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General news

  • The looming “trade war” between China and the US has been put on hold following China’s pledge to buy more American goods. Infrastructure bottlenecks will however restrict the rate at which energy and commodity exports will be able to grow with increasing American imports by China only sustainable if prices of US goods remain cost competitive against global competition.

Agriculture

  • Cotton prices were up almost 2% at the end of last week reaching 1-week highs as concerns over the weather in Texas, one of the US’s major cotton-growing regions, rise. The lack of rain in Texas, compounded by signs that shipments of US supply to China remain strong, has pushed the value of the most active ICE contract for July delivery to 86.55 USc/lb.
  • There have been calls to end the exporting of live animals following the death of 2,400 animals on a ship bound for the Middle East from Australia. The Australian industry has since been widely criticised, with many believing that the government’s increased oversight of shipments falling short of the action which needs to be taken to preserve the welfare of the animals.

Metals

  • Copper prices have edged higher following easing tensions between US and China. LME copper for 3-month delivery is now trading at $6,860 with further gains however being capped as a result of a stronger USD.
  • The president of the China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) has announced that the country’s steel capacity is to be cut to below 1bn tonnes by 2025, down over 200m tonnes compared to that estimated in 2016, as it continues to try and cut the surplus capacity which continues to weigh down on prices resulting in over three quarters of firms suffering losses.

Energy - UK 

  • UK gas price have eased at the start of the week on the back of warmer weather which reduced demand. Prices are expected to continue to be weighed down with temperatures this week expected to be 3° Celsius warmer than the seasonal average.

Energy - International

Oil

  • Oil prices succeeded in trading above $80 last week on the back of plunging Venezuelan output and the looming US sanctions on Iran. Although prices have now eased with Brent and WTI trading at around $78 and $72, respectively, the latest signs from China and the US that a potential trade war is now “on hold” has edged prices upwards again with the $80 mark once again in sight.
  • Iran’s Oil Minister has said that as long as the EU can salvage the Iran nuclear deal, Iranian exports shouldn’t be affected by Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the multinational nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran.

Other

  • Vladmir Putin and Angela Merkel have met and discussed the development of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which would enable Russia to export more natural gas to northern Europe. The US is against the project, putting companies involved in the project at a heightened risk of further US sanctions.
  • Despite being the world’s second largest LNG exporter, Australia is finding itself short of natural gas.
    • The reason for the shortage despite its large export volumes is that much of its east coast gas is committed to long-term export contracts.
    • As a result, gas prices have more than doubled in the past 3 years, leading to angry domestic and industry consumers.
    • Plans are now in motion for a cross-country pipeline and for imports from as far afield as the US.