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February 23 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Renewed Love for Gold into Early 2017

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from RBC, dated February 13th, which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Through the first month of 2017, global commodity AUM flows have shifted course as funds have returned to precious metals and out of energy. This was a reversal in pattern from that seen through Q4/16, which saw total outflows of $20.5B in precious metals holdings and inflows of $8.4B into energy. This corresponded to a 0.7% increase in TSX weighting for precious metals to 7.3% and a 1.3% decline in energy in January. However, despite the promising start to the year for precious metals, total commodity AUM still sits 13% below the $123B seen in September 2016 and the current TSX weighting of 7.75% still sits 1.9% below the high of 9.6% seen in July 2016.

This month, we have seen an acceleration of inflows into physical gold ETFs, which we view as a positive sign fundamentally, and believe that we will continue to see inflows due to geopolitical concerns, persistence of low real rates globally, and growing US inflation expectations. We would recommend that investors focus on companies with attractive margins, solid balance sheets, organic growth opportunities and a consistent operating strategy.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Following an impressive rally in early 2016 Total Known ETF Holdings of Gold followed the trajectory of the gold price and pulled back below the trend mean. A rally back towards 60 million ounces is currently underway and a sustained move above that level would lend credibility to the view that a low of more than temporary significance has been found. 



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February 21 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

North Korea lights fire under coking coal price

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

On Saturday the totalitarian dictatorship's largest trading partner, China, reacted to the Feb. 12 test of a long-range ballistic missile by announcing a ban on coal from the rogue nation till the end of 2017.

The decision by the China's Ministry of Commerce, issued jointly with the country's customs agency, was made to comply with a UN Security Council resolution that China helped draft and pass in November.

Along with restricting the export of coal, the resolution also targets non-ferrous metals, statues and other luxury items like tapestries.

China's import ban on North Korean coal was supposed to be lifted in January but the missile test has meant that Beijing's coal ban will continue.

Last year China imported 22.4 million tonnes of anthracitic coal that can be used as an alternative to coking coal in the steelmaking process from North Korea, a nearly 15% rise from 2015.

China forges more steel than the rest of the world combined and the country last year imported a total 59.2 million tonnes of coking coal, an increase of nearly 24% over 2015.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China and Russia have long applied a satellite state foreign policy strategy in order to protect their borders from the risk of being overrun by a surprise land invasion. North Korea has played just such a role for China which the ban on coal but import of anthracite highlights. Does anyone really think North Korea would be testing ballistic missiles without China’s tacit support? 



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February 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the cost of gold mining

Thank you for another very well done Friday audio. Your comments on gold were very interesting for me. I wonder if you or the collective have an idea about the possibility of technological innovation that might make gold production cheaper, the way oil production has become cheaper.. Thanks in advance

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and I am delighted you are enjoying the new format of videos and audios. Anglogold Ashanti have been pioneering a number of new technologies not least reef boring and thermal spawning. Both are designed to economically extract gold from previously uneconomic regions such as very thin reefs or the supporting walls of old mines. As with any new technology, development takes time but the company is hopeful about the prospects for future production. This informative section from Anglogold Ashanti’s site may also be of interest. 



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February 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the Dow/Gold ratio scenarios

I have been following your Dow/ gold analysis, but while in the long term you are probably right, in the short term there are other interpretations of how the ratio could move, especially if you put the ratio on a log scale 

I’m attaching another possible and probable path in normal scale, and in log scale. the short term rise could be a pause before the real bottom, it has happened in the past. 

PS: considering you are a real international traveler and investor, where would you say are the safest banks today?  I think Singapore, but I heard it is getting difficult to open an account there 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for these nicely illustrated charts. Is there the possibility that the Dow/Gold ratio pull back? Absolutely. It posted a higher reaction low in the early 1930s and a lower low in the early 1980s. In both cases it pulled back following the initial breakout out. 



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February 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Citigroup Pays Fine to Settle South African Rand Collusion Probe

This article by Vernon Wessels and Renee Bonorchis for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Citigroup Inc. agreed to pay an administrative penalty of 70 million rand ($5.4 million) to settle a South African antitrust investigation that it participated in a cartel to manipulate the value of the rand.

The figure does not exceed 10 percent of Citigroup’s annual turnover in South Africa and comes after the New York-based lender undertook to cooperate with the Competition Commission and “avail witnesses to assist the prosecution of the other banks that colluded in this matter,” the Pretoria-based commission said in an e-mailed statement on Monday.

“This settlement was done to encourage speedy settlement and full disclosure to strengthen the evidence for prosecution of the other banks,” Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said in the statement. Barclays Africa Group Ltd. has also agreed to cooperate, people familiar with the matter said last week.

The commission on Feb. 15 referred a collusion case to the country’s Competition Tribunal for prosecution and identified lenders including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, HSBC Holdings Plc, BNP Paribas SA, Credit Suisse Group AG, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Nomura International Plc as among those that participated in price fixing and market allocation in the trading of foreign-currency pairs involving the rand.

Commerzbank AG, Macquarie Group Ltd., Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., Investec Ltd. and Standard Bank Group Ltd. were also named.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This news item may be responsible for the spike in open interest in Rand options. The currency has been strengthening since the news broke, in line with other commodity currencies and suggests that a good many traders were short and that the continued resilience of the commodity complex is a tailwind for related currencies. 



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February 17 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Beyond The Supercycle How Technology is Reshaping Resources

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

First came the “fly-up,” the price spike on world markets for oil, gas, and a broad range of natural resources that began in 2003. Then came the abrupt bust, as prices tumbled and global spending on natural resources dropped by half in the course of 2015 alone. Now, even as resource companies and exporting countries pick up the pieces after this commodity “supercycle,” the sector is facing a new wave of disruption.1 Shifts taking place in the way resources are consumed as well as produced—less noticed than the rollercoaster commodity price ride but no less significant—will have major first- and second order effects on both the sector and the global economy. These shifts are the result of technological innovation, including the adoption of robotics, Internet of Things technology, and data analytics, along with macroeconomic trends and changing consumer behavior.

We see three principal effects of this technological revolution:
Consumption of energy will become less intense as people use energy more efficiently thanks to smart thermostats and other energy-saving devices in homes and offices, and the use of analytics and automation to optimize factory usage. Transportation, the largest user of oil, will be especially affected, by more fuel-efficient engines and by the burgeoning use of autonomous and electric vehicles and ride sharing.

Technological advances will continue to bring down the cost of renewable energies such as solar and wind energy, as well as the cost of storing them. This will hand renewables a greater role in the global economy’s energy mix, with significant first- and second-order effects on producers and consumers of fossil fuels.

Resource producers will be able to deploy a range of technologies in their operations, putting mines and wells that were once inaccessible within reach, raising the efficiency of extraction techniques, shifting to predictive maintenance, and using sophisticated data analysis to identify, extract, and manage resources.

Scenarios we have modeled suggest that these developments have the potential to unlock $900 billion to $1.6 trillion in incremental cost savings throughout the global economy in 2035, an amount equivalent to the current GDP of Indonesia or, at the top end, Canada. As a result of lower energy intensity and technological advances that improve efficiency, energy productivity in the global economy could increase by 40 to 70 percent in 2035. We believe these changes will have profound implications not just for companies in the resource sector and for countries that export resources, but also for businesses and consumers everywhere.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The long-term cycles of supply and demand can be boiled down into the simply maxim that high prices encourage consumers to be efficient and suppliers to invest in expansion. Low prices encourage consumers to use more while suppliers are forced to be more efficient. Following a decade long super cycle producers are now much more efficient while consumers are really only beginning to increase demand as economic growth picks up. 



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February 14 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bottom is in for Uranium; Gold & Silver Off to the Races in 2017

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Cantor Fitzgerald which may be of interest. Here is a section on uranium

Kazatomprom that it plans to cut its annual uranium production by 10%, or by 5.2M lbs U3O8. This amount translates into roughly 3% of 2015 global production and marks an inflection point in the space. Since at least 2001, Kazatomprom has relentlessly increased production into an oversupplied market and is arguably the single biggest cause for the weakness in the commodity aside from the Fukushima disaster. In fact, we had long since given up on expecting Kazatomprom to exercise production restraint as its mines were the lowest cost operators in the world and constant production increases appeared to be a cultural focus in Kazakhstan.

While some skepticism exists on whether Kazatomprom will actually follow through with this cut (as opposed to OPEC style “cuts”), we suspect that at least some of the production reduction will occur among joint venture operations managed by western producers such as Cameco. Moreover, we believe the impact will be more than the announced cut amount because the market was likely factoring in a typical Kazatomprom increase as opposed to a cut. So instead of a 3-5% increase we are expecting a reduction of 10%, or a 13-15 percentage point swing.

Cameco’s announcement of Tokyo Electric Power Holdings’ (“TEPCO”) termination of its supply contract has cast some concern over what will happen with the U3O8 pounds that were earmarked for the Japanese utility. In total, the contract was for 9.3M lbs U3O8 to be delivered from 2017-2028, this works out to 775,000 lbs annually. TEPCO was selling some if not all of the material it was contractually obligated to purchase already. As such, we believe the worst case scenario arising from the cancellation is that Cameco does the exact same thing and sells the material into the spot market. However, we think there is room for potential positivity from this announcement, as Cameco could instead elect to not produce the pounds at all (and further cut costs by doing so) or it could elect to store them in inventory to await higher prices. Either of those two actions would effectively be removing some of the excess supply in the market. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

azakhstan stamped its dominance on uranium market by engineering a multi-year decline and succeeded in driving a significant number of small explorers out of business.  Last week’s news Tokyo Electric cancelled a major Cameco contract highlights just how successful their policy of flooding the market with supply has been. Having achieve their goal, the decision to limit supply is an important catalyst for the uranium market. 



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February 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Africa's Cities: Opening Doors to the World

This heavyweight 166-page report from the World Bank may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

How can Africa’s leaders and policymakers spring cities from this trap? Crucially, they must first realize that the problem does not begin with low capital investment and the lack of physical structures, or even with undersized infrastructure. To be sure, low investment in structures limits urban economic density; it exacerbates spatial fragmentation, and it precludes agglomeration economies. But the lack of investment results from low investor expectations, which result when cities are spatially dispersed and disconnected.

When potential investors and trading partners look at African cities, they see spatial fragmentation and a lack of connections. They know that such fragmentation constrains public service provision, inhibits labor market pooling and matching, and prevents firms from reaping scale and agglomeration benefits. So the key to freeing Africa’s cities from their low development trap is to set them on a path toward physical and economic density, connecting them for higher efficiency and boosting expectations for the future. The first priority is to reform land markets and land use planning — to promote the most efficient uses of urban land, and to develop land at scale.
Informal land markets are not good enough for African cities. Urban land is a vital economic asset, and asset transactions are viable only where purchasers can rely on enduring extra-legal documentation of ownership. A formal market both offers purchasers the protection of the state and — because transactions are readily, observable and recorded — generates the public good of accurate valuation.

Clear rights to urban land are a precondition for formal land markets. African cities struggle with overlapping and sometimes contradictory property rights systems — formal, customary, and informal (box 3). When these systems pose barriers to urban land access, they impede the consolidation of plots and the evolution of land use. Firms cannot readily buy downtown land to convert it from low-density residential use into higher-density apartments, or to build clusters of new commercial structures. Land transactions are long, costly, and complicated (World Bank 2015c). Such market constraints reduce the collateral value of structures, giving developers little incentive to invest in residential height — while tempting all parties to enter informal arrangements (Collier 2016).

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Africa is going to account for a billion new consumers within the next couple of decades so improving standards of governance are going to be essential if that demographic dividend is not going to be squandered. 
 



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February 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A must read: ballast water convention

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

The convention will reinforce multi-year shipping upcycle
The Ballast Water Management Convention, which is scheduled to come into force in September 2017, requires all ships sailing in international waters to install a Ballast Water Management System (BWMS). In light of the high cost and uncertainties associated with BWMS, we expect shipowners to scrap most of their vessels of above 15 years in the coming 2-3 years. We estimate global dry bulk fleets will shrink 1.5% in 2018 and 3.9% in 2019 while VLCC utilization will pick up starting 2018. Buy Pacific Basin and CSD.

An introduction of this convention 
Initiated by the IMO in 2004, the Ballast Water Management Convention was designed to prevent transfers of invasive aquatic species via ships’ ballast water. After the accession of Finland, the convention was ratified in Sept. 2016, and will enter into force in Sept. 2017. Thereafter, new vessels will have to install the BWMS on delivery date. For existing vessels, they are required to carry out retro-fit until their next International Oil Pollution Protection (IOPP) renewal survey (conduct every five years). While some vessels could get a grace period of up to five years (assuming the IOPP is renewed just before September this year), there are high levels of uncertainty over this exemption as the IMO is scheduled to further debate this exemption in July.

Potential impacts on shipping market
The BWMS is expensive (USD2.5m for a VLCC and USD1.5m for a Capesize). This extra cost, along with higher maintenance expense, would substantially lift the breakeven level for 15+ years old vessels. Alongside the freight rate discount (to new ships) and rising demolition prices, our analysis shows that scrapping is the best option for shipowners. Currently, 14% of dry bulkers and 19% of VLCCs are above 15 years old and we expect this proportion of capacity to largely exit in the coming 2-3 years. Coupled with falling newbuild deliveries, we expect dry bulk supply growth to drop to 0.9% in 2017, and decline 1.5% in 2018 and 3.9% in 2019 (vs. 2.3% in 2016). Similarly, we expect VLCC utilization rates to pick up to 85.1% in 2018, in part due to the 2015-16 peak cycle.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The Baltic Dry Index has been ranging in a volatile manner for eight years because a lot of the new ships ordered in the commodity bull market were delivered at just the time that global economic activity collapsed. The result has been a surplus of ships, where the lives of old vessels were prolonged because it was more economic to keep them in service than to scrap or sell them. The introduction of the Ballast Water Management Convention has the potential to represent a significant bullish catalyst for the sector. 



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February 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Copper Jumps Most Since 2013 as Strike Combines With China Boost

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

“We continue to see concerns about the deficit in the copper market,” Bart Melek, head of global commodity strategy at TD Securities in Toronto, said in a telephone interview. “We could have a significant deficit if this strike continues for a while.”

Copper for delivery in three months climbed 4.6 percent to settle at $6,090 a metric ton at 5:50 p.m. on the London Metal Exchange. That’s the biggest gain since May 2013. Aluminum, lead, nickel, tin and zinc also advanced on the LME.

An index of 18 base-metal producers climbed as much as 3.4 percent, with shares of Freeport-McMoRan Inc. and Rio Tinto Plc among the biggest increases.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Strike action at the world’s largest copper mine is the catalyst which has spurred interest in copper prices over the last couple of days. However the bigger picture is that global economic growth is picking up following a lengthy period of disappointment and commodity producers are cautious about investing in new supply following the trauma of a significant bear market. 



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February 08 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Dow/Gold Ratio

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Dow/Gold Ratio is one of the most storied ratios in finance not least because it is made up of two of the instruments with the longest back histories. We can spend a great deal of time thinking and writing about secular bull and bear markets but the Dow/Gold ratio gives us evidence of how major bull markets transition into decade long periods of underperformance of stocks versus gold before transitioning again into decades long bull markets of relative outperformance by stocks.
 
There are three major peaks and two confirmed major lows on the above chart. 

 



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February 08 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on uranium charts

There seems to be an error with the chart of uranium which you referenced last month, would it be possible to please update it (see the enclosed chart)?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email which may be of interest to subscribers. Uranium is not a freely traded commodity so there is only one daily price. Therefore it is best to view it as a line chart. I am not sure why we receive open, high, low, close data but I have now switched the chart to default to line in the Chart Library.



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February 07 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Australia's Stock Market Is Decoupling From the World

This article by Adam Haigh  and Garfield Clinton Reynolds for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

``The banks are in a different dynamic,'' said James Audiss, a senior wealth manager at Shaw and Partners in Sydney, where he helps oversee about A$10 billion. ``U.S. banks make good money from trading and as rates go higher they have more spread to work with. Aussie banks don't really have that and if anything there is going to be a compression of the spread between central bank rates here and there.''

Trump's rise to the presidency has buoyed U.S. bank shares since early November, with the financial sector among the biggest winners under the new administration. While American lenders made little headway in January as the rally stalled, a gauge of Australia's biggest banks posted the worst month since August.  

It's unusual to see this decoupling. Moves on Australia's benchmark stock index are more closely tied to those on both the S&P 500 and the MSCI World index than any other major gauge in the region over the past five years, as this chart shows. Financial shares often tip the balance as they comprise more than one third of the Australian index.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Ahead of the financial crisis the market cap of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto was roughly equivalent to the combined valuation of Australia’s four largest banks. That all changed with the collapse in commodity prices. The miners went through a painful bear market, while low interest rates raised the allure of banks’ competitive yields. The S&P/ASX 200 Financials Index now represents 37.6% of the broader S&P/ASX 200 Index. 



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February 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

February 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on nickel's underperformance

Do you know why Nickel is not joining in the commodity boom and whether eventually it might? Wonderful service

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and this question which may be of interest to other subscribers. Indonesia has historically been the primary supplier of nickel but from 2014 it toyed with banning exports of ore in an effort to stimulate domestic production of refined metal This article from Stratfor, dated October 12th carries some additional detail. Here is a section:  

The decision to delay the ban once again, announced by the acting chief of the Energy and Metals Resources Ministry on Oct. 4, comes as little surprise. Though foreign investors have committed some $12 billion to build 27 smelters nationwide in the past four years, anecdotal reports and trade data indicate that much of that money has yet to generate higher exports of refined metal products. In one example, the value of Indonesian exports of raw nickel ore — of which the country was once the world's largest producer — has collapsed. In 2013, the year before the first ban took effect, it stood at $1.65 billion, but by 2014 that figure had dropped to $85 million; by 2015, it had fallen to zero. Though exports of refined nickel products rose in 2014 from 2013, they, too, plunged in 2015 and continued to decline in value through the first four months of 2016. Nickel is not unique in this respect, either: The value of metal ore exports as a whole has collapsed, and that of most refined metal products has stagnated or declined.

The 2014 ban came on the heels of a slowdown in China's economy and a dip in metals prices, caused in part by the increasing ore supplies of key competitors such as the Philippines. Low prices then undercut investor interest in building smelting facilities, as did uncertainty surrounding the status of Indonesia's regulations. Meanwhile, the lack of even minimal support infrastructure for construction operations meant that the companies that agreed to build smelters often found themselves responsible for building and funding roads, power generators and other basic utilities to support them. Nevertheless, despite these headwinds, many smelting projects are still underway or in the planning stages.

 



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February 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Australia's record-breaking mining exports hint of new sector boom

This article by Cecilia Jamasmie for Mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The encouraging data sharply contrasts with the record deficit of $4.3 billion the country recorded only 12 months ago.

HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham told AAP the export boom should considerably boost company profits, dividend payments, share prices and wages in the mining sector.

His comments will be tested beginning next week, as some of Australia's top mining companies including Rio Tinto (ASX, LON:RIO), BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP), Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) and South32 (ASX:S32) are set to start reporting their 2016 results.

This is only the second monthly trade surplus Australia has recorded in nearly three years, which evidences once again the country’s continued reliance on and vulnerability to changes in commodities markets.

The news comes on the back of a report from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, which predicted that Australia’s mining and energy export earnings would jump by 30% between 2016 and 2017, hitting a small yet encouraging record of $204 billion.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Australia exported more than a billion tons of iron ore last year for the first time. At the same time prices broke out of a more than yearlong base so higher volumes were greeted with higher prices which has certainly helped to improve the country’s trade balance. The surge in coking coal prices due to temporary shortages will also have acted as a short-term boost. However with coking coal now well off its peak it is less likely to represent the same positive influence on trade this year. 



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February 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

New Nafta Could Settle Canada-U.S. Lumber War, Resolute CEO Says

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

A renegotiation of Nafta could be used to settle a lumber dispute that’s been simmering between Canada and the U.S. for decades and threatens to make housing unaffordable for thousands of Americans, according to the world’s largest newsprint maker.

The Canadian government will probably want lumber included in a new North American Free Trade Agreement, Richard Garneau, chief executive officer of Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products Inc., said by phone. “I think that makes sense,” he said.

The U.S. has initiated an investigation into softwood lumber imports amid allegations Canadian timber is heavily subsidized and shipments are harming U.S. mills and workers. President Donald Trump has also signaled that the U.S. may seek more favorable terms in trade pacts such as Nafta.

A previous softwood lumber agreement expired in October 2015. That was followed by a 12-month moratorium, during which Canada was able to continue shipping lumber tariff-free.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Lumber is a highly political commodity since the US has a domestic industry but also needs to import from its northern neighbour to supply is burgeoning housing market. Home starts hit their highest level since 2007 in December which is a testament both to high home prices and the health of the US economic expansion. 



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February 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

February 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Philippines to shut half of mines, mostly nickel, in environmental clampdown

This article from Reuters appeared in Singapore’s The Edge newsletter and may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The Philippines ordered the closure on Thursday of 21 mines, mainly nickel producers that account for about half of output in the world's top nickel ore supplier, in a government campaign to fight environmental degradation by the industry.

Manila also suspended operations at another six mines, including the country's top gold mine operated by Australia's Oceanagold Corp, as Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez vowed to put the public's welfare above mining revenues.

"My issue here is not about mining, my issue here is social justice," Lopez, a staunch environmentalist, said at a briefing that showed footage of damage from mining to an audience including priests and residents of mining communities.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

To the best of my knowledge, Nickel was the worst performing LME traded industrial metals over the last couple of years. Indonesia’s decision to relax export restrictions was a major influence on that outcome but the result has been that many mining operations are not economic at today’s prices. 



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January 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Latin America Abandons Fuel Subsidies in Shift to Austerity

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

"These countries are under enormous fiscal pressure and are reacting to it," said Samar Maziad, a sovereign analyst at Moody’s.

President Mauricio Macri has made Argentina’s economy more competitive since he took over in 2015, and an 8 percent gasoline price increase this month has contributed to Buenos Aires-based YPF’s recent rally to the highest in more than a year. Argentina is moving to completely liberalize prices by 2018. YPF declined to comment on its stock price.

Mexico has lifted prices about 20 percent this month as it opens state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos’s monopoly to foreign competition. It has pledged to completely phase out fuel subsidies over the course of the year. The so-called “gasolinazo,” or fuel-price slam, sparked protests across the country that curtailed fuel distribution and has left President Enrique Pena Nieto’s approval rating at an all-time low of 12 percent. Mexico is planning another fuel price increase on Feb.

The main outlier is Venezuela, the region’s biggest exporter with the cheapest gasoline in the world at about 15 U.S. cents to fill a tank, even after the first price increase in almost two decades last year. Colombia got a head start when it began tracking international prices in 2008, a year when fuel subsidies contributed to an economic contraction.

In Brazil, where subsidies drained an estimated $40 billion from Petrobras between 2011 and 2014, Chief Executive Officer Pedro Parente has shown greater independence from the government to set fuel rates. Under Parente, the company formally known as Petroleo Brasileiro SA set a new price methodology in October and has implemented five adjustments since then.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Fuel subsidies are politically popular but ruinous for oil companies. Subsidies represent a drag on finances which are at partially offset when oil prices are high but represent an existential threat when prices are low. The collapse of regional currencies, massive deficits and challenges to growth have resulted in populist socialist governments being replaced with more fiscally minded right wing parties across the continent. As commodity prices recover that is translating into their stock markets beginning to do better. 



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January 25 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

January 24 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Goldman Hails Global Rebound as Currie Sees Commodity Demand

This article by Stephen Engle , Ben Sharples , and Ranjeetha Pakiam for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“We’re seeing a cyclical uptick in global economic activity and that’s driving demand, not only for oil but all commodities,” Jeffrey Currie, head of commodities research, said in Hong Kong on Tuesday. “That’s the core reason why we upgraded our outlook on commodities to overweight,” he said, referring to the bank’s November decision.

Commodities made a comeback in 2016 with the first annual gain in six years as stimulus in China stabilized growth, and oil producers led by OPEC reversed course to limit supplies. Currie -- who spoke both on Bloomberg TV and to a reporter -- said the impact of China’s stimulus will probably last well into the first half of 2017. He added that policies from new U.S. President Donald Trump may reinforce inflationary pressures, aiding raw materials.

“U.S. and China are focal points where we’re seeing the uptick, but even the outlook for Europe is much more positive than what people would have thought six months to a year ago,” he said.  “It’s not what’s happening on the supply side but rather what’s happening on the demand side.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Continuous Commodity Index (Old CRB) is unweighted and therefore gives a more accurate picture of activity in the commodity markets than the CRB Index which is heavily skewed by oil prices. The Index hit a medium-term peak in 2011 below 700 and trended lower for five years until the beginning of 2016. 



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January 24 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Sibanye $2.2bn acquisition of Stillwater passes antitrust conditions

This article by Cecilia Jamasmie for Mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Sibanye Gold (JSE:SGL) (NYSE:SBGL), South Africa’s largest miner producer of the precious metal, has been given the green light to proceed with the $2.2 billion acquisition of Stillwater Mining (NYSE:SWC), the only US platinum producer.

The deal, announced in December, was subject to antitrust conditions that fall under the US’s Hart-Scott-Rodino premerger legislation.

“Satisfying the HSR Act antitrust condition in a timely manner is an important first step towards concluding the acquisition of Stillwater,” chief executive Neal Froneman said in the statement.
The Johannesburg-listed company, which was spun out of South Africa’s Gold Fields in 2013, spent most of last year shopping for new mines, particularly in the platinum sector.

The company first expanded into the grey precious metal used in jewellery and diesel car engines in Sep. 2015, by buying Aquarius Platinum and three Anglo American Platinum mines.

Together with reducing Sibanye’s dependence on its aging South African mines, the deal will make the company the world's third largest palladium producer and fourth biggest platinum group metals miner, Froneman noted last month when announcing the planned acquisition.

If it goes through, the takeover will be the second-biggest South African outbound M&A transaction since 2015.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Sibanye Gold has an Estimated P/E of 8.61 and yields 5.56%. The sharp decline in precious metals prices as well as the expense of the company’s expansion plans contributed to a steep decline in prices over the last few months; falling from a peak near $21 to a low below $7. A mean reversion rally is now underway and clear downward dynamic would be required to check momentum beyond a brief pause. 



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January 24 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Chinese cotton demand

“Thank you very much for the very interesting comments on China's steel imports in the last two daily comments. If China is indeed trying to prepare herself for war, wouldn't they be buying other commodities too? Are you or anybody in the collective aware of them buying other commodities? As far as I know they have been trying to reduce their strategic stocks of cotton since about 15 months. They might have changed that policy, but at least I am not aware of it. As always I enjoy your comments & audio-video very much. Thanks again. best rgds"

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this educative email and for your kind words. It is my supposition that China at the very minimum seeks to bolster is military capability to at least boost its conventional deterrent capabilities. 



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January 24 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Brazil Optimism Pushes Foreign Investment to Six-Year High

This article by Mario Sergio Lima for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Foreign direct investment in Brazil soared to a six-year high in December as investors abroad kept an optimistic view of the country’s long-term prospects, the central bank said.

Brazil attracted $15.4 billion in foreign investment last month, more than twice the amount expected by economists in a Bloomberg survey, and the strongest monthly performance since December 2010. In the whole of 2016, foreigners poured $78.9 billion in Brazil, more than enough to finance the country’s current account deficit of $23.5 billion.

“December’s foreign direct investment was really something,” Fernando Rocha, deputy head of the central bank’s economic research department, told reporters in Brasilia. “It shows foreigners hold a positive long-term view of the country.”

Investors remain generally optimistic that Latin America’s largest economy will emerge from its worst recession on record this year, even as economists surveyed by the central bank have recently cut their 2017 growth forecasts and the International Monetary Fund warned of near-stagnation this year.

December’s investment performance was boosted, in particular, by operations in the auto industry, as well as in the retail and power sectors, Rocha said. Yet overall investment has been “quite widespread” across a number of sectors, he added.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The ouster of Dilma Rousseff was a catalyst for international investors to take a second look at Brazil. The Real had been rallying from January 2016 in anticipation of the event and encountered resistance following Michel Temer’s inauguration as investors waited to see what kind of reforms could in fact be delivered. 



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January 23 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on cannabis and steel

For information. Canopy has made an offer to buy Mettrum for Canopy stocks. This will triple my Canopy position and will help you to understand the reason for the similar chart pattern since early December. 

On your presentation yesterday (that I watched today), I was intrigued by the iron ore comment. Canadian iron ore companies (have a look at: Alderon, Labrador iron ore...) are on fire and I sold way too early exactly because I saw China slowing down and their financial situation reminded me of USA 2007-2008. 

So stock piling for war?.... hmm.. It is true that the US never really got out of the depression woes until their implication in the WW2 conflict, which they used also to help breaking European French and English ''Empires'' among others. This is certainly something to watch, and Trump ''shoot first'' attitude probably add to the concern for sure.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this additional intelligence on the Canadian cannabis sector. Iron-ore is an interesting market because steel is such a political sector. China is expected to account for 71% of global steel production this year according to this article from CNBC. That’s a lot of supply and not all of it is designed to cater to the domestic market. 



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January 19 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

FANG was so 2015

Eoin Treacy's view -

Remember 2015 when the F.A.N.G, stocks were all the rage and media pundits were falling over themselves to tell us how you had to own them if you were to have any chance of outperforming the major indices. 2016 was predictably a tamer year for those shares with some spending much of their time consolidating 2015’s powerful gain. However with Netflix making headlines today on successfully boosting subscribers, following an international expansion, I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit this acronym. 



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January 19 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Canadian cannabis stocks

Pot luck... If the Canadian government continue to support AND passes legislation favorable to the development of the cannabis industry, some companies may have exponential growth, My pick has been Canopy on the TSX and I will continue to hold it.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for highlighting Canopy Growth Corp which as you point out is one of Canada’s most popular vehicles for expressing a view on cannabis. Canada is home to a significant number of recreational cannabis and cannabis related pharmaceutical start-ups, which as you say. would benefit from favourable legislation. You never know before the bull market ends there may be calls to exchange the maple leaf for something even more commercial than maple syrup.



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January 18 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Pot Industry Exhales (a Little) After Trump's Attorney General Pick Testifies

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

Dayton said Sessions "may be against marijuana policy reform, but he is not stupid. He knows that these cannabis laws are hugely popular, not just among Americans in red and blue states, but with his boss who campaigned in favor of these laws." 

While his responses, on their face, were hardly a coup for the cannabis industry, Sessions didn't morally condemn pot smokers either. 

"The United States Congress has made the possession of marijuana in every state, and distribution of it, an illegal act," he testified. "If that ... is not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule." 

The Drug Policy Alliance, an organization opposed to the war on drugs, called the testimony "wishy-washy at best." The group's senior director of national affairs, Bill Piper, added: "It is clear that he was too afraid to say the ‘reefer madness’ things he said just a year ago, and that’s progress. But he made it clear throughout the hearing that he will enforce federal law."

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

While a good many politicians have made statements condemning cannabis use “evolution” of their views on the topic are increasingly required as an ever increasing number of states legalise recreational or at least medical use. That has created a bull market in supply of the herb, not least because it grows like a weed. Wholesale prices have contracted considerably as operations initiated following Colorado’s legalisation reach commercial scale. That has resulted in mixed performance for the related shares. 



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January 17 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Iron ore price: China imports top 1 billion tonnes for first time

This article by Frik Els for Mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Forging more than half the world's steel, Chinese imports of iron ore for the full year 2016 topped one billion tonnes for the first time. The 1.024 billion tonnes constitute a 7.5% increase over the annual total in 2015 and is indicative to what extent exporters from Brazil and Australia has been able to displace domestic producers struggling with low grades and high costs.

The total value of cargoes climbed to just under $58 billion, with the average import price over the course of 2016 at $56.50 per tonne. The all-time record in terms of dollar value was set in January 2014, when the country imported $111.3 billion worth of iron ore back when prices were firmly in triple digit territory.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Iron-ore prices have not quite broken out to new recovery highs but have sustained last year’s breakout from a well-defined base formation and the upside can be given the benefit of the doubt provided that remains the case. 



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January 17 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Alibaba jumps ahead of Amazon with Maersk tie-up

This article by Sam Chambers for splash247 may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Alibaba’s move to partner with Maersk Line should be seen as a game of one-upmanship with US rival Amazon, a leading name in online logistics has said.

Chinese customers will now be able to book space on Maersk ships, a first for the industry and one that potentially removes many freight forwarders as middlemen.

Dr Zvi Schreiber, CEO and founder of logistics technology Freightos, offered his perspective on the bigger picture and what this deal means for online shoppers and Alibaba’s rival, Amazon.

“Maersk is testing the waters of digital sales with one of the world’s largest ecommerce companies while threatening forwarder business. But for Alibaba, this is a direct challenge to global retailers like Amazon. Beyond drones and futuristic supermarkets, Amazon opted to get licensed as a forwarder. Alibaba one-upped them by going directly to the world’s largest ocean liner. Point, Alibaba.” 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is a great deal of speculation going on at present relating to the implications of a Trump presidency on global trade. Certainly an America first manufacturing policy would have profound implications for low cost, high population countries’ ability to compete against what would in all likelihood be a highly automated US attempt to re-shore. Nevertheless even with the most ambitious timetable that kind of initiative could take years to unfold. 



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January 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The FTSE-100

Eoin Treacy's view -

The UK’s largest cap index is in the process of completing a 16-year range by breaking on the upside. The Index has rallied for six consecutive weeks, hit new all-time highs last week and improved on that performance this week. Prior to this breakout it had spent three years ranging below, but in the region of, its previous peaks. While a short-term overbought condition is evident that is consistent with what is to be expected from a major breakout. 



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January 11 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Down But Far From Out

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

Gold prices may have peaked in 2013 but so did the balance sheets and debt loads of the gold miners within our coverage, as the companies chased M&A and project development. Throughout 2015, and in particular 2016, the industry as a whole made FCF generation and balance sheet deleveraging high priorities. As seen below, the net debt balances of the gold miners under our coverage have declined 47% since the peak while Net Debt/EBITDA has improved by a full 1x turn, despite an average gold in 2016 that was 12% below the 2013 average.

The industry-wide focus on cost cutting and FCF generation has created companies that are less levered plays to rising gold prices, as was the case in the run up to peak gold prices in 2013. Industry FCF generation, as measured by our coverage universe, has improved greatly in the last few years. Despite much higher gold prices in 2012/13 (averaging $1,540/oz), FCF was negative as both capex and operating costs were significantly higher than current levels. As mentioned above, an industry-wide focus on FCF has clearly shown in the last few years. We forecast 2016E FCF in our coverage universe to exceed $4bn, the highest figure since the turn of the decade. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Gold miners are much more leveraged to the gold price today than they have been in a very long time. They have slimmed down budgets, are eschewing spending on new projects and therefore any improvement in gold prices is reflected in free cash flow.  



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January 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch January 10th 2016

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

As for a new Ice Age, the Russian Academy of Science’s Pulkovo Observatory in St. Petersburg, considered one of the world’s most prestigious scientific institutions, recently issued a new study titled, “The New Little Ice Age Has Started.” According to the study, the average temperature around the globe will fall by about 1.5o C (2.7o F) when the planet enters the deep cooling phase of this new Little Ice Age, expected in the year 2060. The study goes on to predict that after 2060 the Earth will experience four-to-six 11-year solar cycles of cool temperatures before beginning the next quasi-bicentennial warming cycle around the turn of the 22nd century.

Habibullo Abdussamatov is the head of space research at Pulkovo and the author of the study. He has been predicting the arrival of another ice age since 2003, based on his study of the behavior of the sun’s different cycles and the solar activity that then results. His model is based on data from the Earth’s 18 earlier little ice ages over the past 7,500 years, six of them experienced during the last thousand years. Based on his model, he began predicting over a decade ago that the next little ice age would start between 2012 and 2015. Abdussamatov’s models have been affirmed by actual data, including the rise of the oceans and the measurable irradiance sent earthward by the sun. Given the accuracy of his predictions, which have been demonstrated in numerous studies since 2003, he now predicts that we entered the 19th Little Ice Age in 2014-2015. This forecast would appear to fly in the face of climate change scientists pointing to 2015 and 2016 as being the warmest years on record – and forecasts that we will experience more record warmth in coming years.

Mr. Abdussamatov’s views stand in opposition to the conclusions of climate models, as he has tied his forecast of a prolonged cooling spell to solar, not man-made, factors. The recent disappearance of sunspots from the face of the sun, which also occurred during the Little Ice Age in the late 1600s, has made Mr. Abdussamatov’s contention no longer an isolated view. In fact, organizations such as the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and the Riken research foundation have reached similar conclusions. The battle over whether man-made or natural forces are the primary driving force behind global warming and climate change will likely become more contentious in the next few years. The key point is that the world’s population is at greater risk of serious harm from colder temperatures rather than warm temperatures, which seems to be ignored by government officials and the media. We guess, cold and ice doesn’t lend themselves to as spectacular disaster scenes as heat-related weather events.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

I am more than willing to accept that humans have an impact on our environment. After all there are a lot of us and we engage in a great many industrial activities. However the sun is a major contributor to weather patterns and its cycles cannot simply be ignored. I predicted back in 2009 the most recent solar activity peak would represent a lower low and that has now come to pass. As we head into another solar minimum we can anticipate colder winters in the years ahead. However to go from there to a prediction of an impending mini-Ice Age is quite a leap. 



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January 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Coking coal price correction turns into rout

This article by Frik Els for Mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

It's only the 5th, but the year to date fall in the price of coking coal has already reached 8%. The steelmaking raw material is also a round $100 below its multi-year high of $308.80 per tonne (Australia free-on-board premium hard coking coal tracked by the Steel Index) hit in November.

On Thursday the price dropped another 4.5% to $208.10 a tonne, the lowest since September 29 and one of the biggest declines (for the spot price) on record. In 2011 floods in key export region in Queensland saw the coking coal price briefly trade at an all-time high $335 a tonne.
With demand both more diverse and less predictable, the increasingly widespread transition towards market-based pricing couldn’t be more timely

Still, metallurgical coal is up 150% over the past year and averaged $143 a tonne in 2016 (about the same as it did in 2013). There was a more than $100 differential between the spot price average and the fourth quarter contract benchmark.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The oldest adage in the commodity markets is that “the cure of high prices is high prices”. There was a temporary dearth of coking coal so prices rose quickly for most of the latter half of 2016. However with new supply coming to market the necessity to pay ever higher prices has been reduced and coking coal has pulled back sharply. A potentially lengthy period of ranging is likely required before substantially higher prices can be sustained. 



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January 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

World's Worst Commodity Radioactive for Investor Portfolios

This article by Joe Deaux, Natalie Obiko Pearson and Klaus Wille for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“It’s the world’s best asset in the world’s worst market,” said Leigh Curyer, chief executive officer of NexGen Energy Ltd., a Vancouver-based uranium producer. “I don’t think there’s a mine profitable at current spot prices. This short-term spot price isn’t reflective of the cost of producing a pound globally.”

The outlook isn’t entirely bleak. Losses are forcing uranium mines to cut production or close, which may eventually create a supply crunch, while accelerated building of nuclear plants in China and India could help revive demand. But it may take a while for those developments to take hold, according to a report last month from Morgan Stanley, which said it can’t identify any medium- or long-term driver for prices.

Uranium extended its fade last year even as most other raw materials recovered. The Bloomberg Commodity Index of 22 items posted its first annual gain since 2010, advancing 11 percent.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

When Tata Motors bought Land Rover it held onto the name for obvious reasons. It knew it didn’t stand a chance of selling a luxury vehicle under the moniker Tata Motors. If nuclear energy could do the same it would be in a much better position. Reactors being built today bear little resemblance to those which have garnered such a bad reputation over the last number of decades. However that is not the point. Public opinion is not yet in favour of uranium fuelled energy and there is little evidence that is about to change not least because it simply does not have a high profile credible spokesperson to champion it. 



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January 05 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bitcoin Suffers Biggest Fall in Two Years Following China Currency Gains

This article by Martin Baccardax for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Bitcoin's value suffered its biggest single-day decline in two years Thursday, just hours after China's offshore yuan posted its biggest two day gain and days after the cryptocurrency touched $1,000.

The price of bitcoins against the U.S. dollar fell 13% in London trading, changing hands at around $950 each by 13:45 GMT. Bitcoins traded as low as $880 during a volatile session which saw it reach as high as $1137, according financial bookmakers IG.

The moves follow the biggest two-day gain on record for China's offshore yuan, which trades more freely than the domestically controlled currency of the world's second-largest economy. Speculation of government buying led the gains as investors bet authorities are determined to stem capital outflows and avoid a sustained decline in the currency ahead of the inauguration of President elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to label China as a currency manipulator.

The connection is relevant in the nearly all of the daily trading in bitcoin is linked to the yuan, which has fallen more than 7% against the dollar over the past year, as speculators attempt to skirt currency controls and ensure value.

The offshore yuan gain 1% to 6.7989 against the greenback in Asia trading, putting downward pressure on the dollar index and boosting the yen in foreign exchange trading. The move whipsawed the dollar index, a measure of its strength against a basket of six global currencies, from a near 14-year high on Tuesday to three-week low of 101.74 by the start of European trading before it recovered to 102.10 by 13:45 GMT

Eoin Treacy's view -

I have been pointing out in recent audios that China represents the majority of Bitcoin trading and what goes on in that country is likely to have a profound impact on the value of the cryptocurrency. In many respects we might look on Bitcoin as the anti-Renminbi because it tends to do best when Chinese investors are worried about the stability of their domestic currency. 



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January 04 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Said to Consider Options to Back Yuan, Curb Outflows

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

China’s currency stockpile has probably shrunk further after hitting a five-year low of $3.05 trillion in November, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey before data due as early as this week.

Capital outflows from China accelerated in recent months as the yuan suffered its worst year of losses against the U.S. dollar since 1994, declining 6.5 percent. About $760 billion left the country in the first 11 months of 2016, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence gauge. The yuan will decline 2.7 percent the rest of this year, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

“The policies, if implemented, can help increase foreign-exchange supply in the onshore market, and hence help defend the yuan in the short term,” said Carol Pang, vice president for fixed income, currency and commodities at Zhongtai International Holdings Ltd. in Hong Kong. “However, it won’t change market expectation of further depreciation.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Renminbi is somewhat oversold at present following a quicker pace of depreciation in the last quarter than seen in the three-year downtrend to date. Therefore there is scope for a reversionary rally or at least some steadying. 



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January 04 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on long-term iron-ore prices

Just wonder why the Iron ore chart in the library starts only in 2008. Is there another source for 50 years of iron prices?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which may be of interest to other subscribers. Iron-ore is not traded on a futures exchange. Historically prices have been fixed by contracts between the major miners and consumers with little involvement from the markets. The price for iron-ore quoted in the Chart Library is for Chinese imports at Ningbo and is used as a benchmark because China is such a dominant force in the market. We only have data since 2008 because that is when China started reporting it.  



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January 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China to become net importer of some rare earths

This article by Frik Els for Mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

According to the Adamas outlook for rare earth demand from 2016 through 2025 over the past five years upwards of 30,000 tonnes of annual rare earth oxide demand were lost due end-users’ growing concerns over supply security. On top of that more than 20,000 tonnes were lost as a result of the ongoing phase out of several mature technologies, such as fluorescent lamps, NiMH batteries, and hard disk drives used in PCs.

According to the authors following the lengthy and painful adjustment, the REE market will return to strong global demand growth for a number of rare earth elements including neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and lanthanum. The resulting rise in price will help "sustain the profitability and growth of today’s dominant producers, and incentivize continued investment in exploration and resource development globally":

REE demand will boom from 2020 onwards as growth rates of top end-use categories including electric vehicles, wind turbines and other hi-tech applications accelerate.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Rare earth miners went through a crushing bear market and it is arguable whether it has ended. The growth of new sources of demand is a potential medium-term bullish catalyst. However it is unlikely China will surrender its dominance of the global supply chain not least because it wishes to attract and support advanced manufacturing companies. 



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December 30 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Australia ASX 300 Overextensions

Eoin Treacy's view -

Over the last two days I have created spreadsheets for the constituents of the S&P500 and the FTSE-350; ranking them by overextensions relative to the trend mean. Today I am conducting the same exercise for Australia’s ASX 300. 

This is a particularly illiquid time of year and it takes less capital for traders to move markets. This is easiest where accelerated moves are in evidence, stops will have been placed and algorithmic systems have little difficulty identifying them. 
 



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December 29 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Indian Sugar Shortage Deepens as Cane Crop Set to Disappoint

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

India’s sugar shortfall is worsening as disappointing cane crops boost the need for imports this season.

Reduced cane supplies in the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka mean output will probably fall to the equivalent of 21.3 million metric tons of white sugar, according to Tropical Research Services, which advises several hedge funds on agriculture markets. That’s 4 percent smaller than forecast last month and 15 percent below a year earlier.

The El Nino weather pattern that ended this year hurt cane crops in India, the biggest sugar-consuming country and second- largest producer. At the same time, the harvest in No. 2 exporter Thailand is running behind last season’s pace, helping tighten global supplies already forecast to fall short of demand.

“Early reports from both the key Maharashtra state in India and also from Thailand suggest their cane crops could disappoint," James Liddiard, a partner at Agrilion Commodity Advisers LLC, said in a report Wednesday.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Brazil’s sugar crop is coming in ahead of expectations suggesting that the disappointing figures in Thailand and India will be at least partially compensated for. However contracts are in backwardation out to late 2018 so the supply deficit is not a short-term phenomenon and it will take time for new planting to rebalance the market. 



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December 23 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gleanings

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

Another theme we think is surfacing is inflation driven by Trump's potential fiscal stimulus program. Hence, a return to "real assets," or stuff stocks, should have an increased weighting in portfolios. Verily, the price of real assets, relative to financial assets, is at historic lows. Consequently, investors' mindsets should be focused towards higher inflation, higher interest rates, and reduced disinflation. As an example, China's PPI hooked up in September for the first time since 2012. We believe the same thing is happening here in the U.S. 

Accordingly, REITs, timber, agriculture, collectibles (wine, art, diamonds, precious metal coins, farmland, etc.), and MLPs should have an increased weighting in portfolios, in our view. To this MLP point, we recently met with one of the savviest MLP-centric portfolio managers on Wall Street, who believes the midstream and downstream MLPs are ripe for a number of good years going forward. He suggests the bad news is in the rearview mirror: the capital markets are wide open for the MLPs; we are consuming an extra 1 million barrels of crude oil per day, and the MLPs traded at around a 30% discount relative to par.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The MLP sector is highly leveraged as a rule so it collapsed when oil prices fell. By the same token it is also benefiting from the rise in oil prices and with the high yields evident, particularly in the pipelines sector, it now offers upside leverage. 

The Alerian MLP Total Return Index hit a new recovery high this week and a clear downward dynamic would be required to question medium-term potential for additional upside. 



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December 20 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on wool prices

I was looking for the up to date fine wool chart in the soft commodities section of the chart library. It seems that it has stopped updating in February 2014? Is it possible to rectify this please? Thank you and Happy Christmas

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thanks you for this inquiry which may be of interest to other subscribers. Unfortunately, ASX no longer quotes wool futures which is why the price stops in 2014. Following an extensive search on Bloomberg there are no wool futures contracts quoted on any exchange. There is a spot price quoted by the Australian Wool Exchange representing the Annual Wool Selling program which has end-of-week pricing and is updated on Fridays.  



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December 16 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Mexico's Trump-Fueled Rout Belies Latin America Markets Bonanza

This article by Ben Bartenstein, Aline Oyamada and Isabella Cota for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

“Latin America will recover more than other regions in GDP terms and do more reforms,” said Dehn, a London-based head of research at Ashmore Group, whose top pick is Brazil.

President Michel Temer’s push to pass spending and pension overhauls is another reason investors remain bullish on Brazil.

The real has jumped 19 percent this year, the second-largest advance in the world, helping bolster returns in local bonds. It will soar another 10 percent by the second-quarter of 2017 before weakening to 3.4 per dollar by year’s end, according to Gustavo Rangel, the chief Latin American economist at ING Financial Markets LLC and the region’s top currency forecaster last quarter, according to Bloomberg rankings.

While Brazil’s prospects continue to improve, Mexico’s outlook is more mixed. Trump’s pledges to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement and build a wall along the southern border have unsettled investors in assets from the region’s second-biggest economy, with the peso plunging 16 percent this year. Mexico sends almost 80 percent of its exports to the U.S.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

For almost a decade the Dollar trended consistently lower against the currencies of commodity producers and emerging markets. That ended a few years ago and currency market volatility now plays an important role in any consideration of when and whether to invest in these markets. 



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December 09 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

South Africa's Sibanye Gold to Buy Stillwater Mining for $2.2 Billion in Latest Platinum Push

This article by Kevin Crowley for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers  Here is a section: 

The moves illustrate the tectonic shifts recalibrating the global mining industry after the commodities bust. The Stillwater purchase is Sibanye’s first foray outside of Southern Africa and its latest bold move to diversify beyond gold mining.

The acquisition is also a vote of confidence in the platinum group of metals, which includes platinum and palladium, most commonly used in the auto industry to reduce engine emissions, in addition to a strategic diversification away from the often-difficult operating environment in South Africa.
Sibanye has a long and storied history in the mining industry. It was spun off in 2013 from three aging South African mines held by Gold Fields Ltd., a company founded by colonial pioneer Cecil John Rhodes.

In a press release Friday, Stillwater, of Littleton, Colo., which has two mines in Montana and Colorado, said its board approved the deal. The $18-a-share bid represents a 23% premium to Stillwater’s closing price on Dec. 8. The two largest shareholders of Johannesburg’s Sibanye have confirmed their support of the deal.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Platinum is trading close to historic lows relative to the gold price. Part of the reason for this is because diesel has taken a hit from the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal. Meanwhile the rise of electric vehicles represents an additional challenge since they do not require catalytic converters. These are important considerations but there is the additional fact that platinum is a small market, supply is limited and the cost of extraction is high. 



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December 08 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

In mammoth task, BP sends almost three million barrels of U.S. oil to Asia

This article by Florence Tan for Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

While BP's operations are currently the most sophisticated, others have also begun developing U.S./Asia trade.

China's Unipec, the trading arm of Asia's largest refiner Sinopec (600028.SS), is shipping about 2 million barrels of WTI to China this month, while trading house Trafigura is also exporting some 2 million barrels of U.S. oil to Asia.

Incentives to bring U.S. crude into Asia have risen after the Middle East-led producer club of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia agreed to cut output, encouraging refiners across the region to seek alternatives to offset potential supply shortfalls.

"OPEC is putting U.S. shale oil to the test... (and) we will truly see what it can deliver," said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodity analyst at SEB. He predicted 2017 would be a "shale oil party" with a surge in U.S. exports after the OPEC production cuts.

The operation to send the oil, worth around $150 million, to Asia-Pacific buyers lasted four months and involved BP traders in the United States and Singapore, while colleagues from London were responsible for ship chartering, the sources said and data showed.

BP took advantage of arbitrage between cheaper U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) CLc1 crude and the global benchmark Brent LCOc1.

The deal was aided by cheap tanker rates and a price/time curve, where future oil deliveries are more expensive than those for immediate discharge, making sourcing oil from as far away as North America profitable.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The US has just started exporting crude oil for the first time in decades and if the Keystone pipeline is finally permitted in 2017 if would give Canadian heavy crude an outlet to Texas’s refining and shipping infrastructure that would allow even greater volumes to be exported.

The expanded Panama Canal raises the prospect of a short-cut to Asia from Texas. That is of course once ships have been retrofitted to be tugged through the new canals which is taking somewhat longer than originally anticipated



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December 07 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese-Korean group to build $2 billion lithium batteries plant in Chile

This article by Cecilia Jamasmie for mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Lithium, frequently referred to as "white petroleum," drives much of the modern world, as it has become an irreplaceable component of rechargeable batteries used in high tech devices.

The market, while still relatively small — worth about $1bn a year — is expected to triple in size by 2015, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs

That should be great news for Chile, as the country contains half of the world’s most “economically extractable” reserves of the metal, according to the US Geographical Survey (USGS). It is also the world’s lowest-cost producer, thanks to an efficient process that makes the most of the country’s climate.

Chile is essentially “the Saudi Arabia of lithium,” according to Marcelo A. Awad, executive director of the Chilean brand of Wealth Minerals, Canadian company that also has interests in Mexico and Peru.

The country, he noted in a recent interview, is perfectly positioned, with ports across the Pacific from the world’s largest car market, China, which is expected to increase electric vehicles production in years to come. There, lithium is also used to manufacture rechargeable ­batteries that power hundreds of millions of smartphones, digital cameras and laptops.

The challenge for foreign investors, particularly the Asian conglomerate, is to persuade Chilean authorities of making the leap from exporting the white metal to producing lithium batteries at the point of extraction.

Estimates from the group’s advisors believe opening the proposed plant would make the value of the product 35 times higher than what it could be obtained by just selling it as lithium carbonate

Eoin Treacy's view -

Elon Musk might be one of the world’s great promotors but there is no denying that he has upended the automotive sector with just about every major auto manufacturer planning to release a range of electric vehicles within the next few years. 



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December 07 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Outlook for 2017: Better times ahead

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

According to a joint study by Thomson Reuters GFMS and the Silver Institute, the global silver market will record a supply deficit this year for the fifth year in succession. However, at 52.2 million ounces (1,623 tons), this is less than half what it was last year (chart 7). Silver demand should have fallen by 9% to a 4-year low of 1,064.6 million ounces (33,109 tons), while silver supply should fall by “only” 3% to 1,012.4 million ounces (31,486 tons). The biggest drag on the demand side is a 24% decline in demand for coins and bars. Jewellery demand is also expected to dip by nearly 8%. Industrial demand, which accounts for around half of total demand for silver, also declines, albeit only slightly. A steeper fall has been prevented by the rise in photovoltaics which is projected to have risen by 11% to a record level.

On the supply side, 2016 should see the first – albeit slight – fall in global mining production for 13 years (chart 8, page 5). This is because, following the closure of numerous zinc and lead mines, less silver is produced as a by-product. Due to liquidation of hedging positions (dehedging) by mining producers, additional supply has been withdrawn from the market. The supply of scrap silver, however, remained virtually unchanged. Owing to a significant rise in demand for silver ETFs – GFMS assumes net inflows of 71.4 million ounces (2,220.5 tons) for 2016 – and almost as large an increase in exchange-registered stocks, the broader market deficit has increased to 185.5 million ounces (5,769 tons). This is the highest figure since 2008.

The deficit should turn out somewhat lower due to recent large ETF outflows, though.
For 2017, Thomson Reuters GFMS and the Silver Institute except silver demand to decline by a further 3% to 1,035.0 million ounces. The supply of silver on the other hand should rise by around 1% to 1,024.8 million ounces. All demand components apart from jewellery are expected to decrease, with coins and bars once again falling the most, dipping by 9%. Industrial demand should fall by 2%, as demand from the photovoltaic sector – in contrast to the previous year – is also expected to decline, meaning that it can no longer compensate for persistent weakness in other sectors. Industrial demand would thus shrink for the seventh year in a row (chart 9). The increase in the supply of silver is almost entirely due to a larger supply of scrap silver, which should rise by 11% in response to higher prices. This will largely compensate for the accelerated decline in mining production by around 2% compared with the previous year. At the same time, de-hedging by silver producers will decline next year, meaning that less supply will be withdrawn from the market. Consequently, the deficit on the physical silver market is expected shrink to only 10.2 million ounces. This would be the smallest deficit since the last surplus year of 2012. ETFs are expected to record inflows of 40 million ounces. The broader market deficit would thus amount to 50.2 million ounces, a reduction of more than 70% compared with 2016.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The bond market has priced in the return of some inflation, at least the kind central banks measure. However it has yet to appear in official statistics with the result that real interest rates have posted a rather large move. Precious metals tend to do best when inflation is outpacing interest rate increases (negative real interest rates) which is not currently the case. There is ample potential for inflation to pick up if fiscal stimulus is implemented next year which suggests there is scope for precious metals to regain some of their lost lustre next year. 



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November 30 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A China recovery is coming

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Simon Hunt in copperworldwide.com. here is a section:

China’s economy is recovering. Accommodating monetary policy is being augmented by expanding the fiscal deficit which might include tax cuts. Construction is beginning to recover since total surplus inventory has fallen to the key seven-month level. The NDRC has released 25 infrastructure projects most of which were frozen earlier this year because cases of corruption were detected. Both wages and consumer spending continue to increase. In some key manufacturing sectors inventories have been reduced. Many private sector companies are now managing cash flow appropriately so are improving profitability. Investment will follow in 2017. Against this background real consumption of metals has begun recovering and will gather pace in 2017.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

One of the reasons China has been going through such a difficult time is because many of the markets it sends exports to have been in difficulty. The US credit crisis, the EU’s sovereign debt and banking crisis and the collapse of commodity prices all hit demand for China’s exports.   



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November 28 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fearing tighter U.S. visa regime, Indian IT firms rush to hire, acquire

This article by Sankalp Phartiyal and Euan Rocha for Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Indian companies including Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Wipro have long used H1-B skilled worker visas to fly computer engineers to the U.S., their largest overseas market, temporarily to service clients.

Staff from those three companies accounted for around 86,000 new H1-B workers in 2005-14. The U.S. currently issues close to that number of H1-B visas each year.

President-elect Trump's campaign rhetoric, and his pick for Attorney General of Senator Jeff Sessions, a long-time critic of the visa program, have many expecting a tighter regime.

"The world over, there's a lot of protectionism coming in and push back on immigration. Unfortunately, people are confusing immigration with a high-skilled temporary workforce, because we are really a temporary workforce," said Pravin Rao, chief operating officer at Infosys, India's second-largest information technology firm.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

India has benefitted enormously from the offshoring of jobs in the customer service, programming, IT and pharmaceuticals sectors. However a number of these large Indian companies are dependent on ready access to their US based customers so they can offer the best possible service which is why India has tended to dominate H1B visa applications. When headlines such as this one highlight how India got 84% of such visas in 2014 there are very real risks that a more protectionist administration could pose a threat to India’s heretofore comfortable access to Silicon Valley. 



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November 15 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

OPEC, Russia Expand Diplomatic Push to Secure Oil-Cuts Deal

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

OPEC embarked on a final diplomatic effort to secure an oil-cuts deal, with its top official heading on a tour of member states as Russia scheduled informal talks in Doha this week with nations including Saudi Arabia.

The behind-the-scenes diplomacy follows an unannounced meeting in London between OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo and Saudi Minister of Energy and Industry Khalid Al-Falih, said one OPEC delegate. Just two weeks before the group’s Nov. 30 ministerial meeting in Vienna, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran are still at odds over how to share output cuts, said another delegate. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

OPEC and Russia have succeeded in talking oil prices up on two separate occasions over the last few months and the announcement of this meeting would appear to be a fresh attempt to jawbone prices higher. The reality is that agreeing to cut production means each country that agrees to comply risks losing market share to those who don’t. In ordinary times securing broad agreement would be difficult but Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq do not have the finances to absorb such a risk right now and additionally are all prosecuting wars, which are not cheap. 



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November 14 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on gold

Gold is soft.  It's had some savage moves in the last few days.  Is it possible this due to new currency notes in India?  India is a large market for the jewellery trade.

Thank you for all your good work.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which may be of interest to other subscribers. When the cash business in gold was clamped down on it marked an important turning point for the jewellery retail sector Los Angeles’ once vibrant jewellery district. The removal of large denomination bank notes in India will probably have an effect on how gold is purchased but is unlikely to have an influence on the cultural important of the metal particularly around wedding season. 



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November 09 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Investment ramifications of a Trump Presidency

Eoin Treacy's view -

It was a bruising campaign but with control of all three branches of government the Republican Party now has a relatively unfettered path to introducing a broad range of policy options. The one obstacle of course is that the entrenched bureaucracy in Washington and the various unions are totally opposed to just about any change to the status quo. 

Corporate taxation and the tax code more generally could be up for debate. Securing a budget large enough to make a dent in the deferred maintenance of the USA’s infrastructure is perhaps the clearest ambition of a Trump Presidency. Protectionism is also high on the agenda and the responses of NATO and EU spokespeople to the news was a picture of unease at this new source of uncertainty. Immigration is also likely to be a major topic of conversation for this administration. 

 



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November 09 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

November 08 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Voters could legalize marijuana for quarter of all Americans

This article from Reuters highlights one of the more important decisions to be taken by US voters today. Here is a section:

In California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed 55 percent of likely voters supported a ballot initiative that would authorize the state to tax and regulate retail cannabis sales much like it does alcoholic beverages.

That was similar to the numbers favoring legalization from opinion polls in Massachusetts and Maine. Slimmer majorities or pluralities also point to legalization in Arizona and Nevada.

Approval by California alone, America's most populous state with 39 million people, would put nearly a fifth of all Americans living in states where recreational marijuana is legal, according to U.S. Census figures. That number grows to more than 23 percent if all five state measures pass.

Backers of legalized marijuana sales have tried for decades to win support at the ballot box, with little success until the past few years, starting with victories in Colorado and Washington state in 2012.

Experts say the latest initiatives include more sophisticated regulatory mechanisms aimed at keeping cannabis away from children and banning the involvement of criminal gangs and drug cartels. Public opinion has rapidly swung toward favoring legalization.

"It's changed in the minds of these voters from being like cocaine to being like beer," said University of Southern California political scientist John Matsusaka.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Time and again prohibition has been demonstrated as a failed strategy. There are of course very real side effects that result from smoking cannabis and most particularly for young people. The problem for those campaigning against legalisation is proving cannabis has no health supporting effects. Millions of people have personal experience to the contrary and that has helped drive wider acceptable of the plant’s curative properties. This is especially true for ailments modern medicine is not a good fit for such as chronic pain, migraines and posttraumatic stress.



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November 08 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Copper Enters Bull Market as Declining Stocks Ease Glut Concerns

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

“We’re getting the idea that these markets are a lot tighter than many people think, particularly as China continues to do pretty well,” Bart Melek, the head of commodity strategy at TD Securities in Toronto, said in a telephone interview. “The PBOC is saying interest rates are in line with fundamentals, meaning they won’t be doing anything new and they see stability there.”

Copper for delivery in three months rose 2.7 percent to settle at $5,235.50 a metric ton in London. That marked a more- than 20 percent gain from a low in January, meeting the common definition of a bull market. The metal touched $5,250.50, the highest since October 2015.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Copper held a progression of lower rally highs for five years but had developed type-2 bottom characteristics since January’s mean reversion rally and is now breaking out. 



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November 07 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

What drove the October ferrous rally?

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Goldman Sachs covering the iron-ore market. Here is a section:

$/CNY was one of the most important market drivers of 2H 2015. When China weakened its currency in August 2015, it sent shockwaves around the globe with the S&P 500 index falling 10%. In the third quarter of 2016, $/CNY stayed range-bound between 6.6 and 6.7. In October, however, the depreciation resumed and $/CNY is now approaching 6.8.

The recent CNY depreciation is different from previous rounds of $/CNY moving higher. It has not generated the same international spillover effects as it did back in 2015. This implies further room for the Chinese government to weaken its currency against the US Dollar without negatively affecting global demand for its exports. On the other hand, the link between $/CNY and capital outflows remains strong. Our China Economics team estimated that FX outflows from China rose to US$78 billion in September and are likely to be even higher in October (Exhibit 7). This implies that there is an underlying desire among onshore investors to move into dollar-linked assets. Such desire may become particularly strong whenever the pace of CNY depreciation picks up. In fact, onshore commodities prices increased across the board on October 25 after the $/CNY moved higher for three consecutive days.

There are reasons why iron ore may be the first in line to benefit from onshore investment flows into commodities amidst renewed CNY depreciation. For example, the iron ore futures curve is almost always backwardated, making long iron ore a positive-carry trade. To the extent that a higher $/CNY also leads to a weaker local currency on a trade-weighted basis, iron ore may benefit from potentially higher Chinese steel exports. Additionally, rebar and iron ore are the most traded commodities in the onshore futures exchanges. Exhibit 8 shows the positive correlation between iron ore futures trading volumes and the $/CNY in recent months. By our estimates, about 60% of the iron ore price rally in October can be explained by the CNY depreciation.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

If the correlation between the appreciation in iron-ore prices and the deprecation of the Renminbi are indeed causal rather than coincidental that could continue to be positive for commodity prices considering how much a weak currency benefits China’s economy. 



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November 04 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Tangshan City Halts Steel Production on Smog

This article by Alfred Cang for Bloomberg may be of interest. Here is a section:

Tangshan, China’s largest steel-making city, orders mills, coking plants, cement and glass industry to halt production because of heavy air pollution, consultant Mysteel says in note Friday.

City halts production in all factories that discharge “volatile organic compounds”

City halts production of coal-fired boilers except ones used for central heating

Suspension starts 3pm local time

City also bans trucks with articulated five axles or more from 6pm. Tangshan is about 180 kilometers east of Beijing

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

It’s that time of year again when Beijing is shrouded in smog and when parents really worry whether that lung infection their only child has is ever going to get better. In winter the prevailing wind generally blows from the Northwest. While Tangshan is a major steel and heavy industry hub, it is unlikely to be the only source of pollution since it lies to the east of the city. 

The gradual rationalisation of heavily polluting, inefficient steel production is good news for the global sector because it helps to reduce the overhang of cheap supply coming from China. Clicking through the constituents of the steel section of the Chart Library there is evidence of some steadying following sharp pullbacks last year. 

 



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November 03 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The U.S. dollar is a crowded consensus

Thanks to a subscriber for this note by James Paulsen for Wells Fargo Asset Management. Here is a section:

Most anticipate a modest and relatively slow tightening by the Federal Reserve primarily because a consensus believes tightening efforts will lead to a much stronger U.S. dollar. However, we suspect a surprising decline in the U.S. dollar will exacerbate inflation anxieties and accelerate the pace of Fed tightening from what is currently anticipated.

Looking into 2017, we recommend investors position portfolios as a dollar contrarian. Crowded consensus trades are not often fruitful and frequently prove risky. If the consensus is surprised by a falling dollar, many portfolios will need to be adjusted. Surprising dollar weakness will benefit commodity prices and penalize high-quality bond investors. It would also favour international stocks, particularly emerging market equities.

Moreover, it would likely extend the leadership of small and mid-cap stocks evident so far this year. Finally, a weaker dollar would probably focus investors on the materials, industrials, technology and financials sectors within the U.S. stock market.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The Dollar Index has been largely rangebound since early 2015 and pulled back this week from the region of the upper side of the congestion area. With such a clear downward dynamic it is now for the bulls to prove their case by posting at least an equally impressive upward dynamic to retake the initiative as the short-term overbought condition is quickly unwound. 

 



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November 02 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch November 1st 2016

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

It appears to us that everyone in the energy industry is fixated on whether the OPEC oil ministers meeting in Vienna, Austria on November 30th will produce an agreement to limit the group’s output, and how that production volume will be shared among the group’s 12 members. Also, it will be important to see who among the 12 OPEC members will be exempted from a monthly production quota and what those countries near-term output goals are. Lastly, we need to see some support from Russia for OPEC’s production cap to have much strength. While all these details are important to the outcome of the OPEC meeting and how the energy world reacts to whatever is agreed to, the lack of executive thinking about what happens to energy demand if the U.S. enters a recession could be the pothole everyone steps in. The duration and depth on any recession will determine how much oil demand might be lost due to weaker economic activity. We suggest you should pay attention to this hidden elephant in the OPEC meeting room. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

While Allen Brooks is not predicting a recession more than a few analysts have floated the idea. It’s an important consideration that would of course have a significant impact on the energy markets but also on just about every other asset class. Perhaps it would be timely to review some of the leading indicators for recessions to see where we are in the cycle. 



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November 02 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The World's $49 Trillion Infrastructure Problem May Not Get Solved Anytime Soon

This article Sid Verma may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

An abundance of global savings. Trillions of dollars of negative-yielding bonds. And a bevy of institutional investors hungry for positive, long-dated yields to match their liabilities.

Conditions are ripe for an avalanche of private-sector capital to flow into unlisted infrastructure, turning an industry facing an estimated $49 trillion shortfall into an asset class which, its sponsors say, offers strong cash flows, uncorrelated returns and positive real yields.

58 percent of active investors surveyed in the second quarter of the year by data provider Preqin will invest more than $100 million in unlisted funds over the next 12 months compared to 42 percent who said that in the corresponding period last year, underscoring the increasing allure of alternative assets amid ultra-low yields from more conventional capital-market instruments.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

It’s been a while since there was dynamism in the case for funding infrastructure spending. Part of the reason of course is that the environmental movement is highly active in demonstrating against any energy infrastructure projects, the case for new roads comes up against similar arguments while water and power suffer more than any from not in my backyard (NIMBY) arguments. Added to that has been the reluctance of governments to commit to big projects when their coffers are empty and unfunded liabilities are a constant bugbear. 



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November 02 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Aussie dollar's surge may signal good times for global economy

This article by Narayanan Somasundaram for the Sydney Morning Herald may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Goldman Sachs and the Commonwealth Bank say inflation has bottomed out, while traders are starting to speculate that policy makers are done with cutting interest rates. The world's fifth-most traded currency climbed for a third-straight day on Tuesday after the RBA left its benchmark interest rate unchanged and said consumer-price increases are likely to pick up.

Australia's economy sits astride emerging and developed markets, making the currency a favoured bellwether for worldwide growth. As the biggest iron-ore exporter and a major supplier of coal, wool, gold and liquefied natural gas, the country's fortunes are wedded to those of China.

But it's about more than just raw materials - tourism and education are also major exports - and the Aussie is the highest-yielding AAA currency. That combination helped it lead a resurgence in developed markets in 2009 as the dust settled after the GFC.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

If inflation has indeed bottomed and there are increasing signs globally that it has then it is unlikely the RBA will cut interest rates further. The Australian Dollar has been ranging with a mild upward bias for nearly four months and firmed again today from the region of the trend mean. A sustained move below 75¢ would be required to question medium-term scope for additional upside. 



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November 01 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on nickel

I am looking for a way of investing in Nickel. David Suggested in 2014 he sold ETF Nickel but I can't find it anywhere - LSE, FT, your library. If it has gone out of business do you have any other suggestions? The good old Canadian company Inco was bought out by Vale, of which it represents on a small part. Wonderful service. Harry Schultz told me it was. He was right.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and we are both delighted you are enjoyed the service courtesy of a recommendation by the inimitable Harry Schultz. In fact since we do not engage in advertising most of our new business comes from word of mouth so please feel free to proselytise. 



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October 31 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Factory to the World Mulls the Unthinkable: Price Hikes

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

China’s factories may be on the cusp of delivering a new shock to the global economy after years of undercutting rivals with cheaper costs. This time, increases in prices could reverberate around the world.

To understand why, consider the dilemma facing Jiangmen Luck Tissue Mfy Ltd., now caught in a squeeze between surging wages and tepid demand. The company has already slashed staff by half, shaved prices and automated production to survive. Now, with margins razor thin, it’s weighing the first price increases since 2010.

"There’s just no possibility for me to cut prices any more," says deputy director Roger Zhao, 52, whose company is based in the city of Jiangmen in southern Guangdong province.

"Because costs are already pretty high and I don’t see any possibility they’ll go down, I’m seeking opportunities to raise prices a little bit."

That push to recover lost margins -- even as demand remains muted -- was shared by exporters of everything from clocks to jacuzzis interviewed in Guangzhou last week at the Canton Fair, a biannual gathering where 25,000 exhibitors and 180,000 mostly foreign buyers ink export deals in booths spanning exhibition space equivalent to about 3,400 tennis courts.

For the world economy, decisions from companies like Jiangmen Tissue to stop cutting prices -- and even raise them where demand allows -- removes a source of disinflationary pressure. To be decided is whether China, the factory to the world, swings from becoming a drag on consumer prices to a source of pressure nudging them higher.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Chinese factories have been dealing with margin compression for years. Labour costs have been on a steady upward trajectory while commodity prices have been a mixed blessing. However right now both are increasing and despite the danger of losing their competitive edge the first signs of price hikes are emerging. This article from a couple of weeks ago highlights the first rise in China’s producer price index in nearly five years.  



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October 31 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Rio Gives Away Giant Iron Ore Field Once Worth Fighting For

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

The writing has been on the wall for a while. The company took a $1.1 billion writedown on Simandou in February. New Rio Chief Executive Officer Jean-Sebastien Jacques said in August “there is no obvious way to take Simandou to the next phase,” and the company hasn’t been able to find a way to finance it.

“It cleans another dead asset off the portfolio,” said Hillcoat, who added that the market doesn’t apply any value to the asset. “In the brave new world we’re in now, you just can’t develop these projects.”

Guinea will want the new owner, also known as Chinalco, to fare better than Rio. The country is counting on the project to double the size of its $6.5 billion economy and turn it into the third-biggest exporter of iron ore. Earlier this year, Guinea blamed project delays on the “ramblings of the technical team in London,” a reference to Rio.

The parties should finalize the deal quickly to establish a new plan for Simandou’s development, Minister of Mines and Geology Abdoulaye Magassouba said in an e-mailed statement.

“This is a very positive event for the project, but we still have many months of work and major challenges ahead,” Magassouba said.

Before the deal was signed on Friday, Simandou was 46.6 percent owned by Rio, 41.3 percent by Chinalco, and 7.5 percent by the government.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Investors have lamented the inability of mining executives to conduct successful M&A activity and I’ve even heard more than a few suggest CEOs should be precluded from engaging in mergers as a condition of taking the job. Simandou is another example of a boondoogle project that was initiated when prices were high and abandoned when prices are bottoming. 



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October 28 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tocqueville Gold Strategy Third Quarter 2016 Investor Letter

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

Gold is extremely under owned in Western investment portfolios. Because supplies of above ground stocks normally available to satisfy Western investment demand have been severely depleted by flows to Asian investors, the price dynamics could be explosive.

Gold has enjoyed a stealth bull market since the advent of radical monetary policies around 2000. As the chart below shows, gold has been the best performing asset class since then, a fact that is completely unrecognized by main stream media and conventional investors. The painful correction from 2011 to year end 2015 camouflaged gold’s strength and explains why most investors remain complacent as to systemic risk, intellectually understanding the unsustainability of radical monetary policy but unmotivated to seek gold’s protection.

It seems unlikely that the long term erosion of investment confidence, the onset of a secular bear market in financial assets, and further advances in the stealth bull market for gold will take place in a linear fashion. There are bound to be shakeouts and fake outs along the way to camouflage the underlying reality that the global financial system as we know it is in extremis. We also believe that the current sharp correction in the precious metals complex is a setup for another major advance toward new highs in metal and share prices. We therefore recommend taking advantage of current weakness to build or establish new positions.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

 I often think that the role of gold as a hedge is misunderstood. It did well in the 1970s because investors were worried about inflation and outperformed from the early 2000’s because people were worried about deflation. Therefore it is probably best to think about gold as a hedge against the best efforts of the monetary authorities to debase the currency; regardless of what that currency might be. 



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October 28 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Iron Ore Surges Amid Coal's Record Rally, Lifting Miners' Shares

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

Iron ore is rallying as coal prices surge, lifting the shares of producers in Australia, the world’s largest shipper. The benchmark spot price in China posted the biggest weekly increase since April after rising for the fourth day in five on Friday.

Ore with 62 percent content rose 1.5 percent to $63.96 a dry ton in Qingdao, the highest price since April, according to Metal Bulletin Ltd. Earlier in Asia, futures in Dalian rose for a seventh day, the longest run since 2013, as Singapore’s SGX AsiaClear most-active contract surged for a third week.

After three years of slumping prices as low-cost mine supply rose and China slowed, iron ore has surged in 2016 as Asia’s top economy boosted stimulus, supporting steel demand. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd.’s Chief Executive Officer Nev Power told reporters this week that the Perth-based company expected prices to hold firm in 2017. Recent advances in iron ore have been supported by gains in coal after a supply crunch in China.

“The price of coking coal continues to rise,” supporting iron ore, said Zhao Chaoyue, an analyst at China Merchants Futures Co. in Shenzhen. Coking coal, or metallurgical coal, has more than doubled this year, with futures in Dalian hitting a record on Wednesday. Prices rose Friday after sinking a day earlier.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

China is now at a point in its development where pollution is costing it more money than it was making from the industries causing it. That’s an important tipping point and has been bullish for coking coal and iron-ore prices as some of the most marginal dirtiest Chinese mining operations have been forced to close. 

Iron-ore prices rallied from late last year to break a lengthy progression of lower rally highs and have been forming a first step above the base since April. A sustained move below the trend mean, currently near $56, would be required to question medium-term scope for a successful upward break. 

 



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October 27 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Swedish Krona Plunges as Riksbank Signals More Easing to Come

This article by Johan Carlstrom and Amanda Billner for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Nordea’s chief analyst in Stockholm, Andreas Wallstrom, said he still expects more easing by the Riksbank, "including a rate cut” to minus 0.6 percent in December. “The government bond purchase program is forecast to be expanded by 30 billion kronor ($3.4 billion), equally distributed between government bonds and index-linked bonds,” Wallstrom said.

“The revised repo rate path delivers enough softness to keep the krona on the weak side,” said Knut Hallberg, an analyst at Swedbank AB in Stockholm. “It shows a bigger probability of a cut.”

Some analysts had predicted the Riksbank would announce more easing already on Thursday after inflation missed the bank’s forecasts by a wide margin last month. The annual inflation rate slowed to 1.2 percent in September after peaking at 1.6 percent at the start of the year.

The Riksbank also cut its inflation forecast for next year, from 1.8 percent to 1.4 percent, and for 2018, from 2.6 percent to 2.2 percent. It predicted that unemployment will average 6.7 percent next year, while economic growth will slow to 3.3 percent this year and 2 percent in 2017.

“I don’t really see the logic of making monetary policy more expansionary,” since the economy is doing well, Bergqvist said. Still, “it’s a good tactic that the Riksbank keeps the door open,” he said.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The video interview within the above article is quite illustrative of the complacency of central banks when married to a narrowly defined measure of inflation. Riksbank Governor Stefan Ingves quite clearly admits that a bubble is expanding in the Swedish property market and in the same breath says it is not within the remit of the central bank to do anything about it. In fact, like other central banks asset price inflation is viewed as a positive despite the fact household debt is at a record and the bubble is still inflating. 



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October 25 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Pimco Sees Legs on Brazil's Rally as the Real Hits a 2016 High

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

Pimco’s vote of confidence, albeit with a few cautionary caveats, is helping to reinvigorate investor appetite for a currency that has climbed 28 percent this year. It adds to a string of positive developments in recent weeks that has prompted traders to reassess bets that Brazil’s rally may be over, from President Michel Temer’s success in advancing a spending-cap bill to last week’s rating upgrade for the battered state-run oil giant, Petroleo Brasileiro SA. The central bank signaled Tuesday that it’ll be modest in its quest to lower borrowing costs -- the benchmark rate is 14 percent -- which also supports the real.

“A better-than-expected improvement on the fiscal outlook and the slower-than-expected pace for interest-rate cuts both strengthen Brazilian assets,” said Andres Jaime, a strategist in New York at Barclays Plc. Back in September, “we had a less optimistic outlook.”

In a note on Pimco’s website, emerging market portfolio managers Yacov Arnopolin and Lupin Rahman wrote that Brazil’s high interest rates offer a “decent cushion against potential weakness.” Borrowing dollars to lend in reais has returned 40 percent in a so-called carry trade this year, the most among major currencies.

“The country’s fixed-income assets continue to present compelling opportunities,” they wrote. “With confidence in the government returning, Brazil could be set for a comeback -- one that could restore nominal interest rates to single digits and put credit rating upgrades back on the table.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

In a world of close to zero interest rates and where a significant quantity of government debt has negative yields it’s hard to find 14% interest rates in an appreciating currency. Brazil still has a lot of challenges but with commodity prices rebounding and a BIDU new administration, intent of squeezing inflation out of the economy, the outlook for both the currency and asset prices remains positive.  



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October 11 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

S. Africa's Gordhan to Be Charged; Rand Plunges Most Since June

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

South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was summonsed to appear in court on fraud charges next month, the latest twist in a struggle with President Jacob Zuma that could cause South Africa’s credit rating to be downgraded to junk. The rand weakened against the dollar by the most in more than three months.

Gordhan Tuesday called the summons politically motivated and said “there is no case,” adding that South Africans need to ask why the prosecutors took the decision to charge him over approving a retirement package, two weeks before the delivery of the mid-term budget. He’s due to appear in court on Nov. 2. Shaun Abrahams, the head of the National Prosecuting Authority, said there had been no political interference.

“Gordhan has done an outstanding job and enjoys an extremely high degree of confidence,” said Anthony Sedgwick, co-founder of Abax Investments (Pty) Ltd. “Obviously, there is extremely deep suspicion as to what the motive behind the move is.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

An independent judiciary is one of the most important positive factors that we can use to determine whether standards of governance can be sustained not to mind improve. The fact South Africa’s courts now appear to be subject to political agendas is a serious retrogression and further highlights the increasingly dire consequences of single party rule without a commitment to improving governance. 



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October 07 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Blockchain: In Search of a business Case

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

A number of financial institutions and private investors have devoted significant time and financial resources to looking at ways to monetize the blockchain technology, but to date only the bitcoin payments system has achieved even modest adoption.

While a number of financial institutions believe that blockchain will evolve into a more efficient medium for transferring value or ownership of assets, in fact the elegance and simplicity of blockchain as illustrated by bitcoin may also be the most daunting obstacle to broader adoption.

Despite an enormous amount of hype and investment going back nearly a decade, blockchain remains an elegant but costly technology in search of real world relevance beyond the initial application of digital cash exchange.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Anyone with even a modicum of libertarian spirit will appreciate blockchain for dispensing with third parties by allowing peer to peer transactions on a global basis that occur outside the ability of governments to tax, or banks to charge commissions on. However the challenge faced by the technology is in delivering scale and utility to the wider financial system. It is looking increasingly likely that the original blockchain decentralised architecture may be swept away in favour of a system created exclusively to cater the needs of the global financial system. 



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October 06 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Investors Covet Gold Miners Once More in Search for Yield

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

The spread between the estimated dividend yield of companies on the S&P 500 Index and the BI Global Senior Gold Valuation Peers narrowed to 1.1 percent, from 1.61 percent in February, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Meanwhile, both Goldman and Credit Suisse over the past two weeks have flagged prospects for higher dividends among gold-mining companies.

“Investors are hungry for yield,” and an increase in dividends may provide the catalyst for shares to move higher, Goldman analysts said in a Sept. 21 report.

And

Still, even with the cost cuts, miners’ prospects depend heavily on the outlook for gold prices, and a continued decline would hurt the companies’ balance sheets and drag valuations lower, said Dan Denbow, a portfolio manager at the $782 million USAA Precious Metals & Minerals Fund in San Antonio.

“If gold goes down, you’re going to lose more than just the dividend,” Denbow said in a phone interview. “When they’re buying gold miners, they’re thinking it’s going to go higher. That could be the only bet.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Precious metals extended their decline today into an even more oversold condition but against the background of a Dollar which has been quite firm of late. Market participants are now probably waiting for a bullish catalyst in the form of a weaker Dollar or clear uptick in investment demand/safe haven buying to check the slide and pressure shorts not least as prices are still trading in the region of the trend mean. 



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October 06 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

BHP Billiton: Oil a benefit not a drag

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

The world isn’t ending after all
BHP’s share price has risen 28% so far in 2016, versus a broader market that has largely stalled (ASX 200 up 3%). Although sizeable gains have already been posted, we expect we are still in the early stages of a significant upgrade cycle for the resource sector. For the majority of the year we have been at the top of consensus on BHP, on the belief that expectations had become unrealistically pessimistic on commodities/miners. This thematic of an impending ‘relief rally’ across commodities continues to play out, with oil and bulk resources (coal and iron ore) the key gainers.

Oil adds x-factor to cash flow upside
While we have already seen a significant recovery in oil prices so far in 2016, we expect there is still further upside potential. OPEC’s decision to announce an output cut of 750kbopd is important fundamentally for oil given it indicates that OPEC’s strategy to defend market share by squashing oil prices has essentially been accomplished and the cartel is returning to its traditional role of supporting oil prices as a swing producer. We expect the downturn has caused permanent damage to US shale’s ultimate potential. 

Petroleum investor briefing
BHP’s petroleum team is conducting an investor briefing in London on 5 October and Sydney on 10 October. The briefing will provide significant detail on BHP’s petroleum strategy (both conventional and onshore), which has been in a state of transition from gas to liquids. In particular, we expect a lot of focus to remain on BHP’s US onshore assets, where its cash flow performance has been pressured by depressed oil and gas prices.

Good mix of exposures to ongoing recovery
Our preference for BHP amongst our large-cap Australian resources coverage is driven primarily by the cash flow upside potential it holds from recovering volumes and commodity prices in FY17. We see the big miner as being ideally positioned to pursue growth at the low point in the cycle while supported by a strong balance sheet and the potential for additional upside in near-term cash flow. We maintain our Add recommendation with an unchanged A$25.30 price target. The key risk to our call is commodity price risk.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The performance of the FTSE-350 Mining Index and the S&P/ASX 300 Resources Index has been broadly similar highlighting the broad based appeal of the mining sector this year. It is also notable that the performance of the industrial metals has been considerably less volatile of late than the precious metals, which highlights the quiet different internal dynamics of the respective markets. 

 

 

 



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October 05 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the differences between moving average calculations

Reading your last comments on precious metals, I noticed that you are using 200-day exponential moving average. And I thought that the talk was always about simple MA, I even remember David stressing using it and not EMA a number of years ago. I looked through the charts mentioned recently; both by you and David, and they all have EMA. Can you please comment on this and explain your choice, because two measures can be quite different. For example, simple MA on the silver chart is at $17, while EMA, is at $18 where the price currently is. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email which may be of interest to other subscribers. I have always favoured the exponential moving average because I believe that giving more recent data some additional weighting in the calculation is the most appropriate policy. However as you highlight there is some debate, which is unlikely to ever be resolved, between what are the best moving average calculations to use. 



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October 05 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

All eyes on the spending cap

Thanks to a subscriber for this note from Deutsche Bank focusing on the Brazilian market. Here is a section:

Speaking at the Senate Economic Committee on Tuesday, BCB President Ilan Goldfajn. Goldfajn repeated several statements that had already been published in the central bank’s Inflation Report last week, reaffirming the intention of making inflation converge to the 4.5% target in 2017. Goldfajn also repeated the remarks published in the Inflation Report about the three conditions for the authorities to initiate an easing cycle (namely limited persistence of food price shock, disinflation of IPCA components, and lower uncertainty about the fiscal adjustment implementation). The Goldfajn, however, added that the BCB “does not have a pre-established timetable for monetary easing,” as the COPOM decision will depend on several factors, including inflation expectations and forecasts. This comment suggests that the BCB has not yet made a final decision to cut rates, perhaps because market inflation expectations for 2017 have not converged to the 4.1% target yet. Despite Goldfajn’s cautious remarks, we still expect the COPOM to cut the SELIC rate by 25bps at the next meeting later this month.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Brazil has a number of challenges facing the economy not least corruption and the low standards of governance in its state institutions which have contributed to low approval ratings for the government regardless of who is in power. Controlling inflation will be one of the key tests from an international perspective because of the impact that would have on the currency. 



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October 04 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 30 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Extreme pollution forces China to shut down hundreds of coal, steel operations

This article by Cecilia Jamasmie for Mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The country’s state planner said that after inspecting more than 4,600 coal mines it decided to revoke safety certificates for 28 of them and shut another 286 operations for not complying with environmental and safety regulations.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) also ordered two steel firms to close permanently, 29 companies to suspend output and another 23 to reduce production, it said in the statement.

China will also set up a no-coal zone in cities around Beijing in 2017 to try reducing the capital's hazardous smog levels. As an additional measure, the government will ban factories and households in 18 districts and towns of the Hebei province from both burning coal and building new power generators powered by petroleum coke, Xinhua News Agency reported.

A study by Chinese and American researchers published last month blamed burning coal as the cause of premature death for about 366,000 people in 2013.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The fact that China is taking action to at least partially rationalise its coal and steel sector is good news for the global steel sector overall which has been struggling to compete with China’s massive oversupply of cheap product. 

 



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September 28 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Stunning coking coal rally wreaks havoc in steel, iron ore

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

In a new research note Adrian Lunt of the Singapore Exchange says margins for steelmakers in China, which forges almost as much steel as the rest of the world combined have come under pressure again and the tight conditions may continue:

"The recent spike in coking coal prices has sent spot steelmaker margins plummeting back to around their lows last seen in Q4 2015. And unless coking coal prices reverse course soon, this is likely to weigh on steelmaker earnings through the course of Q4 2016, particularly as restocking needs have provided some support to iron ore prices

"With Chinese steel output remaining strong and demand sentiment relatively robust (with continued support from both real estate and infrastructure in particular), steelmaker margin pressures appear likely to persist over the coming months."

While the price of iron ore has also recovered this year – up 31.5% year to date holding above $55 a tonne on Monday – the iron ore/coking coal ratio is now at its lowest level this century according the SGX calculations.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Coking coal prices have been rallying all year but the recent surge is a clear acceleration of that trend and suggests there is at least a near-term supply deficit. Many investors have been switched off from investing in coal because of tighter environmental regulations but there is no getting around the fact that coking coal is essential in producing steel at a competitive price and is very different market from steaming coal.   



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September 27 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Denver Gold Forum Highlights Trends Reinforce Focus on 'Walk Before Run' Strategies

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from National Bank focusing on gold miners. Here is a section:

Exploration budgets getting a lift. With balance sheets in better shape from non-core asset sales, higher metal prices, and, in cases, financings, senior and junior companies alike are ramping up exploration budgets and project evaluation programs. 

For the juniors and intermediates this could generate discoveries of a size that is material to production. Recent exploration and project examples include Newmarket Gold (Fosterville), OceanaGold (Macraes, Waihi, Haile), Richmont (Island Deep), Alamos (La Yaqui) and Alacer Gold (Gediktepe).

For seniors, exploration spending remains disproportionately focused on near-mine and Brownfield targets (Figure 2) as they look to add and upgrade ounces proximal to existing mine infrastructure. This focus also seems appropriate in the context of recent trends that show a declining discovery rate despite higher-than-average exploration Page 2 expenditures. For example, from 2006 to 2015 some US$54 bln was earmarked for discovery-oriented exploration budgets (69% of total spending from 1990 to 2015), yet gold in major discoveries dropped every year except in 2015. Refer to Figure 3. Thus, in our view, it is unlikely that the recent uptick in exploration spending will generate a different result, specifically new discoveries of a size that can thwart the outlook for production declines. Recognizing that the odds are stacked against them, we view as prudent senior company’s focus on near-mine and Brownfields exploration.

Benign cost pressures bode well for continuing balance sheet improvements and FCF – conditions that appear to buoy the interest of generalist investors. With currency one of the principal drivers of cash cost trends and FX rates in key mining jurisdictions still generally weak vis-à-vis 2014 and 2015 levels, the backdrop remains constructive for lower costs year-on-year (Figure 4). With that, we expect operating margins to remain robust and be of a magnitude sufficient to maintain investor interest in gold equities. In fact, in speaking with several generalist investors, arguably, this was one of the main takeaway from the DGF.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Mines are depleting assets by definition so management teams have to make tactical decisions about when to spend, what is often significant capital, on increasing their potential supply options. After a generational long bear market the gold mining sector had been unable to address their declining mine life problem so when gold prices began to pick up they poured every available cent into increasing supply. That resulted in their shares underperforming the gold price and represented a serious headwind for the sector when gold prices rolled over. 



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September 22 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the Dollar Index

Do you think the Fed announcement will change the trajectory for the USD (DXY) heading into year end? and in turn potential provide some strength to the commodities?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which may also be of interest to other subscribers. The Fed’s announcement that the economic activity is moderating suggests that the interest rate differential between the US Dollar and other major currencies like the Euro is unlikely to expand rapidly. That would suggest the rangey environment overall for the Dollar Index may continue a while longer, subject to what happens in Europe and Japan. 



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September 22 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

California's legal marijuana market is on the verge of exploding

This article by Ben Gilbert for Business insider may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

We're not talking about de-criminalization, or police de-prioritization.

We're talking about alcohol-style regulation and sale of marijuana to adults, age 21 and up. We're talking about legally allowed personal cultivation, state/local taxation of retail sales/distribution, and re-evaluation of sentences/records for people charged with marijuana offenses.
We're talking about outright, full-on legalization of marijuana. And in the world's sixth largest economy, that means billions of dollars. 

If California's Proposition 64 passes on November 8, and sales begin by January 1, 2018, California's looking at an additional $1.5 billion flooding into the marijuana market. That number swells to just shy of $3 billion in 2019, and nearly $4 billion by 2020, based on the latest report from New Frontier Data and ArcView Market Research.

And to be clear, that's on top of the already booming medical marijuana market — the total size of the cannabis market would reach $4.27 billion in 2018, and would grow to $6.45 billion by 2020.
The ballot initiative has overwhelming support in California: Over 60% of respondents support Prop. 64, compared to just 34% opposed, according to Ballotpedia's average of polls.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Evidence from companies like GW pharmaceuticals and others means that the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) assertion cannabis is a Schedule 1 narcotic with no medical use and a high probability for misuse is looking increasingly outdated. Arguments for full legalisation go a step further and promote the view cannabis is no more dangerous for consenting adults than alcohol. Considering the damage abuse of alcohol is capable of that’s not a particularly high barrier. 



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September 21 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gold Seen Entering Long-Term Bull Cycle as Asset Bubbles Pop

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

Parrilla joins a slew of investors who are bullish on gold because of low borrowing costs and central-bank bond buying. Billionaire bond-fund manager Bill Gross has said there’s little choice but gold and real estate given current bond yields, while Paul Singer, David Einhorn and Stan Druckenmiller have all expressed reasons this year for owning the metal.

Some are not confident prices will rise. The probability of three rate hikes through end-2017 means there’s little room for rallies, according to Luc Luyet, a currencies strategist at Pictet Wealth Management. Cohen & Steers Capital Management, which oversees $61 billion, has pared its gold allocation, while investor Jim Rogers said after the Brexit vote in June that he’d rather seek a haven in the dollar than bullion.

While global bond yields are still very low, they’ve been rising. Yields have climbed to 1.21 percent from a record low 1.07 percent in July, according to the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index in data going back to 1990. The odds of the Fed hiking in December have risen to 58 percent after the U.S. reported higher-than-expected inflation in August, from just below 50 percent on Thursday.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Despite the fact precious metal prices have been in a reaction and consolidation for the last few months, the biggest bulls are unabashed because they don’t see a solution to how central banks can support growth while simultaneously reducing the debt mountain without the assistance of inflation which could involve helicopter money. 



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September 21 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 20 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Performance and valuations of junior gold companies

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

As shown in Exhibit 1, the GDXJ index of smaller cap gold companies (up 129% YTD) is holding near highs of the year despite a recent pull back in the gold price, and since May has outperformed the GDX index of larger cap names, which has risen by 89% YTD. Similarly, junior gold companies we track are currently trading at an average EV/oz valuation of $64/oz versus the YTD high of $74/oz seen in mid- August, the highest level since the $70/oz observed in 2011 and well above the $20–30/oz range of the 2013–2015 trough (Exhibit 2). We believe these valuations are in part due to a scarcity of higher quality gold projects, and we would expect a pick-up in M&A activity and the junior gold companies to continue to post strong relative returns during the remainder of 2016.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Precious metal prices have been confined to a reaction and consolidation, of this year’s impressive early gains, for the last few months with many instruments having already completed reversions to the mean. With the Fed and BoJ meetings tomorrow it is reasonable that investors are not rushing to initiate long positions with so much debate about what exactly central banks have planned and the headwind higher rates would pose for precious metal related instruments. 



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September 16 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How the sugar industry bought out scientists for decades, and how to stop it from happening again

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

According to a report just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a delegation from the Sugar Research Foundation paid off Harvard scientists to produce reports that falsely downplayed the role of sugar in coronary heart disease.

Yep. Sugar contributes to coronary artery disease, more than we have been led to believe.
Reports had linked both dietary sugar and dietary fat to heart disease as early as the mid-50s; by 1960 we knew that low-fat diets high in sugars still resulted in high cholesterol levels. So in 1964, the director of the SRF proposed that the group “embark on a major program” to dispute the data as well as any “negative attitudes toward sugar.” They found a group of Harvard nutrition scientists who would take their money, and started making plans.

Complete with a codename, Project 226 was designed to protect the interests of the sugar industry by “recapturing” the 20% of American calorie intake they expected to lose once this whole sugar-isn’t-great-for-your-heart thing percolated through into public awareness. It resulted in a two-part review published in the prestigious and influential New England Journal of Medicine, which hand-waved away huge swathes of research pointing out the risks of dietary sugar.

The authors went to absurd lengths to discount studies that didn’t tell the story the Sugar Research Foundation wanted to tell. For example, to get the results they wanted, they had to throw out all the studies done on animals, because not a single animal study supported the conclusion they wanted. But after they finished their work, they reported that epidemiological studies showed a positive association between high dietary sugar consumption and better heart disease outcomes. The review concluded that there was “no doubt” that the only way to avoid heart disease was to reduce saturated fat.

How did this get past the sanity check at NEJM? The authors were experts, respected in their fields, and they were at least consistent cherry-pickers. They also conveniently failed to report that the Sugar Research Foundation funded their “study.” NEJM didn’t start requiring authors to report conflicts of interest until 1984, and by then the sugar industry had floated comfortably on their 1964 precedent, funding study after study supporting their pro-sugar narrative “as a main prop of the industry’s defense.”

Nobody knows how many reviewers they paid to endorse the conclusions of their faux science.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The role of sugar in contributing to coronary heart disease is now being hotly investigated as consumers become progressively more involved in controlling their nutrition. Inflammation is the new buzz word and the fact that pursuing a diet where processed sugars are limited results in a trimmer figure and lower cholesterol is an additional incentive for many. The sugar lobby has been enormously successful in avoiding the kind of health warnings that have been imposed on the tobacco sector. However it is looking increasingly likely the tide is turning; in the West at least. 



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September 14 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Copper Rises Most in 3 Months on Signs of Better Chinese Growth

This article by Yuliya Fedorinova and Joe Deaux for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Copper posted the biggest gain in almost three months as strong economic data from China fueled speculation that demand will strengthen in the Asian nation, the world’s largest metals consumer. An index of global mining stocks advanced for the first time in six days.

China’s broadest measure of new credit exceeded estimates in August, rebounding from a month earlier and bolstering evidence that growth is stabilizing. Chinese reports this week on factory output, investment and retail sales all exceeded economist estimates.

“The Chinese data is improved,” Michael Turek, the head of base metals at BGC Partners Inc. in New York, said in an e-mail.

“Credit has been easier. That enables manufacturing to operate more smoothly and profitably and reduces bankruptcies.”

Copper for delivery in three months rose 2.6 percent to $4,771.50 a metric ton ($2.16 a pound) at 5:50 p.m. on the London Metal Exchange, the biggest increase since June 15.

The Bloomberg World Mining index of producers added 0.4 percent, heading for its first gain since Sept. 6.

Users, including power-wiring companies, are stepping up purchases of copper ahead of China’s autumn festival after prices fell, Xu Maili, an analyst with Everbright Futures Ltd., said by phone from Shanghai. The three-day Chinese holiday starts Thursday.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Chinese market is closed tomorrow and Friday for the Mid-Autumn Festival and the annual golden week holiday will be between October 2nd and 7th inclusive. Therefore there is some merit to the argument that stockpiling ahead of the holidays may have contributed to recent firming in copper prices. 



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September 14 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 13 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gold Sags in Longest Slump Since June as Demand Ebbs on Dollar

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

“You have rising expectations that there is the possibility of a rate increase this year,” Mike Dragosits, a senior commodity strategist at TD Securities in Toronto, said in a telephone interview. “A December rate hike is a distinct possibility that’s hurting the gold market.”

Gold futures for December delivery fell 0.1 percent to settle at $1,323.70 an ounce at 1:44 p.m. on the Comex in New York. The losing streak is the longest since June 23.

Precious-metals traders have been in thrall to contrasting comments from Fed officials before the Fed’s policy meeting next week. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said Friday that the economy may overheat if the bank waits too long.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Gold does best when people are most worried about the integrity of their respective currency; when it is being eroded by negative interest rates in response to deflation or purchasing power is being destroyed by inflation. However between those extremes gold needs an additional catalyst to rally and if the Fed is going to gradually raise interest rates that represents a headwind. 



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September 09 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gold Investors Brace for Lower Prices on Interest-Rate Outlook

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

More than 2,500 lots exchanged hands Friday for a put option giving owners the right to sell October futures at $1,300 an ounce, making it the most-traded option for the second straight day. The most active contract on the Comex slipped as much as 0.6 percent to $1,334.10. Holdings in exchange-traded funds backed by gold fell for a second day on Thursday.

There’s reason to be worried. Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren, who shifted his stance in recent months in favor of monetary tightening, warned Friday that waiting too long to raise interest rates risks overheating the economy. Higher rates make bullion less competitive against interest-bearing assets. The comments come a day after the European Central Bank played down the prospect of an increase in asset purchases.

“The markets are quite nervous that an interest-rate hike might actually happen this month,” Phil Streible, a senior market strategist at RJO Futures in Chicago, said by telephone.

“Investors and traders know that gold futures have held above $1,300 and this looks like a key level of support. It’s rational for investors to be looking at protective put options at $1,300 in the event a surprise interest rate increase occurs.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Total Known ETF Holdings of Gold have not been affected by the pullback witnessed in precious metals markets this week suggesting the action is more driven by traders than investors. 



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September 08 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

GW Pharmaceuticals Jumps on Report It May Be Acquisition Target

This article by Caroline Chen for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

GW Pharmaceuticals Plc jumped after Reuters reported that the company had hired Morgan Stanley as an adviser after being approached by several drugmakers interested in an acquisition.

GW gained 20 percent to $101.47 at 3:31 p.m. in New York trading, its biggest intraday gain since March. Reuters cited people familiar with the matter in its report.

The U.K. company, with a market value of $2.56 billion, develops drugs derived from cannabis. Its leading asset is an experimental treatment for epilepsy, and it’s also working on candidates for cancer, type 2 diabetes and schizophrenia. GW has one approved drug, Sativex, which is used to control involuntary muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis.

Insys Therapeutics Inc., which develops drugs based on synthetic cannabis, rose 5 percent to $15.67.

GW, based in Cambridge, England, isn’t currently interested in a sale, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter. A representative for GW declined to comment.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Cannabis is increasingly being recognised for its uses as a pain reliever and mood stabiliser; confirming what millions of users in the illicit market have testified to for decades. With the tide of public opinion turning there is a race on to secure interests in the sector as companies bet on the potential for further legalisation to be approved in the USA, not least during the November ballot. 



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September 07 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 02 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Solid Hiring Without Wage Jump Tests Fed Hopes for Inflation

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

The August employment report released Friday will sharpen the debate. The figures showed a monthly net gain of 151,000 jobs, an unemployment rate holding at 4.9 percent and a slowdown in wage growth. There’s ammunition in the latest data for officials who want to delay a rate increase as they look for signs of continued tightening in the job market. A critical component in Fed officials’ forecast is a rise in wages that boosts demand and drives prices higher.

“Nobody understands the inflation process, including the Fed,” said Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank AG in New York. “When we are near full employment, why has inflation been so incredibly well-behaved?”

After the report, traders trimmed their bets on a rate hike at the Sept. 20-21 FOMC meeting to a roughly 14 percent chance, according to federal funds futures contracts.

The mystery of weak wage growth is troubling, for the short run and the longer-term. If Yellen and the FOMC majority are wrong, inflation could remain stuck below their target, setting the economy up for lower rates of inflation in the next downturn.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Wages are one of the most important figures to watch to decipher what the direction of Fed policy is likely to be because it cannot simply be headoniced out of the data. For example unemployment is a factor both of how many people are unemployed but also how many are looking for jobs. Lower participation rates flatter unemployment. You can’t do that with wages and because wage demands rise when workers feel they need more money to meet their liabilities they act as a barometer for inflation. 



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September 02 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

August 30 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Frozen Concentrated Orange-Juice Market Has Virtually Disappeared

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

Americans drank less orange juice in 2015 than in any year since Nielsen began collecting data in 2002, as more exotic beverages like tropical smoothies and energy drinks take market share and fewer Americans sit down for breakfast.

When they do drink orange juice, they aren’t drinking it from concentrate.

Frozen concentrated orange juice was invented in Florida in the 1940s, primarily as a way to provide juice for the military, readily storable and easy to ship. But frozen juice has been losing favor for years.

Not-from-concentrate orange juice surpassed the concentrated orange-juice market in the 1980s. Now, the 1.4 million gallons of frozen concentrate that Americans drink each month pales in comparison to the 19.1 million gallons of fresh juice consumed each month, Nielsen said.

Louis Dreyfus Co. is scaling back the one citrus facility in Florida that is devoted entirely to concentrated orange juice. The commodities giant is laying off 59 of the plant’s 94 workers as its sells the operation that packs frozen concentrated orange juice into cans for retail.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Changing consumption habits where people are more concerned not only with the taste but the quality of the foods they consume are having wide ranging effects on the commodity markets. To most people frozen orange juice does not taste as good as a freshly squeezed navel or Valencia orange. However since squeezing one’s own oranges is both time consuming and expensive the vast majority of orange juice consumed comes from either concentrate or is pasteurized. 



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August 25 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

August 16 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gas Glut Upends Global Trade Flows as Buyers Find Leverage

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

Historically, LNG has been sold on long-term contracts that guaranteed buyers supply and helped producers finance liquefaction plants at a time when less of the product was shipped. Now, a gas glut is causing LNG importing countries to support renegotiating existing deals that can run 20 years or more while suppliers offer more flexible terms to lock up customers spoiled for choice.

India already is encouraging importers to rework long-term accords to better align costs with spot market prices. Japan, the world’s largest LNG importer, may soon join them. That country’s Fair Trade Commission is in the process of probing resale restrictions in longer deals in an effort that could mean the renegotiation of more than $600 billion in contracts and boost the number of shorter-term agreements.

“There will be 40 million to 50 million tons of homeless LNG by 2020, which can go anywhere or doesn’t have any fixed customers,” said Hiroki Sato, a senior executive vice president with Jera Co., a fuel buyer that plans to increase spot and short-term LNG deals. “Homeless LNG will provide a great opportunity to improve liquidity in Asian and global markets.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The evolution of a global transportation network for natural gas is creating the impetus to divorce pricing from long-term oil contracts. While Russia floated the idea of creating a natural gas equivalent of OPEC a few years back, as a way of preserving it pricing power, it was unable to reach critical mass. 

The reality today is that a substantial number of new entrants to the market, not least Australia, the USA and developing east Africa, all have a vested interest in capturing market share. Meanwhile major consumers like Japan, India and China would understandably like to avail of lower prices. The expansion of the Panama Canal also boosts the viability of US exports to Asia. 

 



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August 16 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tackling the fungi that could wipe out the world's banana supply within a decade

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

The most common type of banana the western world eats is the Cavendish, which is produced through vegetative reproduction – instead of growing from seeds, cuttings of the plant's shoots are replanted and cultivated, making all Cavendish bananas essentially "clones" of one specific plant. Without genetic variety, as diseases gain a foothold over the fruit, they're equipped to potentially take out the entire worldwide crop.

"The Cavendish banana plants all originated from one plant and so as clones, they all have the same genotype – and that is a recipe for disaster," says Ioannis Stergiopoulos, plant pathologist at UC Davis.

Currently, close to 120 countries produce about 100 million tons of bananas each year, but 40 percent of the yield is spoiled by Sigatoka, a fungal disease complex comprised of three strains: yellow Sigatoka, black Sigatoka and eumusae leaf spot. To combat the ever-present threat, farmers need to apply fungicide to their crops 50 times a year, which isn't only costly, but can pose a threat to the environment and human health.

"Thirty to 35 percent of banana production cost is in fungicide applications," says Stergiopoulos. "Because many farmers can't afford the fungicide, they grow bananas of lesser quality, which bring them less income."

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The susceptibility of bananas to bacterial attack, due to their lack of genetic diversity, puts me in mind of the Irish potato famine where reliance on a single breed of tuber left the population bereft of a major portion of their diet when blight destroyed the crop. Of course no one is as heavily reliant on bananas yet they do form a constituent part of many people’s diet globally. It should be possible, given today’s technology, to protect the crop from infection and potentially even enhance yields which could flatter profitability for major producers.   



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August 10 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch August 9th 2016

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report for PPHB. Here is a section on the nuclear sector:

Many of the nuclear power plants that were built in the 1960s and 1970s are now approaching the end of their commercial lives. The challenge is that nuclear power plants have the potential for very long operating lives, often on the order of 80 years, meaning that those older plants might have an additional 20 or 30 years of operating life remaining. The issue is that over their very long lives, these nuclear plants require extensive and costly periodic upgrades and repairs. In order to finance these modifications, the plants must generate significant profits during their operating lives. Low coal and now low natural gas prices have undercut the price of nuclear power, often making these plants the highest cost fossil fuel plants in utility company portfolios. These economic challenges ignore the fact that nuclear power plants have the highest operating ratios of all power plants, meaning that they produce power when people need it and that the power output is carbon-free. 

And

Low natural gas prices have seriously undercut the power prices for the nuclear power plants upstate, to the point that the owners – Exelon (EXC-NYSE) and Entergy – have threatened to shut down the plants. If that were to happen, New York State’s plan to have half its power coming from clean energy sources by 2030 would be doomed. In fact, the state has determined that if the nuclear power plants were shut, local utilities would have to rely on power from power plants fueled by dirty gas and coal. That would detract from the governor’s clean energy goal. That goal is why Gov. Cuomo has fought the use of hydraulic fracturing in the state to tap greater supplies of locally produced natural gas. Natural gas, although cheaper than the governor’s favored three sources of clean energy, would have released more greenhouse gases, but it is likely that the cost to consumers would have been less than what will happen in the future. Gov. Cuomo has championed a plan that was embraced by New York’s Public Service Commission and will force utility customers in the state to pay nearly $500 million a year in subsidies designed to keep the three upstate nuclear power plants operating. The Indian Point plant will not receive any subsidy funds because downstate power prices are sufficiently high that the plant can earn a profit.

According to the Public Service Commission, starting in 2017, the subsidies will cost utility ratepayers in New York State $962 million over two years. However, the overall cost of the clean energy program to utility customers would be less than $2 a month, according to the Public Service Commission. The chairman of the commission said that state officials had calculated the social and economic benefits of the program, including the reduction of carbon emissions, lower prices for electricity and more jobs in the electricity generation business, and that these benefits would be greater than the cost of the subsidies. Environmental groups are fighting back, claiming that while they supported the governor’s plan to mandate the purchase of renewable energy by utilities, they viewed the magnitude of the subsidies that could amount to several billion dollars over the 12 years to 2030 as a mistake. Exelon, the owner of two of the three up-state nuclear power plants applauded the Public Service Commission announcement and pledged to invest $200 million in the plants next year if the plan is approved.

Environmentalists who are serious about clean energy should pay attention to the comments of Michael Shellenberger, the president of nonprofit research and policy organization Environmental Progress. He said that nuclear power plants produce so much more energy than other forms that they can be more environmentally friendly than even renewables when all the mining, development and land disturbances are taken into account. As Mr. Shellenberger put it, “from the whole life-cycle analysis, it’s just better.” Of course, on the other side of the issue is someone such as Abraham Scarr, director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocate group, who said, “We should be building the 21st century energy system and not continuing to subsidize the energy system of the past.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The above paragraphs highlight just how much of an influence low natural gas prices have had on the utility sector and the broader energy mix. Closing down nuclear plants because the cost of upgrades and repairs cannot be justified when competition with natural gas is so intense suggests demand for the commodity is going to intensify in coming years if nuclear is not subsidized. 



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August 10 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Palladium at Year High, Driving Precious Metals on Chinese Cars

This article by Eddie Van Der Walt and Ranjeetha Pakiam for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Palladium is up 19 percent in the past month, the best performing commodity. Chinese vehicle sales in July gained the most in 17 months, data showed this week. A weaker dollar since late July has also spurred precious metals.

That “highlighted a generally supportive backdrop to palladium demand, exacerbated by ongoing concerns that output from top producers Russia and South Africa may be under threat,” said Jonathan Butler, a precious metals strategist at Mitsubishi Corp. in London. “We could see a bit of profit taking from here, but the $700 level seems to have been recaptured convincingly.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Chinese car sales coming in well ahead of expectations has been positive for palladium prices due to increased demand for catalytic converters but has also been a contributing factor in the outperformance of the German DAX Index.



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