Slump in energy prices stabilizes in European session. WTI crude oil recovers to 74 after plunging to as low as 73.53 earlier in the day. Heating oil and RBOB gasoline also edge higher after falling for 4 days. However, as demand outlook remains dismal and official view on US' economic development is far from optimistic, energy prices may weaken further in the near-term.
From recent comments by OPEC members, we are almost certain that the organization controlling the world's 40% oil production will maintain output quota unchanged at the meeting on December 22. While the member countries said that they are satisfied with current oil price and do not believe adjustment in oil production is required, we notice that the overall compliance has deteriorated further. A survey showed that total production by OPEC - 11 (excluding Iraq) exceeded quota by an aggregate 1.66M bpd in November. In October, total production was 1.5M bpd above quota. While this is predictable as most countries try to benefit from the rally in oil price, investors should beware that the increase in production may pervert the fundamentals of energy market slowly. In fact, non-OPEC production growth has been improving. It's expected that rise in non-OPEC supply will be enough to meet the rising oil demand next year. Therefore, the need for OPEC production growth will drop.
On the other hand, gold's rebound after sliding to 1136.1 Monday suggests strong demand for the yellow metal. Gold has been treated as a good hedge against inflation and depreciation in USD. Central banks' (including India, Sri Lanka and Mauritius) purchase from the IMF in November and reduced gold sales from European central banks confirmed this notion. However, the Bank of Korea does not agree with it. Lee Eung Baek, head of the Reserve Management Department, said that 'there's an illusion in gold...We follow the big trend. Gold isn't the trend. Out of more than 200 nations, how many countries have bought bullion?', indicating the central bank does not find gold investment attractive.
Undoubtedly, weakness in commodity prices has been driven by strong rebound in USD. The greenback's strength has been driven by speculations of an earlier rate hike by the Fed and then by increase in risk aversion as the Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke stated that the US' economy will face significant headwinds. USD rises against all major currencies except for Japanese yen which is also treated as 'safe-haven'.
Advance in Japanese yen today is also spurred by the new set of stimulus policy announced by the government. The new 7.2 trillion yen spending package includes 3.5 trillion yen for the region, 600B yen for employment and 800B yen for the environment.
At today's BOC meeting, policymakers will most probably announce to keep its policy rate at 0.25%. Recovery has been seen in Canada since the last meeting. Unemployment rate surprisingly dropped to 8.5% with 79.1K increase in payrolls in November. However, GDP growth in 3Q09 missed market expectation. It's unlikely that the central bank will deliver a more hawkish view before recovery proves to be self-sustainable. Therefore, we expected the BOC will reiterate that 'conditional on the outlook for inflation, the target overnight rate can be expected to remain at its current level until the end of the second quarter of 2010 in order to achieve the inflation target'.