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Oil Becomes Financial Play As Rate Hikes, Recession Fears Shroud Fundamentals

By Barani Krishnan/Investing.comCommoditiesJul 15, 2022 05:43AM ET
www.investing.com/analysis/oil-becomes-financial-play-as-rate-hikes-recession-fears-shroud-fundamentals-200627149
Oil Becomes Financial Play As Rate Hikes, Recession Fears Shroud Fundamentals
By Barani Krishnan/Investing.com   |  Jul 15, 2022 05:43AM ET
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  • June and July have brought sweeping changes to what decides the direction of oil
  • Increasingly, oil has become more sensitive to a dollar ramping on threats of aggressive rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and the likelihood of a recession
  • This has turned the commodity more into a financial play than one driven just by supply-demand

For the three months that followed the Russian invasion of Ukraine, oil prices virtually went one way: higher. The market was totally biased to the upside from the supply squeeze caused by the Western sanctions on Russia and demand recovering from the COVID shutdowns of 2020/21.

However, that’s looking to change, as June and July have brought sweeping changes to what decides the direction of oil.

Sure, new restrictions on Russian exports or a shipment blockade in Libya or Nigeria can still turn the market on its head, sending crude prices soaring. But increasingly, oil has become more sensitive to a dollar ramping on threats of aggressive rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and the likelihood of a recession if US inflation does not back off from 40-year highs. This has turned it more into a financial play than one driven just by supply-demand.

The narrative in oil now is no longer about barrel deficiency alone. Over the past week, previously unasked questions about whether it had become too pricey and needs to come down meaningfully to lower inflation have come to investors’ attention. Interestingly, all these questions coincide with pump prices of US gasoline that have also started their descent from last month’s record highs of above $5 a gallon.

Stephen Innes, the managing partner at SPI Asset Management, highlighted the change in remarks carried by Reuters:

“Oil is trading very much to the beat of Federal Reserve policy and the implications it could have on both demand destruction and the US dollar.”

He further added, referring to Friday’s morning session for both US crude futures and global oil benchmark Brent:

“With the market falling back to base-case 75 (basis point) hike next week versus 100 (basis point) yesterday, oil prices and the broader market have a little more breathing room today.”

The near parity that financials/technicals have with fundamentals in determining crude prices is a factor investors should keep in mind as President Joe Biden flies to Saudi Arabia on Friday to meet Gulf allies in his bid to make them pump more oil despite OPEC’s capacity constraints.

Another fundamental story taking a backseat in Friday’s market was China’s refinery throughput in June, which shrank nearly 10% from a year earlier. Output for the first half of the year was also down 6% in the first annual decline for the period since at least 2011.

Oil Up Almost 30% On Year, But Also In Bear Market

In Thursday’s trade, New York-traded West Texas Intermediate, or WTI, crude settled at $95.78 per barrel after tumbling to $90.58—its lowest since Feb. 22, or five days before the Ukraine invasion. London-traded Brent crude settled at $99.10 a barrel after plunging to $94.52, its lowest since Feb 21.

WTI and Brent are still up about 28% on the year. But the US gauge is also down 16% since the end of May, while the global benchmark has lost almost 14%.

More importantly, WTI is already in what would be a bear market after losing more than 20% from its Jun. 14 peak of $123.68. Brent is in a similar position if we compare its current standing to its Mar. 7 high of around $140.

Crude prices rebounded from Thursday’s lows after Fed Governor Chris Waller said the central bank couldn’t overdo rate hikes despite shocking price pressures. Waller said he would support a 75-basis point hike at the Fed’s upcoming Jul. 27 decision on rates, over some market bets for a 100-basis point increase.

The remarks from one of the Fed’s more hawkish members calmed investors who had been on tenterhooks since the Consumer Price Index for the year to June came in on Wednesday at a new four-decade high of 9.1%.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, known as a super hawk, also soothed investors by opting for a 75-bps hike in the upcoming Jul. 27 decision on rates.

Yet, both Waller and Bullard said they would be open to more extensive rate hikes if data called for it. Waller said:

“For me, a 75-basis point increase at this meeting puts us to neutral. However, if incoming data over the next two weeks shows that demand remains strong, I would incline toward a bigger rate hike.”

'Neutral' is Fed talk for getting inflation back to its target of 2% a year. Bullard said it was plausible for the Fed funds rate to be “higher than 4% by the end of the year if data continues to come in in an unfavorable way.”

Fed funds rates are currently at a high of 1.75%. With four more rate decisions due before the year-end, there would have to be cumulative increases of 2.25% to get to 4%, with a 100-basis point hike likely anywhere between.

The Fed has managed price growth without implementing excessive rate hikes. But its task of avoiding a recession is becoming harder with each galloping print on inflation.

US gross domestic product already declined 1.6% in the first quarter. A negative second quarter GDP is all that is needed to send the economy into a technical recession.

WTI At Inflection Point: $83 Or Breakout to $106?

WTI Daily Chart
WTI Daily Chart

Chart by skcharting.com with data from Investing.com

Charts show WTI may be vulnerable to a plunge toward $83 after reaching less than a dollar of breaking the critical $90 support. But it could also surprise the upside, reaching above $106.

Sunil Kumar Dixit, the chief technical strategist at skcharting.com, explains:

“Whether the recovery in the WTI since Thursday’s close sustains or fades will largely depend on prices breaking above the 5-Day Exponential Moving Average of $97.27 or being rejected at the threshold.”

If WTI shows a sustained break above the 5-Day EMA of $97.27, it could further advance to the bullish Daily Middle Bollinger Band of $104.26 and the 50-Day EMA of $106.80.

But failure to breach this level will attract selling towards the 200-Day Simple Moving Average of $94.17 and the 50-Week EMA of $92.70.

Unless WTI manages to break and sustain above $98, its recovery may not last.

WTI Weekly Chart
WTI Weekly Chart

Chart by skcharting.com with data from Investing.com

Weekly charting and stochastics also show that further selling can push WTI below Thursday’s low of $90.58 and expose it toward $88-$85-$83 in the week ahead.

Crude strategist Michael Boutros concurred with his blog on DailyFX, saying:

“Critical support rests at $85.61-$88.01 – a region defined by 2013 low, the 100% extension of the yearly decline, and the 61.8% Fibonacci retracement of the December rally. [...] We’re on the lookout for a possible exhaustion low/price inflection into this threshold in the days ahead.”

Disclaimer: Barani Krishnan uses a range of views outside his own to bring diversity to his analysis of any market. For neutrality, he sometimes presents contrarian views and market variables. He does not hold positions in the commodities and securities he writes about.

Oil Becomes Financial Play As Rate Hikes, Recession Fears Shroud Fundamentals
 

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Oil Becomes Financial Play As Rate Hikes, Recession Fears Shroud Fundamentals

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Comments (14)
Snoopy Snoop
Snoopy Snoop Jul 16, 2022 8:02PM ET
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I think oil will test the 62~ support line and maybe even go to 57~
Barani Krishnan
Barani Krishnan Jul 16, 2022 8:02PM ET
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That might be wishful, but I'll be happy if it does.
Snoopy Snoop
Snoopy Snoop Jul 16, 2022 8:02PM ET
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Big dogs crave for this trade. Down and then up again to test 90-100 levels
Adi Avivi
Adi Avivi Jul 16, 2022 5:51PM ET
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Barani, with Biden's failure or Saudi already maxed it's production level, and war gauged up.. I presume a big jump in oil price about to come. Are you agree Saudi is the main factor right now?
Mohd Izhar Muslim
Mohd Izhar Muslim Jul 16, 2022 9:49AM ET
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Thank you for sharing the article 💯
Barani Krishnan
Barani Krishnan Jul 16, 2022 9:49AM ET
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You're most welcome, Mohd Izhar.
Jeremy Johnson
Jeremy Johnson Jul 15, 2022 10:41AM ET
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Always high quality and informative articles, Barani!  I can't help but remain skeptical regarding the Fed's desire to bring down inflation.  The rate hikes they've implemented have done nothing to lower the CPI number.  As the saying goes, *******or get off the pot".
Barani Krishnan
Barani Krishnan Jul 15, 2022 10:41AM ET
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Thanks much for the feedback and kind words, Jeremy. It's readers like you who keep me going. It's surprising that even super hawks like Bullard and Waller are getting skittish about 100 bps, which, if you ask me, is the medicine to prevent the economic patient from landing in ICU. They should front load as much as possible and pull back slowly. Just my 2 cts.
Jeremy Johnson
Jeremy Johnson Jul 15, 2022 10:41AM ET
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Barani Krishnan  Re: your 2 cents, I couldn't agree more!
Barani Krishnan
Barani Krishnan Jul 15, 2022 10:41AM ET
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Jeremy Johnson  Bests and have a good one!
Adi Avivi
Adi Avivi Jul 15, 2022 10:41AM ET
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That what they SHOULD do. I think they are afraid doing so, fear is the mother of all market collapses. I thought why not increase by 300pts and pull back after half a year or so. It could offset everything before unemployment rises too much.
Barani Krishnan
Barani Krishnan Jul 15, 2022 10:41AM ET
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Adi Avivi  If they do three 100 bps in a row, inflation itself will sit up and take notice, yes!
EL LA
EL LA Jul 15, 2022 9:59AM ET
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Perhaps, the pause that refreshes.
Barani Krishnan
Barani Krishnan Jul 15, 2022 9:59AM ET
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Yes, let's see. We are up today but it's probably a tech rebound as well and the fact that the Saudis may not be doing anything much for Biden's trip (expected). I still think the trip has helped him to thaw the cold with OPEC.
Robert Cutler
Robert Cutler Jul 15, 2022 9:11AM ET
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Is crude oil price headed to Putin's age?
SunilKumar Dixit
SunilKumarDixit Jul 15, 2022 9:11AM ET
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Robert. Verily verily it's headed thereto.
ليلوز حامد
ليلوز حامد Jul 15, 2022 9:03AM ET
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Bitcoin is the most attractive investment on the planet
simone scelsa
simone scelsa Jul 15, 2022 8:59AM ET
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Last week 7 mil barrels were released from the SPR, the inventory surplus was of 3.5 mil; we can do the math.
umair eg
umair eg Jul 15, 2022 8:33AM ET
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Those charts are straight 🗑
Barani Krishnan
Barani Krishnan Jul 15, 2022 8:33AM ET
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Your comments are often the real trash, thank you.
SunilKumar Dixit
SunilKumarDixit Jul 15, 2022 8:33AM ET
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Umair egg. Thanks for sparing your invaluable time. Also accept my sincere apologies if you faced difficulties in understanding these simple charts.
Barani Krishnan
Barani Krishnan Jul 15, 2022 8:33AM ET
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SunilKumar Dixit  Yes, You need a certain level of intelligence to be able to understand these charts. I wish Umair good luck in learning.
SunilKumar Dixit
SunilKumarDixit Jul 15, 2022 8:33AM ET
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I believe umair is certainly a good person. There must have been something that I could have done to make the charts easier to understand.
Barani Krishnan
Barani Krishnan Jul 15, 2022 8:33AM ET
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SunilKumar Dixit  I'm all smiles.
Gershom Zvi
Gershom Zvi Jul 15, 2022 7:45AM ET
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Manipulation with oil supplies to reduce cost
 
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