The indexes did very little, with the Dow only off 20 points, but there was weakness in the energy sector, whose performance is always one of the big stories because it is an input in so much economic activity.
Reports of a milder than usual winter in large parts of the US due to El Nino slammed natural gas more than would be expected based on seasonal decline in driving.
Dennis Gartman, Publisher of The Gartman Letter, who recently made a bearish call and recommended tanker stocks, told CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
“Crude oil is still moving from the upper left to the lower right, the drillers are still out drilling, the banks have really not called in any loans, you had WTI at $50 per barrel two weeks ago, and you had one year forward WTI $55, which was an extraordinarily good level at which to get hedges. Fracking is still going on; even though drill rigs have fallen off the edge of a cliff, we’re still producing. As long as we’re still producing, you’re going to see REBOB gasoline going down, crude oil continues to go down, nat gas continues to go down. It’s still a bear market in energy, and it’s going to continue to go down until it stops; that’s the best thing I can say.”
Caruso-Cabrera referred to the “huge story” of the day, “natural gas absolutely collapsing.” Gartman observed, “Nat gas has a problem because it looks like this year we’re going to have a slightly warmer, probably even a very warm winter on the East Coast, and that’s going to put demand down. Nat gas was as low as $2.02 per million BTUs before bouncing, but the trend is clearly downward, the weather continues to be extraordinarily good, one to three degrees warmer than last year, and if that happens, as long as there’s no shutdown in production, you might put a one-handle on nat gas; that’s hard to believe.”
Caruso-Cabrara exclaimed, “Holy Smokes!” Tim Seymour asked what a trader should do with refiners with “a glut of gas and product everywhere?” Gartman agreed with Seymour that crack spreads are still “pretty good compared to a year ago.” He said if he had to do something, “I’d rather be a buyer than a seller, no ifs, ands, or buts.”
Of course, this writer has consistently predicted that the FOMC will not raise rates this week or at any other foreseeable time, but a dramatic drop in energy prices is one more data point for the crowd that will continue to think low inflation is a problem until stagflation eventually sets in.
Anyone who thinks the Fed is going to start raising rates in an election year has only to look at our frozen neighbor to the north where an economy that held up well during our financial crisis suffered an untimely downturn that cost the Tories almost 100 seats in Parliament. If an untoward event is lurking somewhere in the global financial system, as this writer suspects, the authorities don’t want to find out until at least a year from now.
It is noteworthy the Gartman referred to the fact that banks have not been calling in any energy loans.
Perhaps this is because they are counting on the Yellen put to bail them out at par. The circumstance is reminiscent of when the oil patch crashed in the ‘80s as speculators whined that no one told them oil prices could fall, a refrain twenty years later about housing.
A spate of landmark bank failures, including Continental-Illinois, occurred, due to negligent regulation.
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