Who is getting crushed by higher natural gas prices?

As natural gas prices increase across the globe ahead of winter its worth looking at which industries are most reliant on natural gas, and which have the flexibility to switch to alternatives. The greater the reliance and the lower the ability to switch the bigger the hit there is likely to be on margins, all other things being equal.

Industry structure (i.e. the level of competition) and the degree to which businesses have hedged their gas requirements will affect their ability and their incentive to pass additional energy costs onto their end customers. read more

Why tacit collusion is an important signal for future inflation

“Our competitors are our friends. Our customers are our enemies.” – James Randall, former president of Archers Daniel Midland

We tend to think that higher input costs will automatically be passed onto the end consumer in the form of higher prices. Higher commodity prices, and escalating shipping and wage costs over the past 18 months have consumers, businesses and investors concerned about what that might mean for inflation in the year ahead.

But it may not be that simple. You see the extent to which companies wish to pass on costs to their consumers depends on the degree to which they have market power, and how they wish to use that power. To see how we need to turn to the economic phenomenon that is game theory. read more

What impact will high natural gas prices have on the economy?

The consequences for economic activity from a change in the price of natural gas will depend on its cause. If the price of natural gas is driven higher by an increase in demand, then the economy is likely to continue to expand, and perhaps at a fast pace. On the flipside, an increase in the price of natural gas that is driven by a reduction in natural gas supply will unequivocally lower productive potential around the world.

High natural gas prices observed in 2021 are the result of a combination of demand and supply side factors. On the demand side, there has been a rebound in manufacturing output, higher aircon consumption due to recent heatwaves and high carbon prices incentivising the burning of gas rather than coal. On the supply side flows of natural gas from Russia have been lower than normal, while LNG cargoes have been diverted to Asia where prices have been even more attractive than in Europe. read more

The next ‘Big Short’? Why one hedge fund is looking at shorting resource equities at risk of being ‘stranded’ by climate change

Up until now there was really only a few ways in which investors could seek to account for the carbon impact of the companies they invested in. Either engage with management on change but essentially remain invested, divest partially or completely, or alternatively, seek to offset the carbon impact in some way through the purchase of carbon offsets or emission permits.

In a letter to Australian Prudential and Regulatory Authority (APRA), obtained by ‘The Age’ and ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ in a freedom of information request, hedge fund titan AQR offered an alternative. According to the fund its Australian clients were now exploring the use of short selling stocks to reach net-zero targets in their portfolios:  read more

Platinum prices to rebound as global chip crunch eases

The semiconductor chip shortage of 2021 perfectly demonstrates the degree to which global supply chains are interconnected, and the problems that can arise when production a chokepoint ruptures. Taiwan accounts for 63% of the global semi-conductor market by value, followed by South Korea with 18% and China on 6%. A surge in demand for semiconductors from electronics manufacturers, coupled with the worst drought in over half a century (chip makers require enormous amounts of water to clean the wafers) snarled chip production from the country. The typical lead time between ordering a chip and it being delivered increased from around 3 months pre-pandemic up to around 5 months by mid-2021. read more

What’s your pet rock? Network effects, tribalism and commodity maximalism

Commodities derive a significant part of their value from network effects. For example, the value of oil is, at least in part, derived from the transportation and refining network that serves it (the pipelines, tankers, refineries and so on), which in turn enables end consumers to derive value from it. Oil, and for that matter coal or natural gas can be burnt outside of this network, but without access to it the value of the fossil fuels are compromised – the range of applications and the market for which they can serve are severely diminished. read more