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A Looming Crude Oil Showdown

A Looming Crude Oil Showdown

By Ryan Fitzmaurice, senior commodity strategist at Rabobank

Summary

As expected, China’s recent attempt to pressure oil prices lower has so far been unsuccessful

All eyes will be on the next OPEC+…

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A Looming Crude Oil Showdown

By Ryan Fitzmaurice, senior commodity strategist at Rabobank

Summary

  • As expected, China’s recent attempt to pressure oil prices lower has so far been unsuccessful

  • All eyes will be on the next OPEC+ meeting to see if Saudi Arabia will surprise the oil market by slowing or pausing planned production increases in response to China’s SPR release

  • US CPI inflation data for August registered a +5.3% year-on-year gain in consumer prices

  • The broad-based commodity indices are signalling even more upside inflationary pressures ahead, as those indices reached new multi-year highs just this week

Oil prices were strong last week, setting new multi-week highs much to the dismay of large oil consuming nations that are fighting soaring commodity price inflation. This is particularly true for China given that crude oil imports there have soared back above the 10mb/d mark in recent data.

Moreover, China’s recent attempt to pressure oil prices lower by announcing its intention to release oil from its strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) has so far been unsuccessful, a dynamic we discussed in detail in last week’s note. Further reinforcing our thesis, oil prices fell suddenly again on Tuesday morning as more details of the Chinese SPR release were announced, however, the bearish market reaction was very short-lived and oil prices went on to quickly recover and settle higher on the day, just as they did last week when news of the Chinese SPR plans first hit the wires. Notably, ever since the pandemic hit, OPEC+ holds a virtual conference call every month to adjust supply to current market conditions with the stated goal of reducing global stockpiles and the unstated goal of increasing oil prices and revenue.

As such, all eyes will be on the next OPEC+ meeting, scheduled for October 4th, to see if Saudi Arabia will surprise the oil market by slowing or pausing planned production increases in response to China’s SPR release. This is a real possibility, as we see it, and especially in light of the Saudi Energy Minister’s recent comments indicating he still has “tricks up his sleeve” and suggesting he would inflict financial pain on those that seek to impede the OPEC+ mission.

Importantly, if there were to be a surprise on the supply side, it would likely have a much bigger impact on oil than the Chinese SPR release has, given that OPEC+ controls nearly all of the available spare capacity. In addition to that, OPEC+ has the powerful herd of systematic algos on its side doing the heavy-lifting and bidding oil prices higher.

Commodity inflation

As we noted in the onset, soaring commodity price inflation has put large consuming nations on the defensive this year. Further to that end, US CPI data for August was released on Tuesday and registered a +0.3% month-on-month gain which equated to a +5.3% year-on-year gain in consumer prices. Moreover, this was the fourth consecutive month that consumer inflation has come in at or above 5% y/y with no signs of letting up. In fact, the broad-based commodity indices are signalling even more upside inflationary pressures ahead, as those indices reached new multi-year highs just this week, thanks in large part to the gains in oil and gasoline prices.

The CPI data release also prompted comments from President Biden yesterday in which he suggested that gasoline prices were somehow being artificially propped up despite evidence that they should be lower, as he put it. The President did not provide any detail as to what evidence there is to suggest gasoline prices should be lower which left many traders and analysts scratching their heads. On the contrary, we see considerably more upside risks than downside risks to oil and gasoline prices into year-end and even beyond. As it stands, both fundamental and quantitative market signals are overwhelming bullish and the speculative positioning has plenty of room to grow from current levels as we discussed last week. Perhaps more important though, is the revival in commodity index investing that was such a key driver for commodity markets in the first half of the year. On that note, the massive capital inflows into commodity index products witnessed in the first half of the year have gone dormant in recent months, a dynamic we detailed here. However, in our view, it won’t be long before institutional investors and large asset managers are forced to increase commodity index allocations as surging inflation expectations and fear of missing out forces capital off the side-lines. As such, we fully expect to see a notable pick-up in commodity allocations in the coming weeks and months given the well-known inflation hedging benefits commodity indices have historically provided. Furthermore, commodity markets are the best performing asset-class year-to-date with gains of more than 25%, so those asset allocators that have remained underweight commodities have missed out on the strong risk-adjusted gains and are very likely underperforming their peers and benchmarks.

Looking Forward

Looking forward, we see real potential for a bullish OPEC+ surprise at the upcoming October meeting in response to China’s recent SPR release. As we noted, OPEC+ currently has the herd of systematic algorithms on its side helping to bid up prices. Further to that end, aggregate open interest for petroleum futures increased this week as prices rose, signalling new speculative “long” positions are likely being established.

Furthermore, we see the potential for a large increase in commodity index allocations as a result of surging inflation worries coupled with fears of missing out (FOMO) on the strong absolute and relative performance of commodity markets this year.

Tyler Durden Mon, 09/20/2021 - 18:40

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Commodities

The Bitcoin Rorschach Test

Bitcoin as an idea can be thought of, like a Rorschach test, as the interpretation of the particular context it presents.

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Bitcoin as an idea can be thought of, like a Rorschach test, as the interpretation of the particular context it presents.

TXID: cdd8014a379a8731fc9e9ba1fef8954ccda9e8300356c6f198144dee11bcdd36

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We would like to think of ourselves as masters of technology. We are the craftsmen, practitioners and creators. This assumption underpins many of our accepted models for understanding history. It’s a comforting way to view the world, with humanity and its heroes as the authors of our destiny. What is a far more uncomfortable truth is that technology equally creates and influences us, and molds the collective behavior that we call culture.

The invention of agriculture made the town the primary social unit, while the mass production of the automobile created cultures of independent holiday makers, commuters and suburbs. Every time Spotify autoplays a new song, when you visit a new restaurant based on its Yelp rating, Tinder’s algorithm displays or does not display you a potential date or a QR code allows health agencies to track and mandate the movements of individuals in a pandemic, technology is influencing culture.

Our choice of technologies - the appliances we use, the cars we drive, the operating systems we choose and the social media platforms which we engage in discourse on shape our lives by what they accentuate and what they hinder, defining the range of actions that are acceptable or prohibited. Technology is not only how human beings sculpt the world in their image, but in framing and defining the range of actions that are possible and encouraged, technology also sculpts who we become.

Producing paper is vastly more efficient than producing parchment, which requires around 200 animal hides to create a single book. Source 1, Source 2

The Qur’an says that good Muslims should seek knowledge, and as a consequence, mathematics, science and engineering flourished in Eastern antiquity. Cultural attitudes led to the invention of paper, which allowed information to be recorded far more efficiently and easily than with papyrus or parchment, which was the popular medium in Europe, where many kings remained illiterate up to the thirteenth century. Our choice of technologies is prescriptive of our character, how others perceive us, and ultimately our destinies.

Yet however potent a technology may be, it ultimately requires a user to be motivated to activate it, to switch it on, to use it, and that user will use it in the manner that they see as most aligned with their beliefs, their will and their intention, and how they see themselves reflected in it. In this sense all technologies are first and foremost tools for individual self-actualization, expression and exploration, a window or framework to understand who we are.

Hermann Rorschach was a Swiss psychologist born in 1884, Zurich, Switzerland. Known to his school friends as “Klex,” due to his enjoyment of klecksography, a child’s game making elaborate pictures from inkblots. As a young adult, he was torn between following his father into the arts or a career in science. He eventually settled on medical school where he majored in psychology.

During his studies, he came across the work of psychiatrist Szyman Hens who had experimented with using inkblots to study the fantasies of his patients. Rorschach saw the opportunity to combine his interest in the arts and the emerging field of psychoanalysis.

After much research and experimentation, he settled on a set of inkblots and a system for scoring the responses to them. He published what has come to be known as the Rorschach test in his 1921 book “Psychodiagnostik.”

Hermann Rorschach

The test itself is administered by presenting the subject with 10 cards in turn and asking them “what might this be?” It’s made clear that there are no right or wrong answers, the subject can pick up the card and view it from any position or orientation they desire, and they’re free to interpret the image however they want. The goal is for them to verbalize what the image suggests to them, with total freedom. Following this the examiner reads the subject’s responses back to them and asks the subject to clarify or elaborate where necessary, not to elicit further information but simply to ensure they have sufficiently accurate information to accurately score the test. The objective is to establish what is being perceived, where it is in the inkblot, and how particular inkblot features contribute to or help determine the response.

The subject’s responses are then used to determine a scoring on several metrics via a complex coding system. The scoring is not based primarily on what the individual says they see in the inkblot. In fact, the contents of the response are only a comparatively small portion of a broader set of data including response times, remarks and comments unrelated to the test, the originality or lack of originality of the responses, and the emotions, attitude, and frame of mind of the subject.

The Rorschach test takes a common stimulus and uses it as a context; the conscious and unconscious reactions of the subject towards that context are data points to better understand their mind.

Earlier we elaborated on how the context provided by a “thing” influences what we create or express, and the way we choose to use it is an act of self-exploration, i.e., it reflects who we are and what we will become. Rorschach similarly understood that by using the context of a fixed set of images and recording the wildly different interpretations created by an individual’s imagination in reaction to each, we could gain insight into a person's mind, and how they were likely to behave in the future.

It is human nature that we can’t help but to project our imaginations onto a thing, and these things, whether they be an inkblot on canvas, an automobile, or a computer program provide context, framing and boundaries for the expression of that imagination. This combination of imagination and framing decides how we act, and over time, what we become - our destiny.

Image source

Since Bitcoin’s invention people have debated what it really is — a peer-to-peer payments system, a form of digital gold, anonymous digital cash, a censorship-resistant means of transmitting value, an immutable ledger of data, the first primitive prototype of a new computing technology called the blockchain, a craze to speculate on, a Ponzi scheme, a tool for extortionists, drug dealers, terrorists and pedophiles? What is Bitcoin?

From Satoshi’s whitepaper, to early discussion on the Bitcointalk forum and the cypherpunks mailing list, to Laszlo Hanyecz’s purchase of a pizza, through the drama of Mt.Gox and Silk Road, and the explosion of other copycats or newcomers looking to be “like bitcoin but with x”, the common perceptions of what bitcoin is and what it means have changed since its inception. Today the popular consensus seems to be that bitcoin is a type of hard money, or digital gold. In five years, with the proliferation of technologies on Layer 2 and beyond like Lightning (that enables a word of utility anchored on the ultimate truth of the Bitcoin blockchain) it's quite possible that this popular consensus will be something altogether different.

Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4

In truth Bitcoin is all of those things and it is none of them. It’s just code. Ultimately someone has to run that code, to mine the blocks, to send and verify the transactions. Their collective actions decide what Bitcoin is. Anyone could fork the open-source code and decide to raise or lower any value, that this or that is valid or invalid, defaulted on or defaulted off, or even increase the supply or issuance. If a sufficient majority of users agree to mine, verify and transact based on that code, this is Bitcoin, at least by the most objective measures possible.

More importantly though, how users collectively decide to act within the boundaries of what is permissible within this chaotic consensus defines what Bitcoin really is, defining its impact on the world and on our lives. Although the code provides an incorruptible, predictable source of truth, the ramifications of that truth are profoundly different in a world where all bitcoin is held by large banks, governments and corporate treasuries and therefore the legal regulations, political reality, societal norms and cultures of compliance dictate the average person interacts with it in a permissioned fashion, much like the legacy banking system. This would be a much different reality than an alternative where every user uses their own full node as a source of truth, holds the keys to their coins and makes informed decisions on the software they run based on its benefits for privacy and self-sovereignty. The aggregate state of affairs that emerges from these actions and values determines what Bitcoin actually is, not the software, or the network, but what it means for the world around us.

“Bitcoin” the network (capital B) and “bitcoin” the asset or currency (lower-case b) are in fact two separate (though highly-interrelated) things. They can exist without each other. For example, if there was an unprecedented worldwide internet outage the network would halt, transactions and blocks would cease to be broadcast, but the ledger itself would remain unchanged. Likewise the Bitcoin peer-to-peer network can broadcast messages and seek to create a global network of connected computers, without any blocks or transactions needing to take place. There exists a third completely separate thing from Bitcoin the network or bitcoin the currency, Bitcoin the idea.

Bitcoin the idea is like the Rorschach test, a particular interpretation of a thing, based on an individual’s experiences, personalities and biases, dreams and fantasies. Your ability to influence the ledger is limited by your financial means divided by the market cap of bitcoin; your ability to influence the network itself even more negligible, determined by the software implementation you run, the parameters you choose and the infrastructure you deploy — all of which must be largely in lockstep with the majority of the network. But your ability to influence Bitcoin the idea is where you have the greatest agency, to answer the Bitcoin Rorschach test, to decide individually what Bitcoin the idea is, and what you will do with it.

Without the robust software, the hash power, the businesses and the products and services that build out the network, Bitcoin the idea is little more than a kumbaya Ponzi scheme which a top-knotted 30-something influencer would shill you on Instagram. Equally it is true that without the recognition of Bitcoin the idea, bitcoin the currency would have no value: there would be no hash power, no nodes, no ecosystem, and the economic incentives that today secure it against almost any conceivable attack vector would not exist. Although it may seem inconceivable now remember that for several years Bitcoin existed in a form largely identical to what it is today, with almost all the value propositions of the technology and protocol we know today but had no value, or it was traded for loose change. It is not the technology itself that increased its value, it was the collective recognition of its brilliance, the growth of Bitcoin as a meme is what led to there being any price, let alone the prices, ecosystem and the hash rate we have today.

No one can own a culture, they are the collective possession of its participants.

We are here because people see themselves in Bitcoin; they will project their values, their hopes, their aspirations, whatever they want the world to be, onto a technology, onto Bitcoin. A sound money, a way to make more of your chosen fiat currency or buy a Lamborghini, a way to buy drugs, a way to make payments that otherwise are prohibited or impossible, a social club to meet people, a way to sound smart and impress people on the internet, an interesting technology, a way to get a job, a way to provide a nest egg for their children, a ray of hope in a dystopian world. It doesn’t matter, Bitcoin is all of these things and none of them, what matters is how its users use it.

Bitcoin is not a centralized service but a peer-to-peer network and state of affairs controlled by its users despite their disparity of views. Anyone can download it, anyone can fork the software or contribute code, there is no CEO of Bitcoin, it has no official website or spokesperson. Bitcoin has more in common with punk rock music or Rastafarianism, or Oaxacan tradition than a centralized top-down entity like Spotify, Tinder, or something owned by a government agency or a corporation. No one makes the rules in Bitcoin, we all do. Bitcoin is solely the possession of its community of users. Bitcoin is a culture, Bitcoin is a meme.

“Birds of a feather flock together.”

Image source

People stared at the inkblot of Bitcoin and acted on what their imagination showed them. Bitcoin itself is simply the aggregate actions of thousands of these otherwise-unrelated individuals participating in a network because their imagination told them it is of benefit to their own ends to do so.

Bitcoin is living technology, an economically self-sustaining culture, the aggregate sum of all its users, who participate because they see themselves in Bitcoin. Without them, it is simply another repo on GitHub.

This is a guest post by CoinsureNZ. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.

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Economics

China Coal Prices Soar To Record As Winter Freeze Spreads Cross The Country

China Coal Prices Soar To Record As Winter Freeze Spreads Cross The Country

One week ago we discussed why the "worst case" scenario for China’s property crisis is gradually emerging; to this we can now add that China’s worst case energy crisi

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China Coal Prices Soar To Record As Winter Freeze Spreads Cross The Country

One week ago we discussed why the "worst case" scenario for China's property crisis is gradually emerging; to this we can now add that China's worst case energy crisis scenario is also about to be unleashed as cold weather swept into much of the country and power plants scrambled to stock up on coal, sending prices of the fuel to record highs.

Electricity demand to heat homes and offices is expected to soar this week as strong cold winds move down from northern China, according to Reuters with forecasters predicting average temperatures in some central and eastern regions could fall by as much as 16 degrees Celsius in the next 2-3 days.

Shortages of coal, high fuel prices and booming post-pandemic industrial demand have sparked widespread power shortages in the world's second-largest economy. Rationing has already been in place in at least 17 of mainland China's more than 30 regions since September, forcing some factories to suspend production and further disrupting already broken supply chains.

On Friday, the most-active January Zhengzhou thermal coal futures closed at a record high of 2,226 per tonne early. The contract has risen almost 200% year to date.

China's three northeastern provinces of Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning - also among the worst hit by the power shortages last month - as well as several regions in northern China including Inner Mongolia and Gansu have started winter heating, which is mainly fuelled by coal, to cope with the colder-than-normal weather.

Meanwhile, even though Beijing has taken a slew of measures to contain coal price rises including raising domestic coal output and cutting power to power-hungry industries and some factories during periods of peak demand, so far all measures have failed with coal surging by 40% in just the past three days. Beijing has also repeatedly assured users that energy supplies will be secured for the winter heating season, and went so far as to order energy firms to "secure supplies at all costs." Well, the energy firms heard it, because on that day, thermal coal closed at 1,436 yuan. Two weeks later it is some 800 yuan higher.

Unfortunately for Beijing, the power shortages are expected to continue into early next year, with analysts and traders forecasting a 12% drop in industrial power consumption in the fourth quarter as coal supplies fall short and local governments give priority to residential users.

Earlier this week, we reported that China undertook its boldest step in a decades-long power sector reform when it allowed coal-fired power prices to fluctuate by up to 20% from base levels from Oct. 15, enabling power plants to pass on more of the high costs of generation to commercial and industrial end-users. read more

Steel, aluminium, cement and chemical producers are expected to face higher and more volatile power costs under the new policy, pressuring profit margins.

Meanwhile, the latest Chinese "data" on Thursday showed factory-gate inflation in September hit a record high; but since thermal coal is the one commodity that correlates the closest to PPI, absent a sharp drop in coal prices in the next few weeks, expect the next PPI print to be far higher. Meanwhile as the power crisis leads to further shutdowns in domestic production, some banks - such as Nomura - have gone so far to predict that China's GDP is set to shrink in coming quarters.

China, which laughably aims to be "carbon neutral" by 2060 even as its president announced he will skip the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, has been "trying" to reduce its reliance on polluting coal power in favor of cleaner wind, solar and hydro. But coal remains the source for some 70% of China's electricity needs.

Of course, China is not the only nation struggling with power supplies, which has led to fuel shortages and blackouts in many European countries. and threatens to send US heating bills up as much as 50% this winter. he crisis has highlighted the difficulty in cutting the global economy's dependency on fossil fuels as world leaders seek to revive efforts to tackle climate change at talks next month in Glasgow.

China will strive to achieve carbon peaks by 2030, Vice Premier Han Zheng said in a video message at the Russian Energy Week International Forum, according to state-run news agency Xinhua late on Thursday. He also said that China and Russia are important forces leading the energy transition and they should cooperate and ensure smooth progress of major oil and gas pipeline and nuclear power projects.

Translation: Russia better save that nat gas and not ship it to Europe as China will soon be needed even BCF Russia an provide. As for China

 

Tyler Durden Fri, 10/15/2021 - 22:50

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Bonds

Bitcoin Education For Indonesia

The Indonesia Bitcoin Conference is a chance to educate Indonesians about a better savings technology.

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The Indonesia Bitcoin Conference is a chance to educate Indonesians about a better savings technology.

Bitcoin represents a new and open internet standard for hard money. Nowadays, with the increasing awareness about bitcoin’s superior properties, it is increasingly being adopted by global financial institutions as pristine collateral, a longer-term store of value, and unstoppable money. We believe that bitcoin was not formed in a vacuum. Like any other technology, bitcoin was invented to fix problems; in this case, the global economic problem.

Indonesia represents the fourth-largest population in the world, with 60% of the citizens owning smartphones. As a country that has experienced hyperinflations in the past, it is crucial for Indonesians to understand what bitcoin stands for. Most Indonesians at the moment see and treat bitcoin as a get-rich-quick scheme. Due to lack of information and comprehensive education in Bahasa Indonesia, many have fallen into scams that are associated with the words bitcoin, blockchain, ”crypto” and mining.

Indonesians wanting to invest have also struggled with mismanagement and corruption. Over the years, we’ve seen cases of fund managers and property developers (similar to the crypto space) who were unable to deliver on their promises and failed to return their customers’ money. This has happened both in the private sector and also in government. News of these cases can easily be found online, both in Indonesian and in English. Even some of Indonesia’s Covid-19 relief funds were embezzled. For these reasons, Indonesians desperately need savings that not only perform, but are also trustworthy.

For years, Indonesians have preferred savings in gold and property; now bitcoin, a better alternative, has dawned. Since Covid-19, all of the other markets have experienced stagnation. The latest government bond SR015 yields 5.1%. The economy was declared to be in a recession since Q3 2020, and is currently trying to climb out of the recession. In the midst of this, bitcoin continues to gain traction, with an approximate 90% gain YTD (October 2021) as an indicator of its dominating performance.

We believe the majority of Indonesians will leapfrog from gold and property markets straight into digital assets (bypassing bonds and securities). This would be similar to how most Indonesians bypassed the use of PCs and most adopted Android smartphones. The government data shows that the number of people in the digital assets space already reached 6.5 million people at the end of May 2021, way more than the 5.4 million people in the stock market. 20 years of user growth in the stock market was easily surpassed by 1 year of user growth in the digital assets space.

Number of smartphone users in Indonesia from 2017 to 2020 with forecasts until 2026. Source: Statista

Indonesia Bitcoin Conference: A Leap For Better Education

There are many challenges for bitcoin adoption as the best savings technology in the country. It is not easy to understand Bitcoin, and requires a multidisciplinary approach. The Indonesia Bitcoin Conference is a way for Indonesians to get proper information and education about Bitcoin. This conference features speakers from Indonesia and abroad such as Saifedean Ammous, Robert Breedlove and Danny Taniwan.

With topics such as the future of crypto exchanges, mining, retiring with bitcoin, Lightning Network, and bitcoin through the islamic lense, we hope to change the mindset of Indonesians about bitcoin.

The Indonesia Bitcoin Conference will happen on October 31, 2021, the same date as when Satoshi Nakamoto published his Bitcoin whitepaper as the beginning of the monetary revolution.

Visit the conference website for ticketing information: http://indonesiabitcoinconference.com

This is a guest post by Konsultan BTC . Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.

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