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Another Wave Of Selling Is Kicking Off Christmas-Week Trading

Monday, Dec 20 2021
Market Talk

Another wave of selling is kicking off Christmas-week trading as more bad news on the Omicron spread continues to dominate the headlines, and central banks have made it clear that the printing presses will not be available this time around.  

Bond markets are also flashing warning signals as the US Treasury yield curve has shrunk to its lowest level in a year, which is seen as an indicator of an increased risk of recession in the months ahead. The good news is that the treasury yield curve is not yet close to inverting, as it did prior to each of the last recessions in the US.

After technical resistance held up and broke the recovery rally in energy prices last week, the charts are pointing lower with a retest of $2.00 looking likely for refined products. Already this morning RBOB futures dipped to $2.02 during the worst of the overnight selling, and even though ULSD futures are trading around $2.15 at the moment, a test of their November low just about the $2 mark looks like a decent bet in the weeks to come.

Money managers looked like they’re having a hard time deciding what to do with energy contracts last week with WTI and ULSD seeing large reductions in net length, while RBOB, Brent and Gasoil contracts all saw increases. One unusual note from this week’s commitment of traders report: the Producer/Merchant trade category saw its net length reach a 5 year high last week, compared to a more typical short position as producers tend to sell forward to hedge their output.  It’s hard to say what might be driving this length, especially since a lot of producer hedging filters through the Swap Dealer category, but the result seems clear that oil producers are either comfortable moving forward without locking in the prices on forward output, or their lack of capital is preventing them from doing so, making pullbacks like this potentially more damaging.

Baker Hughes reported another net increase of 4 oil rigs working last week, the 6th week out of 7 to have increases. The chart below shows that although the rig count has built steadily over the past year, the rate of increase is noticeably lower than the recoveries in 2011 and 2016, which appears to be a factor of both supply & labor challenges, and the aforementioned restrictions in capital. 

Electric Vehicles are once again taking center stage of the political theatre in Washington, as a provision to add an additional $4500 tax credit for union-made EVs may have been the straw that broke the build back better bill’s back.

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