Sell Mortimer! Sell!

1 min
April 21, 2020
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Some extreme fun and games in the Oil markets overnight as CL1, the generic first contract for WTI crude went below zero, hitting minus $42 at one point as the May contract expired. By contrast, as the chart shows, the CO1 contract, which is for Brent Crude ‘merely’ hit $21, a level close to where the June WTI contract now trades. We couldn’t help but think of these guys..

The modern day Duke brothers are as likely trading in Korea or Japan as New York, but it is clear that some people had a very bad day in the Commodities markets. The reason for the difference between the two contracts is that WTI – the West Texas Intermediate Crude – requires physical delivery at Cushing in Oklahoma, something which is extremely difficult to achieve at the moment, not least as we explained a couple of weeks ago because almost all available storage is full. Indeed, according to Bloomberg, Cushing is basically full. Brent by contrast can be delivered offshore.

Chart 1. From +$63 to -$37 in One Quarter

As to who took the proverbial bath, it’s most likely to have been fast money retail, as institutional investors normally roll contracts much earlier, never letting them actually expire. Bloomberg reports problems with exchanges in South Korea, which froze as they quite literally were unable to input a negative price. However, it would be nice to think that there were some modern day Duke Brothers on one side, and the little guy on the other. Looking good Lewis…

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Political Cicadas - no change in the product, just the sales team

The habit of spending long periods underground before re-emerging is not limited to the Cicada, for while this year sees the coincidence of the 13 year year Cicada cycle and the 17 year one, something that last happened 221 years ago, it is also 17 years sine Tony Blair was last in power and 13 since Francois Holland (likely PM in the French Hung Parliament) was. Both now look to be re-emerging to ensure continuity of policies that never really went away. The key sources of protest across Europe - crippling expensive wars against Russia and Climate change as well as uncontrolled immigration have only been addressed in the doubling down - the first thing UK PM Starmer did was fly to Washington to offer more money to NATO, while his Chancellor promised more money for Net Zero. Meanwhile, the left alliance put together to thwart Le Pen is even more pro immigrant than Macron. For markets, there is no prospect of lower spending and every prospect of higher taxes - the only 'Change' visible but not the one promised. The Technocrats and Globalists expecting this 'democracy' means that the populous will go quietly will be disappointed, especially with the arrival in the Autumn (once the Cicadas have gone) of the great populist, anti open border, anti net zero and anti war populist Donald Trump.

Market Thinking July 2024

The scorecard for the first half puts Equities, commodities and Gold in the top half of the table, with cash and fixed income in the lower half. This is consistent with the steady but uninspiring macro backdrop and positioning ahead of a tricky H2 from a political perspective. The anomaly of the Market Cap weighted SPX out-performing the equal weighted SPW by over 10% points tells us both that the SPX is no longer telling us anything about the US economy and that this excess return is for taking (considerable) concentration risk. Meanwhile, with Bond analysts 'pivoting from the Pivot' the fixed income markets have calmed down a little and leaving The Donald' rather thna 'The Fed' as likely the biggest policy influence on Markets over the next 12 months. In particular, we would look out for a 'Trump Plaza Acord" early next year, 40 years after the last one- something the FX markets aren't talking about, but the asset allocators seem to be (at least subconsciously) pricing in.

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