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Fuel products join the rally in gold and copper


The Bloomberg Commodity Index traded higher for a second week, driven by continued gains across industrial metals, crude oil, and fuel products. The gains which were been driven by optimism over the growth outlook in China were partly being offset by sharp losses in natural gas and wheat, as mild weather and ample supply continues to keep these two key commodities under pressure. Meanwhile, the precious metal sector was mixed, with gold continuing higher supported by US bond yields and the dollar trading near cycle lows.

Silver and platinum struggled to keep up, both recording losses – taking silver back to near unchanged on the month.

The general positive risk sentiment across commodities has been supported by a 1.6% drop in the Bloomberg Dollar index and a 0.4% slump in US ten-year yields as US inflation continues to ease, thereby supporting a further downshift in the Fed’s rate hike trajectory towards one-and-done – meaning a single 0.25% rate hike remains before the Fed pauses.

In addition, Russia’s attempt to stifle a sovereign nation and the western world's push back against Putin’s aggression remains a sad and unresolved situation that continues to cause havoc across global supply chains of key commodities, not least the energy sector where an already established embargo on crude sales will be expanded on February 5 to include fuel products – a development that may end up having a bigger impact on Russian supply than seen so far.

However, the main driver impacting the commodity sector is the prospect of China’s reopening, in turn driving expectations for a pick-up in demand for commodities from the world’s biggest consumer of raw materials.

With activity in China unlikely to pick up in earnest until after the Lunar New Year holiday, the prospect of a lull in activity could be the trigger for a pause in the current rally – especially across industrial metals where copper has started the year with an 11% gain – before gathering fresh momentum and strength towards the end of the current quarter.

Crude oil prices were heading for a second weekly advance, thereby fully offsetting the weakness that hit the market during the first days of January. Prices are supported by continued optimism on Chinese demand and increasingly by strength in the product market.

Gasoline and diesel are both trading at a two-month high ahead of the embargo on Russian products from February 5, and following a late December wintry blast in the US which continues to impact refinery activity.

Reports that China’s Covid caseload has peaked further boosted optimism that demand will start to recover more sustainably following the Lunar New Year holiday. Global demand expectations also received a boost as US jobless claims data supported the view that the labor market is still tight, thereby reducing the risk of a recession in the world’s biggest energy consuming economy. A jump in US crude exports and the first week without injections from Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) nevertheless saw inventories jump 8.4m barrels as refinery demand struggled to recover following the late December wintry blast and outages.

Monthly oil market reports from OPEC and the IEA painted a mixed picture, although both mention the recovery in China as the main driver behind a rise in global crude oil demand this year. The IEA saw global oil demand rising by 1.9 million barrels per day – to a record 101.7 million barrels per day – with half of the increase from China following the lifting of its Covid restrictions. An overall non-OPEC+ rise of 1.9 million barrels per day led by the US, Canada and Brazil will be partly offset by an OPEC+ drop of 870 kb/d due to expected declines in Russia.

Having bounced from support at the 50-day moving average at $83.77, a weekly close for Brent above $87 may signal further strength in the week ahead. This could also be the case for WTI at $81.

Ole S. Hansen

The author is Head of Commodity Strategy at Saxo Bank

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