion on the quality of the constituents in both products? I do believe going forward this be a huge trend. but how many companies will make it to the other end? thanks very much for educating us in these turbulent times!

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and this question which may be of interest to other subscribers. The renewables or alternative energy sector was a clear outperformer into the beginning of March but quickly played catch up with the wider market during a panicky period two weeks ago. I believe it is certainly worthwhile to ask whether the factors which contributed to earlier outperformance are still relevant following what are in some cases declines in the order of 50%.



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April 02 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Saudi Will Only Cut Oil Output if Others Do, EA's Sen Says

This article by Laura Hurst for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“It’s very clear that Saudi Arabia is maintaining its position - it will cut only if everyone else cuts,” Energy Aspect’s Amrita Sen says in a Bloomberg TV interview.

Russia does not see benefit in cutting production given the 20m b/d drop in demand “No way” Saudi Arabia can cut enough to compensate for such a decline

NOTE: Sen speaks following U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweet saying he expects Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut production by 10m bbl

There could be a deal later in the year, but it’s too early as it is unclear how low demand will go; “There’s a lot of hope and expectation rather than anything concrete”

Market will correct through market mechanisms; Energy Aspects believes world will run out of storage in May, producers will then have no choice but to shut production, but prices will remain low

It’s unlikely that the U.S. would ever join Russia and Saudi Arabia in coordinated cuts

“How do you get the U.S. to join something that it would call a cartel?”; there are thousands of producers in the U.S., so it would be impossible for the country to cut

Eoin Treacy's view -

The shock from the coronavirus lock down is still rippling through the energy markets but that is not why Saudi Arabia chose now to launch a price war with Russia. They are much more concerned with the fact oil demand growth is slowing down, if not contracting, on a secular basis. That presents singular problems for countries who entire existence is predicated on oil exports.



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March 27 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Enevate's silicon-anode batteries promise ultra-fast EV charging

This article by Loz Blain for New Atlas may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

With some US$111 million in investment from major companies, including LG, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Renault and Nissan, Enevate now says its cells are ready for the big time. In an interview with Charged EVs, Park said Enevate is designing packs for the 2024 and 2025 model years to get its cells into consumer products with major manufacturers. There are no announcements around who or what exactly they're making packs for, but the list of companies above may be instructive.

As far as we're aware, though, the infrastructure to support blast-charging at the kinds of rates we're talking about here simply doesn't yet exist. Tesla's V3 superchargers are currently capable of blast-charging a Model 3 at 250 kilowatts, which would give you around 133 km (83 mi) of range in five minutes.

These batteries would charge three times faster, at around 0.75 megawatts, which is a huge power draw. An alternative method might involve trickle-charging massive supercapacitors all day at slower rates so they've got enough energy to supply the cars super-quickly when they need it, but we're yet to see anything like that in action, and the size of those supercapacitors might end up being prohibitive.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It is almost as if I see a new story about advancements in battery technology every day. They all come with caveats but the one thing we can be sure of is the quantity of capital now devoted to solving the issue of energy density and range anxiety is growing persistently. Producing a doubling of energy density with a low charging time is the hold grail of the sector today and it is reasonable there will be a solution in the market within five years. 



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March 20 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on where private equity sees opportunity:

Thank you for the excellent commentary received daily! A question for your view - PE industry claims $2trillion "dry powder" available for deployment but can this be LP drawdown commitments which still has to be called & will come from liquidating other investments at current market prices or even defaulting on obligations?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words. It is the support of subscribers like you that ensures this service persists.

In the aftermath of the credit crisis Blackstone deployed billions in the US housing market and became one of the biggest residential landlords in the country. That action helped put a floor under the market. They correctly concluded the majority of people would not have the resources to save for a down payment and would instead be renters indefinitely.



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March 20 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Precious Metals: Navigating uncertain times

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from RBC Capital Markets which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The Dow/Gold ratio has clearly broken its decade-long uptrend. In the last month it has broken below the 1000-day MA. That’s a monumental event because it has never happened in a secular bull market before. This has been achieved by the gold price going nowhere while the stock market has collapsed by approximately 30%



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March 11 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Boeing Plans Full Drawdown of $13.825 Billion Loan

This article by Paula Seligson for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Boeing obtained the loan from a group of banks last month to help it deal with its cash burn while it prepares to return its 737 Max plane to the skies. It initially tapped about $7.5 billion of the debt, and is now expected to draw the rest, said the people, asking not to be named discussing private information. Boeing plans to draw the remainder of the loan as a precaution due to market turmoil, one of the people said.

Companies affected by the virus are increasingly turning to banks for short-term financing to provide a safety net. United Airlines Holdings Inc. raised $2 billion in new liquidity with a secured term loan, while Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. recently signed a new $675 million revolver. Should credit conditions worsen, more firms may start to draw down their credit lines, market watchers say. Boeing’s loan came about before Covid-19 spiraled into a global crisis and was expected to be fully drawn eventually.

“They want to have cash on the balance sheet,” said Bloomberg Intelligence’s Matthew Geudtner. The Max grounding, the company’s joint venture with Embraer SA and looming debt maturities will also weigh on Boeing’s cash hoard, he said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The easiest way to determine where the biggest risks reside in this market is to use this metric: Whatever people were worried about in 2019, the coronavirus makes things worse.



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March 09 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Rosneft Plans to Increase Output as Russia Digs in for Price War

This article by Jack Farchy for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Last week in Vienna, ministers from Russia, Saudi Arabia and other members of the group left a fractious meeting with no deal to continue the cuts beyond April 1. Saudi Arabia heavily discounted its oil over the weekend, triggering a plunge of more than 20% in international crude futures.

Rosneft’s London-listed shares dropped 19.5% on Monday, while markets in Moscow were closed for a public holiday. In a separate statement, Russia’s finance ministry said that the country’s oil-wealth reserves would be sufficient to cover lost revenue “for six to 10 years” at oil prices of $25 to $30 a barrel.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Unconventional oil and gas has been one of the biggest gamechangers for the global economy in history. When the world’s biggest consumer, where production peaked decades ago morphs into the world’s biggest producer and a net exporter it changes the fundamentals and interrelationships of the market.



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March 06 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Covid-19 and Global Dollar Funding

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Zoltan Pozsar and James Sweeney’s report for Credit Suisse on the plumbing of the global financial sector. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The Credit Suisse team do an excellent job of highlighting where the risks are and provide a handy list of instruments to monitor to get an idea of how liquidity flows are functioning.

The repo market illiquidity in September was a signal to everyone that the tightening program had gone too far. There was nowhere near enough available capital in the system to allow the global money market to function. The Fed stepped in with a large swift injection of liquidity; inflating its balance sheet by $400 billion in four months.



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February 28 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Lead Indicators of Recession

Eoin Treacy's view -

After a week characterised by selling across the board, a great deal of profit taking has taken place and many overextensions relative to the trend mean have been unwound. The question I believe many people will be concerned with is whether the coronavirus is going to be the catalyst for an economic contraction? I thought it would therefore be worth monitoring the kinds of instruments that offer a lead indicator for that kind of concern.



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February 26 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Berkshire Hathaway Inc Shareholder Letter

Thanks to a subcsriber for this letter by Warren Buffett. Here is a section on utilities:

Berkshire Hathaway Energy is now celebrating its 20th year under our ownership. That anniversary suggests that we should be catching up with the company’s accomplishments.

We’ll start with the topic of electricity rates. When Berkshire entered the utility business in 2000, purchasing 76% of BHE, the company’s residential customers in Iowa paid an average of 8.8 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Prices for residential customers have since risen less than 1% a year, and we have promised that there will be no base rate price increases through 2028. In contrast, here’s what is happening at the other large investor-owned Iowa utility: Last year, the rates it charged its residential customers were 61% higher than BHE’s. Recently, that utility received a rate increase that will widen the gap to 70%.

The extraordinary differential between our rates and theirs is largely the result of our huge accomplishments in converting wind into electricity. In 2021, we expect BHE’s operation to generate about 25.2 million megawatt-hours of electricity (MWh) in Iowa from wind turbines that it both owns and operates. That output will totally cover the annual needs of its Iowa customers, which run to about 24.6 million MWh. In other words, our utility will have attained wind self-sufficiency in the state of Iowa.

In still another contrast, that other Iowa utility generates less than 10% of its power from wind. Furthermore, we know of no other investor-owned utility, wherever located, that by 2021 will have achieved a position of wind self-sufficiency. In 2000, BHE was serving an agricultural-based economy; today, three of its five largest customers are high-tech giants. I believe their decisions to site plants in Iowa were in part based upon BHE’s ability to deliver renewable, low-cost energy.

Of course, wind is intermittent, and our blades in Iowa turn only part of the time. In certain periods, when the air is still, we look to our non-wind generating capacity to secure the electricity we need. At opposite times, we sell the excess power that wind provides us to other utilities, serving them through what’s called “the grid.” The power we sell them supplants their need for a carbon resource – coal, say, or natural gas.

Berkshire Hathaway now owns 91% of BHE in partnership with Walter Scott, Jr. and Greg Abel. BHE has never paid Berkshire Hathaway a dividend since our purchase and has, as the years have passed, retained $28 billion of earnings. That pattern is an outlier in the world of utilities, whose companies customarily pay big dividends – sometimes reaching, or even exceeding, 80% of earnings. Our view: The more we can invest, the more we like it.

Today, BHE has the operating talent and experience to manage truly huge utility projects – requiring investments of $100 billion or more – that could support infrastructure benefitting our country, our communities and our shareholders. We stand ready, willing and able to take on such opportunities.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I found this to be an enlightening discussion of the utilities sector. The long-held perception is that these kinds of businesses can afford to pay out the majority of free cashflow in dividends because they are charging rents on established pieces of infrastructure with easily forecastable maintenance and renewal trajectories. As Berkshire’s experience with wind demonstrates, this ignores the long-term risk of exogenous shocks, technological innovation, changing regulation and infrastructure reaching the end of its useful life.



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February 25 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Exxon Drops to 15-Year Low Ahead of Annual Strategy Presentation

This article by Kevin Crowley for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

 

Exxon Mobil Corp. fell to a 15-year low on Monday amid a broad selloff in equity and commodity markets and just over a week before Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods is scheduled to present the oil explorer’s long-term strategic plan to investors and analysts.

The shares have been under pressure since Exxon disclosed disappointing fourth-quarter results in late January and prospects for a near-term recovery were dimmed by the spreading coronavirus. Excess supplies of natural gas, chemicals and motor fuels also weighed on the oil supermajor.

Exxon fell 4.7% to close at $56.36 on Monday in New York as Brent crude tumbled to about $56 a barrel. The last time the Texas-based driller’s stock traded at this level was the end of 2005, when crude fetched $59.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Exxon Mobil is one of the original cast of S&P500 Dividend Aristocrats. It has been decades since it cut its dividend so investors are looking on eagerly to hear how the company plans to retain a strong position in the global energy market that will allow it to sustain pay outs.



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February 20 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Vanishing Spreads Are Ringing Alarms in Risky Debt Markets

This article from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“What do you do with your cash?” said Luke Hickmore, investment director at Aberdeen Standard Investments in Edinburgh, where he helps run a number of bond funds. “Leaving it standing there makes no sense and the experience over the last 10 years is that there is no pain in buying bonds. Learnt behavior is that it is safe. Inflation is nowhere and central banks start buying every time yields go higher.”

Heavy demand for tax-exempt income drove yields on even the riskiest municipal bonds to 3.58% on Friday, the lowest since Bloomberg’s records began in 2003. The influx has compressed spreads across the country and caused some debt in high-tax states like California and New York to yield less than top-rated benchmark securities. Municipal mutual funds have reported inflows for the 58th straight week on Feb. 13.

Eoin Treacy's view -

With 30-year debt yielding 1.92% in the USA, 1.59% in Australia, 1.42% in Canada, 1.05% in the UK. 0.36% in Japan and 0.04% in Germany bond investors, and particularly pension funds, are at a loss for where to invest to generate the returns necessary to meet their future liabilities.



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February 12 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

BP Sets Bold Agenda for Big Oil With Plan to Eliminate CO2

This article by Laura Hurst for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

For BP to survive the energy transition in a world that’s gradually falling out of love with oil, it will need to make big investments in new sources of clean energy, ensure cash keeps flowing from its fossil fuel assets, while also funneling generous returns to investors. It’s a tricky balancing act that its closest peer Shell is already struggling to master.

BP’s commitment to do all this while still boosting free cash flow and shareholder returns is “really the key challenge,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Biraj Borkhataria.

The company announced structural changes alongside its emissions target. Looney will dismantle its upstream and downstream businesses and reorganize them into an entity made up of 11 new teams that will be more integrated and focused.

“For us the statement represents a step change in terms of vision for the company and one that moves the group toward the biggest reorganization and modernization in at least two decades, if not a century,” analysts at Barclays said in a note. “The magnitude and radical nature of this shift should not be underestimated.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The trend of public opinion relating to climate change has put most conventional energy companies in a bind. They have been the subject of vitriol from the green lobby for as long as I can remember but that was manageable when the environment was not an election issue. Today, the situation could not be more different. Wild fires, everywhere, droughts, floods, extinction angst and teenagers lecturing world leaders all point to a very hostile backdrop for oil, gas and coal companies.



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February 11 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Saxo Q1 Outlook: The Great Climate Shift

This press release may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The long running argument against green energy investing has been that the cost and intermittency of supply do not come close to compensating for the ease of relying on fossil fuels. That meant the sector has long been confined to a high beta position relative to oil prices because it relied on high energy prices to justify investment. The question that now needs to be addressed is whether this valuation model is still relevant?



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February 10 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on rare earth metal miners

Maybe 18 months ago you were looking at Rare Earths outside China. One you mentioned in Australia - Alkane Resources - has recently perked up considerably on gold exploration but also on the likely demerger of its Rare Earths project at Dubbo. I'm a shareholder so noticed(!) You might like to re-visit some time as it is a happy graph for holders

Eoin Treacy's view -

Congratulations on taking the opportunity in Alkane Resources. The company found new gold in September, which was the reason for the initial break higher. Meanwhile the strength over the last couple of days is based on the appointment of a new managing director to the Dubbo project which is a step closer to developing the mine into a commercial reality.



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January 23 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

January 17 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fiat Chrysler and Foxconn plan Chinese electric vehicle joint venture

This article from Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Fiat Chrysler and Foxconn plan Chinese electric vehicle joint venture - This article from Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

FCA last month reached a binding agreement for a $50 billion tie-up with France’s PSA (PEUP.PA) that will create the world’s No. 4 carmaker. FCA said that the proposed cooperation was initially focused on the Chinese market.

It “would enable the parties to bring together the capabilities of two established global leaders across the spectrum of automobile design, engineering and manufacturing and mobile software technology to focus on the growing battery electric vehicle market,” it said.

FCA said it was in the process of signing a preliminary agreement with Hon Hai, aiming to reach final binding agreements in the next few months.

However, it added there was no assurance that final binding agreements would be reached or would be completed in that timeframe.

Foxconn has been investing heavily in a variety of future transport ventures for several years, including Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride services giant, and Chinese electric vehicle start-ups Byton and Xpeng.

Foxconn also has invested in Chinese battery giant CATL and a variety of other mostly Chinese transportation tech start-ups.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This is an example of the most profound change batteries are bringing to the automotive sector. They are rapidly commoditizing the car. The difference between an Apple, Samsung or Google phone is less about what is on the inside than familiarity with the brand, ease of operation. software, the app ecosystem and the camera. Other than that, they all have pretty much the same internal composition with some minor differences in the design of the chips while manufacturing is outsourced to a third party.  



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January 09 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fiat Will Effectively Fund Tesla's German Factory, Baird Says

This article by Gabrielle Coppola for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk announced in November that Tesla planned to build a plant outside Berlin. The facility is expected to produce Model 3 sedans and Model Y crossovers starting in 2021.

Fiat Chrysler is going to launch a new version of its Fiat 500 battery-powered vehicle in Europe this year, along with plug-in hybrid versions of its Jeep Compass, Renegade and Wrangler models. That, combined with the Tesla credits, should make the company compliant with Europe’s emissions rules, CEO Mike Manley told analysts in July.

While Fiat Chrysler would otherwise struggle to meet new carbon-dioxide emissions standards in Europe, the so-called open-pool option available in the European Union allows automakers to group their fleets together to meet targets.

Compliance has gotten harder for automakers as consumers have shifted toward gasoline cars, which emit comparatively more CO2, following Volkswagen AG’s diesel-emissions scandal that first erupted in 2015.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Getting your competitors to pay for a factory, which you will then use to produce cars aimed at putting them out of business is a narrative that is so farfetched it would be unlikely to ever pass muster as a movie script. Yet, it is reality in the growth killing market designed by the bureaucrats ruling the EU. Is it any wonder the UK voted to leave?



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January 07 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Sony Shocks CES 2020 With Unveiling of Electric Car

This article by Michael Cogley for the Telegraph may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Tech giant Sony shocked attendees at this year’s CES by unveiling a new electric car.

The Japanese company, which is best known for its PlayStation games consoles and high-end televisions, revealed the Vision S concept saloon.

The prototype boasts 33 sensors to monitor inside and outside of the car, as well as an ultra-wide monitor which will be used for entertainment and information purposes.

Sony chief executive Kenichiro Yoshida said that cars will be redefined as a “new entertainment space”.

“To deepen our understanding of cars in terms of their design and technologies we gave a shape to our vision,” Mr Yoshida told the tech conference in Las Vegas.

“This prototype embodies our commitment to the future of mobility and contains an array of Sony technologies.”

The new concept car also features “360 reality audio”, which Mr Yoshida says will give users an “immersive experience”.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Consumer Electronics Show is where companies go to showcase their most aspirational vision of what they hope to bring to market in coming years. Electric cars started popping up a few years ago but this year electric vehicles dominated the product line. Sony, Mercedes Benz and Fisker debuted electric vehicles, with the latter production ready.



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January 03 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.S. Strike Ordered by Trump Kills Key Iranian Military Leader in Baghdad

This article from the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi condemned the targeted killing as a violation of the terms underpinning the U.S. troop presence in the country.

Mr. Abdul-Mahdi said he had submitted a formal request for parliament to convene in order to adopt necessary measures “to protect Iraq’s dignity and sovereignty.” He didn’t say what those measures would be.

The killing of the two men is likely to mark the beginning of a dangerous new chapter in the rivalry between the U.S. and Iran, which escalated after supporters of an Iran-backed Shiite militia attempted to storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week. Mr. Mohandes was deputy leader of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group that led the embassy attack.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Anyway we look at it, the geopolitical risk premium just racketed up. Iran’s response to losing the commander of the Revolutionary Guard can be expected to be bloody and will probably splash around the entire region considering how broad Iran’s terrorist network is.



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January 02 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Oilfield Services Ends 2019 With a Bang, Whimper

This article by Liam Denning for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“When does it end?” is a perfectly reasonable question for New Year’s Eve. And in the case of anyone still holding onto oilfield services stocks, it is more than rhetorical.

Core Laboratories NV, which offers services to enhance output from oilfields, dropped the ball early on Monday evening, or New Year’s Eve Eve if you will. It cut guidance for the quarter just about to end, issued underwhelming guidance for the quarter about to begin and, to cap it off, slashed its dividend by more than half. The latter was declared “sacrosanct” by management only two months ago — which, in hindsight, is one of those overwrought words that should set alarm bells ringing.

Throw in Tuesday’s pre-drinking trading volumes, and the stock looks set to see out 2019 with a bang (not the good kind). The ostensible reason for the sudden about-face is sluggish activity in international markets, which were hoped to offset the drag from the slowdown in U.S. fracking. The underlying reason is one that blends the oil business with New Year’s Eve seamlessly: the triumph of hope over experience.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The demise of the drilling sector is reflective of the high cost of production from offshore reserves relative to onshore unconventional sources. That has contributed to acute rationalisation of the sector and contraction in prices for services provided. Seadrill for example declared bankruptcy and only exited that condition in 2018. Meanwhile McDermott International remains in what could be a terminal downtrend. The question for investors is whether the contraction of the wider sector has run its course?



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December 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chevron, Facing Fossil Fuels Glut, Takes $10 Billion Charge

This article by Christopher M. Matthews and Rebecca Elliott for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“We have to make the tough choices to high-grade our portfolio and invest in the highest-return projects in the world we see ahead of us, and that’s a different world than the one that lies behind us,” Mr. Wirth said.

Chevron’s shares closed up less than a percentage point at $117.90 prior to the announcement Tuesday. Reaction to the news was muted in after-hours trading.

The sobering reappraisal by Chevron, one of the world’s largest and best-performing oil companies, is likely to ripple through the oil-and-gas industry, forcing others to publicly reassess the value of their holdings in the face of a global supply glut and growing investor concerns about the long-term future of fossil fuels. Particular pressure is falling on shale producers, especially those focused on natural gas in places like Pennsylvania, which are struggling with historically low U.S. prices caused by oversupply.

Chevron’s move follows a $5 billion write-down by Spain’s Repsol SA earlier this month and an impairment of $2.6 billion by the U.K.’s BP PLC in October. Industry executives and analysts anticipate that many more oil-and-gas companies will soon write down billions in value to comply with accounting standards because low commodity prices have undermined the economics of many projects.

Eoin Treacy's view -

In last night’s audio I was searching for the term high grading when discussing the performance of mining companies but it of course also extends to any commodity market where prices have declined to such an extent that many sources of supply become uneconomic.



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December 06 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Oil Surges After Saudis Surprise Market With Additional

This article by Sheela Tobben and Alex Longley for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The additional supply reduction would take the kingdom’s production down to levels not seen on a sustained basis since 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

After the announcement, Prince Abdulaziz predicted that Saudi Aramco, which just completed an IPO at a valuation of $1.7 trillion, would soon soar above the $2 trillion. The kingdom plans to pump 9.7 million barrels a day, he said. That’s a reduction of about 300,000 barrels a day from its output in November and 100,000 below the year-to-date average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There was always a risk that Saudi Arabia would attempt to massage energy prices in order to get the valuation for Saudi Aramco they desired. The IPO priced yesterday at $1.7 trillion which will represent a $25 billion windfall for the kingdom. If the price pops on the upside following the IPO that will give a windfall to the large numbers of domestic investors, many connected to the ruling class, who invested in the IPO. That is obviously a desirable outcome from a domestic perspective for Saudi Arabia.



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December 03 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Europe Set to Overhaul Its Entire Economy in Green Deal Push

This article by Ewa Krukowska and Nikos Chrysoloras for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The EU plan, set to be approved as the high-profile United Nations summit in Madrid winds up, would put the bloc ahead of other major emitters. Countries including China, India and Japan have yet to translate voluntary pledges under the 2015 Paris climate accord into binding national measures. U.S. President Donald Trump has said he’ll pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement.

In a pitch of her Green Deal to member states and the European Parliament on Dec. 11, von der Leyen is set to promise a set of measures to reach the net-zero emissions target, affecting sectors from agriculture to energy production. It will include a thorough analysis on how to toughen the current 40% goal to reduce emissions by 2030 to 50% or even 55%, according to an EU document obtained by Bloomberg News.

Make It Irreversible
In the next step, the commission will propose an EU law in March that would “make the transition to climate neutrality irreversible,” von der Leyen told the UN meeting. She said the measure will include “a farm-to-fork strategy and a biodiversity strategy” and will extend the scope of emissions trading.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The EU’s political elite view the climate argument as a voter winner, a source of revenue for their constrained social services and an additional control on the economy that would be impossible under normal circumstances. It is also a response to the fact the region is a major energy consumer and has long had to deal with regimes it is politically at odds with because of its dependence on imports of energy commodities.



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November 27 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Biggest LNG Producer Targets 64% Jump in Capacity by 2027

This article by Simone Foxman and Verity Ratcliffe for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:
 

Qatar’s plan for a 64% increase in LNG capacity is likely to intensify a global glut in the fuel. The nation is seeking to fend off competition from rival producers such as Australia and the U.S. that have ramped up production and eroded the Gulf state’s historic dominance of the market. Australia has exported about 70 million tons of LNG this year, compared with 71.9 million for Qatar, according to vessel-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

The North Field holds more than 1,760 trillion cubic feet of gas, and state-run Qatar Petroleum will “immediately” start engineering work for two additional LNG production plants, or trains, for a combined capacity of 16 million tons annually, Al Kaabi said in a statement. Qatar will be able to produce about 6.7 million barrels of oil equivalent a day by 2027, said Al Kaabi, who also serves as QP’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The quantities of natural gas that can be brought to market, almost at will, are nothing short of astounding and suggest a price war is inevitable. With Australia now producing almost as much gas as Qatar and the USA exporting the bounty from shale wells the global market for gas is likely to continue to grow.



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November 18 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Aramco Failure to Win Foreign Money Makes IPO Local Event

This article by Javier Blas for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Most of the money is likely to be raised from domestic rather than foreign investors. This means that the proceeds won’t be a fresh inflow of foreign capital but an internal transfer from Saudi households and corporates to the government. --Ziad Daoud, Chief Middle East Economist for Bloomberg Economics

So poor is the international appetite for the deal, even at the lower valuation, Saudi Aramco decided at the last minute against marketing the IPO in the U.S., Canada and Japan -- three markets traditionally seen as a must-go destination for any big Wall Street deal. Instead of the planned approach to American investors, using what lawyers and bankers know as the 144A rule of the U.S. Securities Act, Aramco decided on Sunday the tepid interest meant it wasn’t worth the trouble.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Russian and Chinese assets always appear at the top of value screens when sorting for value on a global scale. However, that ignores the geopolitical risk of investing in those areas. The same might now also be true of the Saudi Aramco IPO. The attack on Saudi Aramco’s infrastructure served to highlight how exposed it is to damage from conflict and that alone was probably enough to compress the valuation and deter interest ahead of the IPO.



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November 18 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ford Unveils Electric Mustang SUV to Challenge Tesla Dominance

This article by Keith Naughton for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The Mach-E will make a profit “on vehicle one,” he said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “That’s surprising a lot of people because electrics have not had a history of making money. This will.”

Hackett said it will turn a profit because the vehicle “creates the passion that follows with Mustang” and prices start in the mid-$30,000 when U.S. subsides on electric cars are factored in. “So it’s attractive to customers.”

Ford is building it in Mexico because it had an open factory there and it needed to be overhauled to build an electric vehicle, Hackett said. “As we start to adopt more electric vehicles — we had capacity down there, we had no capacity in the United States — we’re going to have electric capacity here in the United States. They’ll be building other electric platforms.”

Still, it’s a high-risk gambit. The Mustang is Ford’s signature sports car, having sold more than 10 million units since it debuted in 1964 with simultaneous cover stories in Time and Newsweek. When Ford decided to abandon the traditional passenger-car business last year, it spared only one model: The Mustang.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Sports cars, pickups and SUVs represent the high margin portions of the auto industry. Many traditional manufacturers are racing to get electric SUVs and sedans into the market to compete with Tesla. Today’s Ford announcement is obviously aimed at competing with the Model 3, while Tesla’s debut for its pick-up, on Thursday, is aimed at competing with the F-150. The disruption in the auto sector is forcing massive investment in new manufacturing capacity and not all will survive. From listening to what Jim Hackett had to say about profitability, it sounds there is some creative accounting in making the claim the electric Mustang will be profitable on car one.



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November 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The next 6 months favor Cyclicals: Financials, Energy, Industrials, Tech, Materials

Thanks to a subscriber for this chart illustrated report by Barry Bannister for Stifel which may be of interest.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

I have some sympathy with the view that when everyone is short, the risk of a short covering rally greatly increases. That’s particularly true if Saudi Arabia succeeds in encouraging OPEC to further reduce supply to bolster the valuation of Saudi Aramco ahead of the IPO.



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November 08 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

What's Happening to US Shale Production?

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Geohring & Rozencwajg. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

The unconventional revolution in oil and gas production took off, the most promising locations were drilled first. The challenge from the beginning with unconventional wells is their prolific initial production followed soon after by an early peak production profile. That requires constant drilling to sustain production growth. If you stop drilling the peaking of existing wells catches up and production falls.



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November 07 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chesapeake's Covenants Could Pinch in 2020

This article by Allison McNeely may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The company warned there is doubt about its ability to continue operating. Its shares and bonds have plunged since reporting earnings Nov. 5.

*Based on price assumptions of $55 per barrel for oil and $2.50 per million British thermal units for natural gas as well as no debt reduction, Chesapeake is likely to trip its leverage covenant by the third quarter of next year, if not sooner, CreditSights analysts Jake Leiby and Michael Mistras wrote in
the report.

**They predict Chesapeake will have a free cash flow shortfall of about $50 million in 2020 and finish the year with gross leverage of 4.6 times debt to a measure of earnings, above the 4.25 ratio in its covenant.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Chesapeake dropped significantly over the last couple of days and is now dependent on the kindness of strangers to ease debt covenants if it is to survive. The problem for the company is it is not viable at a shale industry average of $55. Its breakeven might be closer to $70. Meanwhile natural gas prices remain volatile, even after the rebound over the last week which took the price back above $2.50.
 



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November 06 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Brazil's Oil Flop a Warning for Majors and Aramco

This article by Liam Denning for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Offshore oil investment was all the rage among Big Oil during the supercycle, with capital expenditure almost quadrupling in the decade up to 2014. That is the problem. The majors poured money into large, multi-year projects prone to delays and, because of their often bespoke engineering, spiraling budgets. The result: tumbling return on capital and an inability to dial back investment quickly when the oil crash hit in 2014. Roughly 3,000 new offshore projects sanctioned between 2010 and 2014 have either barely generated any value for oil companies or are expected to generate none at all, according to a recent study published by Rystad Energy, a consultancy:

More recent investments score better, mostly because the boom tailed off, with offshore capex falling by more than half between 2014 and 2018. That took the heat out of industry inflation; and, because of the bonfire of returns in the prior decade, oil majors got smarter about such things as standardizing offshore equipment design to cut costs and shorten schedules. The pace of new projects has picked up again after the slump. Exxon, for example, has effectively opened up an entire new offshore zone with its Guyanese fields.

Still, one look at the stock prices of oilfield services firms, especially offshore-focused types such as Transocean Ltd. and Noble Corp. Plc, tells you this investment wave is nothing like the tsunami of yesteryear. Bad memories combined with unease about both near- and long-term oil demand make bold bets on big, multi-year offshore projects a tough sell with investors more interested in payouts. Even Exxon’s success in Guyana gets overshadowed by the fact that the company’s capex bill leaves it borrowing to pay its dividend. And Exxon, like Chevron Corp. and other majors, has swung more of its spending toward shorter-cycle onshore fracking in North America.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Secular bull markets in commodities are defined by a step change in the marginal cost of production. During periods of what can best be described as a status quo the price of oil can range for decades. That reduces investment in new supply and the sector is unable to respond quickly when a new source of demand emerges. The massive investment to bring new supply to market takes time to evolve and that creates a secular bull market as new higher cost sources are brought online. 



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October 31 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Shell Shares Continue Slide After Tense Call With Analysts

This article by Kelly Gilblom and Javier Blas for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

At one point, van Beurden quipped that the buyback program would be cheaper now because the shares were falling, which invited a terse response from an analyst who said: “I agree.”
“Please help me with my confused state,” said Christopher Kuplent, an analyst at Bank of America Corp., before asking the penultimate question on the call about whether they are
disclosing information in the right way.

Van Beurden responded that they could have avoided the cautionary note about the buybacks completely. He said that people could have done the math that lower oil prices make life more financially challenging for Shell, however, he said it was better to acknowledge a likely stormy year ahead to the market.

Then he offered another mind-bending answer as shares slipped further. “That macro does actually have an effect on our cash flow is obviously a statement of the obvious. So we could also have said: ‘Well that’s hopefully all understood isn’t it?”’ he added. “But not making a statement of the obvious it is also making a statement.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

When CEOs are candid and state the obvious it tends to have unintended consequences. Royal Dutch Shell’s management just told the market they may not have the money to buy back as many shares next year because oil prices are low and are likely to stay that way for the next 12 months. That’s not exactly what investors were expecting to hear.



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October 30 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fed Cuts Rates by Quarter Point, Hints It May Be Done for Now

This article by Christopher Condon for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Federal Reserve officials reduced interest rates by a quarter-percentage point for the third time this year and hinted they may be done loosening monetary policy, at least for one meeting.

The Federal Open Market Committee altered language in its statement following the two-day meeting Wednesday, dropping its pledge to “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion,” while adding a promise to monitor data as it “assesses the appropriate path of the target range for the federal funds rate.”

As with the September statement, the FOMC cited the implications of global developments in deciding to lower the target range for the central bank’s benchmark rate to 1.5% to 1.75%.

Treasuries weakened on the Fed’s announcement, pushing the 10-year yield up briefly to 1.81% from 1.80%. Stocks were little changed and the U.S. dollar gained. Traders also pared wagers on a fourth consecutive rate cut in December.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Fed has been of the opinion we are in the midst of a mid-cycle slowdown. I think we can think of that as a best-case scenario which is why there is so much uncertainty about the outlook for rates amid the surge in bond prices. Let’s see what the charts tell us.



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October 14 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Oil Shipping Costs Soar to Highest Levels in 11 Years

This article by Costas Paris for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“There is a lot of confusion and uncertainty out there,” said Paolo d’Amico, head of Intertanko, a trade body representing tanker owners. “Everyone is afraid of being hit by the U.S., sanctions, rendering about 50 VLCCs untouchable.”

U.S. oil exports to Europe, which usually move in smaller tankers, hit a record 1.8 million barrels a day for the week ending Oct. 7, according to Kpler, an energy market intelligence company. The figure is double the 924,000 barrels in the previous week. But shipments to Asia, which are typically done on VLCCs, were reduced almost in half to 508,000 barrels.

A Singapore broker said rates for some VLCC cargoes on sailings from the U.S. Gulf Coast to the Far East were more than $120,000 on Thursday. Average earnings for supertankers picking up cargoes from around the world hit $94,124 a day, up from $18,284 on Sept. 25, when Washington blacklisted the Cosco fleet.

“VLCCs to Asia are a rare commodity, the market is red hot and will stay that way while the U.S. sanctions on Cosco ships are in place,” said the broker, who asked not to be named because he isn’t authorized to talk to the media.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Baltic Dirty Tanker Index broke out on the upside last week, to trade above 1500 for the first time since 2008. That follows the breakout in the Baltic Dry Index in August. The latter’s move has not been as pronounced but does highlight the additional pressure on the shipping sector from the impending implementation of the IMO2020 rules on ship emissions.



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October 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Midcap British Stocks Soar On Move Toward Brexit Talks

This article by Steve Goldstein for MarketWatch may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

The midcap FTSE 250 rose 3.5%, its best single-day percentage gain in more than three years, as European leaders indicated there was progress toward reaching an agreed deal with the U.K. on leaving the European Union. The European Union says it has agreed with the United Kingdom to "intensify" Brexit negotiations in a belated attempt to reach a divorce deal ahead of Oct. 31. A number of FTSE 250 components sported double-digit gains, including bank CYBG, building materials distributor Grafton Group and home improvement retailer Travis Perkins. The FTSE 100 however saw much smaller gains, of just 0.7%, because many of those components record revenue in dollars.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Pound has staged one its largest two-day rallies in years and that is pressuring the shares of companies that rely on overseas earnings. The divergence in performance between the FTSE-100 and the FTSE-250 highlights the benefit to domestically oriented companies from a resolution of the Brexit conundrum.



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October 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Melting Ice Redraws the World Map and Starts a Power Struggle

This article by Marc Champion for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Shawn Bennett, deputy assistant secretary for oil and natural gas at the Department of Energy, said the U.S. was not concerned about competition. Growth projections for natural gas demand in India and other Asian countries are so high, and the need for supply diversification in Europe so acute that there’s little risk of a glut, he told Bloomberg. “Global demand for LNG is just going to grow,” he said.

The U.S. may be pushing back in more concrete ways. On September 30, the Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on units of China’s Cosco Shipping Corp., over alleged breaches of U.S. sanctions against Iran. The move immediately hit the Yamal project’s LNG tanker routes because of Cosco’s share in one of the main shipping companies involved.

Still, for those who have been working in the Arctic for a long time, much of the geopolitical discussion sounds a little breathless. Last year, Russia’s Northern Sea Route carried 29 million tons of cargo, with projections rising to 90 million. The Suez Canal carries about 1 billion tons.

Eoin Treacy's view -

David and I predicted more than a decade ago that the USA would become energy independent that that represented a gamechanger for the energy sector that was completely underappreciated by markets. This chart suggests that reality, long promised, is now upon us.



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October 07 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Bond Market is the Biggest Bubble of our Lifetime

Thanks to a subscriber for this interview of Louis-Vincent Gave which appeared in themarket.ch. Here is a section:

On a global level, bonds with a value of about $15 trillion currently trade with a negative yield. What’s going on here?

For every investor today, the starting point must be the bond market. Just a few weeks ago, we had $17 trillion of negative yielding debt. We’re now down to about 15, but even that is way too much. This is investment money that is guaranteed to produce a loss of capital. These extreme levels in today’s bond market can only have three possible explanations. One, the world faces an economic meltdown of epic proportions. Two, the bond market is the biggest bubble we have ever witnessed, and three, we have just experienced a massive buying panic in bonds.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I agree with all three of these points so we then need to address the question of what will happen to deflate the bubble. The answer is inflation which is like kryptonite for the bond market. The only way anyone can justify buying bonds with a negative yield is if they believe the deflationary argument is self-fulfilling. 



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September 16 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Aramco Said to Face Weeks Without Majority of Abqaiq Output

This article by Anthony DiPaola, Will Kennedy and Javier Blas for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Saudi Aramco faces weeks or months before the majority of supply from the giant Abqaiq plant is restored after this weekend’s devastating aerial attack, according to people familiar with matter.

Aramco is still assessing the state of the plant and the scope of repairs, but the state oil company currently believes less than half of the the plant’s capacity can be restored quickly, the people said, asking not to be identified before an official announcement. It’s a more pessimistic outlook than Aramco had immediately after the incident, they said.

All eyes are on how fast the kingdom can recover from the weekend’s devastating strike, which knocked out roughly 5% of global supply and triggered a record surge in oil prices. The loss of Abqaiq, which handles 5.7 million barrels of oil a day, or about half of Saudi production, is the single worst sudden disruption to the oil market.

Aramco, the world’s largest exporter, is currently supplying customers from its stockpiles, but is asking some buyers to accept different grades. President Trump has said he’s ready to release oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ensure ample supply.

Saudi Arabia is also starting idle offshore fields to replace some of the lost production.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Let’s lay out the questions. The first is just how much geopolitical risk is present and has that been under appreciated by markets? The second is the Khurais field is about equidistant from the border with Iraq and Yemen so how did these drones penetrate air space without being intercepted. The third is what is likely to do well as a result of these events?



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September 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Factors or Fundamentals, Quant Tremor Is Field Day for the Geeks

This article by Sarah Ponczek and Vildana Hajric for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

You wouldn’t know it from benchmarks, but beneath a tranquil surface violent swings are lashing traders along obscure fault lines. Companies like real-estate firms that rose the most in 2019 are plunging, and some that have trailed are being pushed out front. It’s been a mild reckoning for hedge funds and others who have bet on the status quo persisting.

Amid all the churn has been a renewed focus on a quantitative concept known as factor investing, which groups companies not by industry but traits such as how fast their prices move or profits rise. A question gaining currency in the past few days is whether these categories are just handy descriptions of twists in the market -- or are at some level guiding them.

“It seems very mechanical right now,” said John Swarr, investment specialist at Penn Mutual Asset Management, which has $27 billion under management. “If you look within some of these stocks that are being hit the hardest, some are in much better shape than others and yet they’re all being affected similarly,” he said. “It does feel like it’s a rules-based rotation.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The total of negative yields bonds was at $17 trillion for a brief time at the end of August and has since contracted to $14.3 trillion. That’s a big more in a little less than two weeks.

The failure of the German government to sell a full allocation of bonds and failed auctions at the US Treasury in August were probably the catalysts for sapping investor demand for bonds globally. The unwinding of leveraged long positions now has the scope for meaningfully move bond yields higher with clear upward dynamics evident across multiple markets.



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September 03 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Is an inflation resurgence credible?

Eoin Treacy's view -

At the end of last year, a return of inflation was assumed to be inevitable with the 10-year Treasury yield trading comfortably above 3%, commodity prices recovering, wages marching higher, full employment and high capacity utilisation. The perspective could not be more different today.

Interminable deflation has been priced in to Treasury yields as they test the lows of the last eight years. Commodity prices are under pressure, the trade war has resulted in a number of export dependent nations flirting with recessions, purchasing managers indices suggest contracting manufacturing activity and an inverted yield curve has started the clock on the next recession. Meanwhile gold has exploded on the upside to complete a six-year base formation.



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August 28 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Homeowners are sitting on a record amount of cash, but they're not really tapping it

This article by Dina Olick for CNBC may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

So-called tappable equity grew by more than $335 billion during the quarter. The total is 26% more than the mid-2006 peak of $5 trillion. Roughly 45 million mortgage holders have excess equity, and half of them have mortgage rates higher than 4.25%, making a refinance not only possible but attractive. The average rate on the 30-year fixed is now around 3.6%. The majority of these borrowers also have top credit scores.

Falling mortgage rates over the past several months have caused a surge in overall refinance activity, but despite the record housing wealth, homeowners have been highly conservative about taking cash out. In 2006, 89% of refinances were cash-out, according to Freddie Mac. In 2012, when home prices crashed, that share dropped to 12%. But even now, with prices back above their previous peak and mortgage rates much lower, cash-out refinances are just 61% of the total pool of refinances.

“I think you’re seeing a little bit of reluctance both on the side of lenders and on the side of borrowers,” said Andy Walden, director of market research at Black Knight. “If you look at lending, guidelines are a little bit tighter than they were back in 2006, but even given those lending restrictions, I think you’re seeing more conservative behavior on behalf of homeowners as well, as folks have the remembrance of the financial crisis in the rearview mirror.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

I was at an end-of-summer party on Saturday night and conversation turned to mortgage refinancing. About half of the people I was talking with had used low rates over the last 18 months to refinance at about 3.5% while the rest had not done so yet. Mortgage rates have done a round trip from 3.5% to 5% and back again over the last year and there is still scope for the rate to move lower. That is going to put additional cash in the pockets of the people most likely to invest in the stock market.



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August 27 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

OPEC+ Expects to Drain Oil Stocks as It Makes Supersized Cut

This article by Grant Smith for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In response, the Saudis have reduced output by far more than pledged under the terms of the deal, and the coalition’s overall implementation rate last month was 59% above target, according to a statement posted on its website on Tuesday. That means the alliance cut supplies by about 1.9 million barrels a day.

OPEC signaled that the deeper-than-anticipated cutbacks had been necessary because of the extreme upheaval in the global economy.

“This high level of overall conformity has offset uncertainty in the market due to ongoing economic-growth worries,” according to the statement from the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, a body set up by OPEC and its allies to oversee implementation of their strategy.

“Along with healthy oil demand,” the supply restraints have “arrested global oil-inventories growth and should lead to significant draws in the second half of the year,” the committee said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Brent Crude is flirting with $60 and WTI is testing the $55 area. OPEC and Russia need a higher price to meet their domestic obligations. Meanwhile shale producers need a higher price to justify continued drilling and to help meet their debt obligations. That suggests the $50 area for WTI is a big level for the US domestic onshore sector because they cannot justify supply growth below that level. Despite this competition between OPEC and the Permian oil is trading in backwardation out to two-year maturities.



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August 23 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Powell Says Economy in Favorable Place, Faces Significant Risks

This article by Craig Torres and Rich Miller for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“Trade policy uncertainty seems to be playing a role in the global slowdown and in weak manufacturing and capital spending in the United States,” Powell said in the text of his remarks Friday to central bankers gathered at the Kansas City Fed’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “We will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion, with a strong labor market and inflation near its symmetric 2% objective.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

It is looking like the learning curve for a newly installed Fed chair is about 18 months. Today’s measured statement from Jerome Powell did an excellent job of placating investor fears while leaving open the optionality of how much to cut by. The Fed has made clear they will cut rates if they need to but will not hurry. However, the simultaneous announcement by China that they are increasing tariffs on $75 billion of US goods is likely to be prove the catalyst for deeper cuts.



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