Monday, April 18, 2016

Hugh Hendry talking macro and China

It's been a while since I've mentioned Hugh Hendry but he's popped back up on YouTube recently.  After his positively raucous returns in the depth of the crisis he had a long period of very underwhelming returns and from his manner in this broadcast I'd guess a tough few years. describes the decline in assets under management in 2014

As always I find him entertaining to watch.   He provides some of the reasons for his reversal of opinion on China as well.  Regardless whether you agree with him or not I suggest you listen.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

US Coal - brutal fallout from low natural gas prices

I've recently posted on the drop in natural gas and oil prices, but I haven't commented much on the knock on effects.  A brutal example is the destruction of coal companies in the US.  Train car loadings of coal have completely fallen off a cliff, caught fire, and remain a smouldering ruin.

Look at some of the stock symbols for coal companies and you'll see declines even more severe. Here's BTU (Peabody Energy)

Low natural gas prices are encouraging a switch from coal to natural gas electricity generation

It is not a good time to be in the coal business

disclosure: No positions, either long or short.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Free delayed quotes and a plethora of other financial data

If you are looking to import quotes into an excel spreadsheet, I haven't found anything else as convenient or extensive.  It can take you a while to get up to speed on the data available but it is worth it.   The range of data available, for free, is mind boggling.  

Here's just a sample of the data available from the Yahoo feed:

Basic QuoteFundamentalsTechnicalsEstimatesReal-Time (ECN)
sSymbolj1Market Capitalizationa2Average Daily Volumet81yr Target Pricek1Last Trade (ECN with Time)
nNamef6Float Sharest7Ticker Trende9EPS Est. Next Quarterb3Bid (ECN)
pPrevious Closer5PEG Ratioj52-week Lowe7EPS Est. Current Yrb2Ask (ECN)
oOpenp5Price/Salesj5Change From 52-week Lowe8EPS Est. Next Yearc6Change (ECN)
hHighp6Price/Bookj6Pct Chg From 52-week Lowr6Price/EPS Est. Current Yrw4Day's Value Change (ECN)
gLowb4Book Valuek52-week Highr7Price/EPS Est. Next Yrc8After Hours Change (ECN)
xExchangerP/E Ratiok4Change From 52-week Highj3Market Cap (ECN)
l1Last Trade (Price Only)eEarnings/Sharek5Pct Chg From 52-week Highr2P/E (ECN)
lLast Trade (With Time)j4EBITDAm350-day Moving Avgk2Change & Percent (ECN)
d1Date of Last Trades7Short Ratiom7Change From 50-day Moving Avgv7Holdings Value (ECN)
t1Time of Last TradedDividend/Sharem8Pct Chg From 50-day Moving Avgg5Holdings Gain & Percent (ECN)
k3Last Trade SizeyDividend Yieldm4200-day Moving Avgg6Holdings Gain (ECN)
c1Changer1Dividend Pay Datem5Change From 200-day Moving Avgm2Day's Range (ECN)
p2Percent ChangeqEx-Dividend Datem6Pct Chg From 200-day Moving Avgi5Order Book (ECN)
cChange & Percent
vVolumeOption Quote Additions
mDay's RangeCodeDescription
j52-week Lowo1Open interest?
k52-week Highp3Type of option
w52-week Rangee3Expiration date
bBids3Strike price
b6Bid SizenName of option
a5Ask Size
note, the last trade quote is l1 (lowercase 'L' then the number '1')  (that drove me nuts for a while)
here's how it looks in my spreadsheet  =RCHGetYahooQuotes(+Z2,"l1")

This is only one small segment of the data,  The full excel list of all the data points available can be found here: and it is a truly phenominal amount of data.  Yes, some of it is repetitive but if you are looking for data on a security, start here.  

There's also an active message board if you have any questions on implementation:

Of course you can get one cell to refer to another, so one can populate quite a bit of data in a spreadsheet by just entering the symbol.  Best part is it's all free.  

I use the plug-in almost daily and would honestly be lost without it.  I suggest you give it a try as well.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Oil's eventual recovery, part two

Before continuing with my posts on oil and energy I'd like to call out two excellent sources of information.  I've used both in my research and while I attempt to source everything sometimes bits of it slips through into the zeitgeist of my ideas and isn't directly referenced. and more specifically his Daily shot email list is an excellent publication on the current financial markets.  He is also on twitter at @SoberLook

John Kemp is an energy market journalist at Reuters.  He also provides frequent emails specifically on the energy markets.  Email him at and request to be added to his email list.  He is also on twitter at @JKempEnergy  

Ok, back to it....

In my earlier communication I discussed some possible reasons why oil prices dropped so dramatically.  Now we'll consider why they will rise, eventually.   I'll keep this one 'bullish' and save the horrifically bearish counterpoints for the next installment.

There's a common pithy statement which is the theme of this post -- The solution for low prices is low prices

Low prices encourages demand
The economy has not roared back to life in the last 12 months but the pain at the pump sure has gone down.  Lower prices are encouraging people to drive more.
(thanks to @mbusigin - link)

Low prices destroys investment in new supply

Energy extraction is a very capital intensive business and the decline in prices has already reduced investment, either voluntarily or involuntarily

This chart is very instructive in showing how investment  (like drilling, see below) in the energy business chases the price. 

As much as 400,000 barrels a day of oil production is at risk as U.S. shale companies like Samson Resources Co. run out of money and are forced to slow drilling.

Natural decline in fields
Conventional fields decline around 5% a year; shale fields drop much faster, 50%+ the first year, with the rate of decline lower in later years.  Assuming just a 5% decline rate in oil production from current oil fields you need to replace the entire oil production of Canada each year.  Yes, there is excess capacity now and new projects coming online, but the dropoff in new field investments will eventually overwhelm that spare capacity.

Drilling rig count continues to plummet, not only in the US but worldwide

New wells require new drilling, and new drilling activity is plummeting.  As of October 2015, the year over year percentage decline is a stunning 42%  Current data as of 02/8/16 shows this trend continues:

Comparing drilling rig activity and oil prices one can see how drilling activity 'chases' the oil price.  Higher oil prices increases drilling activity and vice versa.
thanks to: @MaxCRoser
One must be careful thinking this means a 42% reduction in wells dug or initial flow rate. Drilling rigs have become frightfully effective over the last few years in US / Canada. A recent email from RBN energy provides examples of this stunning increases in total productivity.

These improvements are at Moore's law level of technology gains in the energy sector.  A 428% gain in initial production productivity over four years is stunning.  This massive increase in efficiency is something I'll come back to in the next missive.

Political Chaos
Harder to predict but considering the number of countries derive a high percentage of their GDP or federal budget from oil / natural gas revenues, something is bound to break at these prices.

Please click around on the link above and observe how many countries depend upon petroleum products for a very large portion of their revenue, and right now they are hurting!  Some have a massive kitty to draw upon but the rest, not so much.

Here's a quick rundown of a few countries hit by the drop in oil prices.

Venezuela - a horrid situation made worse by the drop in petroleum prices. In my opinion it will be the first domino to fall

Recession -

Recession -

Saudi Arabia

The Saudi's are running out of money.  
At a burn rate approaching 100 billion dollars a year they do have a couple of years breathing room, but what about the other OPEC nations?  The House of Saud is considering selling bonds to plug the gap, but this only buys them time.

While some of the OPEC nations can handle low oil prices for years the majority cannot
Source: The Daily Shot

(Future) Loss of Power
This may be a bit abstract but work with me here for a bit. It may be causing fiscal and political problems at home but right now OPEC, and Saudi Arabia specifically are crushing their competitors and destroying future production prospects in other countries.   There just aren't enough projects to make up for the 5+% percent a year decline in the world's oil wells.  

Right now the best estimate is OPEC has ~2 million barrels/day of spare capacity.  

Saudi Arabia is the largest OPEC producer and has historically provided quite a bit of swing capacity to modulate the price of oil (see above link for additional details)  What happens if perchance OPEC succeeds and is able to completely demolish the US shale business as well as other non-OPEC production and they are running flat out producing oil?

Do they now 'control' the price of oil? NO. They are just like every producer out there, maximizing production.  So I ask you in my hypothetical situation: How low would the next president of the United States bow to the king of Saudi Arabia?   Without spare capacity Saudi Arabia loses a very important lever of power.  In some ways this is analogous to a quote from Dune.

Will Saudi Arabia declare victory, reduce production, and regain the ability to raise and lower the price at will?


The war in Yemen doesn't get as much attention as it should

Syria, Isis, Turkey, Russia, the Kurds, etc
I can't even keep up with all the various sides and their motivations.  It's a big fat nasty cruel mess.   However, with all the ordnance flying around it could trigger something much much worse and blow up an oil field or two.

The geopolitical struggles of Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are being played out in the energy markets as well on the battlefield.  How, when, or if they will eventually set aside enough of their differences to agree to a cut in production is something I cannot predict, but the inevitable decline in current production will inexorably reduce the excess supply in the markets.  

Next I'll try to list some of the factors as to why there's so much bearishness in the oil markets today; add it all up and there's not a pleasant looking horizon for oil producers.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Oil's eventual recovery, part one

Right now we are experiencing something which has only happened twice in nearly 30 years, a greater than 50% year over year drop in the price of oil.  The previous event happened during the great financial panic of 2008 - 2009.  Today the US, China, or Western Europe aren't experiencing a severe recession, so what triggered this dramatic fall?  At it's simplest, supply exceeded demand.  The how and why is fascinating. 

Some quick charts describing the extent of the decline
Year over year percentage change in the price of oil.
Absolute price - Beside the dip to 40 during the great financial crisis, the last time US oil prices flirted with 40 dollars was in 2004.

So what caused the fall?  Note the graph below, showing oil production levels of the largest five producers up to 2014.   US oil production grew 15.9% from 2014 to 2013 (Source: BP statistical review) and not only was this the largest percentage increase in the world, it was also from one of the largest suppliers in the world.  In fact in 2014 the United States pumped more oil than any other country in the entire world. From a nadir in 2005, US production rose nearly 70% by 2014 -- a increase of more than 4.7 million barrels a day.  Additionally total world oil production increased by ~2.3% in 2014.


Demand did not keep pace with supply however. 


Note the graph above hasn't shown a decline in world crude oil demand since the great recession; instead supply outstripped demand and prices fell.  Saudi Arabia exacerbated the situation by pumping even more oil. (I'll speculate as to WHY later)
Saudi Oil Production

Remember all that talk about Peak Oil so many years ago?  American oil companies evidently didn't read the articles calling for the death of oil production. 
Source: Google Trends

The internet keeps track of almost everything now, so make your predictions carefully.

Even the New York Times piled onto this theme; stating Malthus was eventually right and we'd better get used to it (Peak Oil)

While I may appear to be picking on these predictions, and I am (a little) I would rather highlight how hard it is to make predictions, especially long term forecasts.  I will make a few in later missives.  Be careful with those. 

So how did the US reverse the inevitable decline in oil production?  A technique called fracking (aka shale oil or tight oil) altered the cost structure and timing of extracting oil and natural gas from locations previously thought to be uneconomic.  

Below is a quick video and some additional links describing the technique:

Fracking can resonate for some of my readers as an especially dangerous form of petroleum extraction.  The linked video is from an oil company, so they will show the process in a positive light without discussing any of the possible downsides. (Such as waste fluids intruding into water aquifers)  Google any of the terms and you'll find a strident debate regarding the safety of this new technique.   

Regardless of the safety of the process or whether it should be employed at all, fracking and tight oil extraction techniques are currently legal in America and from my reading of the current regulatory climate will remain so.  Even a recent EPA report on fracking provides fodder for both sides:  

Fracking allows for the extraction of oil and natural gas from areas previously thought uneconomic.  New wells are  drilled very quickly and productivity in drilling speed and initial flow rates continue to rise.  Specific examples are always illustrative.  (source: )

Notice on the upper left image how initial oil flows increased from less than 100 barrels a day to ~800 barrels in the Eagle Ford region (Texas), a greater than x8 increase in productivity!  This has catapulted Eagle Ford production to more than 1.2 million barrels a DAY. On its own the Eagle Ford today would be considered one of the top 20 countries in the world for oil production from nearly nothing in 2010.  Scroll through the linked report above and you'll see comparable increases in both natural gas and oil for other regions of the country.

One can also see the quick drop off in production for both oil and natural gas since the collapse in energy prices.  The rapid decline rate (more on that later) from these new techniques is both a blessing and a curse The game has changed, and OPEC knows it.

This new technology (fracking) has disrupted the oil production regime, creating a new potential avenue of supply not only in America, but the rest of the world.    How this new technology changes energy pricing as well as geopolitics is too much for just one post.  I'll try to dissect the situation later.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

More energy posts

Another dump of energy articles, questions, etc.

Will big oil charge ahead while smaller E&P's face liquidity issues? via @liamdenning
The huge energy companies may be able to power through this downfall assuming prices start rising and they can swoop in and gobble up some low priced assets in the wake of the collapse.

Productivity improvements in oil and nat gas production have been very impressive over the last few years so looking at rig counts over a long time period have lost their efficacy. 

Great post on the recent improvements

World versus US oil prices

For a while US (WTI) prices separated quite dramatically from world prices (BRENT) Will this recur in the future?  The spread helped US refiners earn outsized profits.

Will the Keystone pipeline ever get built?

We may see instead a pipeline going east / west in Canada.  The oil must flow!

Crude oil shipped via rail has exploded over the last few years.  Will this trend continue?

Did oil shipments crowd out coal shipments? And will the coal finally get to the power plants?

Another article on floating storage

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Some Questions regarding oil, nat gas, and energy in general

Some questions have been floating about in my head after the great fall in oil prices and their rippling through all the other various forms of energy.  The predictions are few, if any, just a lot of thinking out loud and links. I've been collecting all this in too many separate nooks and crannies and it is time to collate and collect my thoughts and links.

It's not pretty but it gets the data posted an in one spot.  Questions are just questions, don't look for subtext. Hopefully there will be more than one post.

Will re fracking now become more of a thing?  With lower rigs costs and already built in infrastructure will the older fracked fields get a makeover?

Consumers will gain from lower oil prices yet industries related to oil production, distribution, transportation will suffer.  Which will adjust faster? Concentrated pain versus diffused benefit and over what timeframe?

Jim Chanos has some interesting commentary regarding the tension between big oil's economics versus the frackers.

Major trading houses are taking advantage of the contango in oil to store it now in supertankers and sell it forward, or perhaps just speculate?  Either way inventories are going up

According to shipbrokers and analysts, major traders including Vitol SA, Gunvor SA, Trafigura Beheer BV and Koch Supply & Trading Co. Ltd have chartered supertankers capable of storing a combined total of more than 30 million barrels of oil—many of them in the past few weeks.
RBN Energy runs some numbers on the contango trade (02/02/15) provides some production decline graphs to see what would happen if new production just stopped in the lower 48. My eyes say a falloff from 7 million / year to ~ 5 million by 2016

Also discusses backlogs in production.  Would hate to have paid up for a well that's going to be cash flow negative right now ! :(

Global LNG prices converge, upper band crushed by drop in oil prices