Category Archives: Oil

“It’s Crazy”: Midland Texas Roiled By Unprecedented Labor Shortage Hiring “Just About Anyone”

A battle is playing out in Midland, TX between employee-starved local businesses and multinational energy companies who are poaching local residents left and right for high-paying jobs as the latest Permian Basin shale-oil boom accelerates.

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Midland Mayor Jerry Morales says the boom is a double-edged sword; while the energy industry has increased sales-tax revenue by 34% year-over-year, an incredibly low unemployment rate of  2.1% has resulted in a severe shortage of low-paying jobs around town – such as the 100 open teaching positions, according to Bloomberg.

Morales, a native Midlander and second-generation restaurateur, has seen it happen so many times before. Oil prices go up, and energy companies dangle such incredible salaries that restaurants, grocery stores, hotels and other businesses can’t compete. People complain about poor service and long lines at McDonald’s and the Walmart and their favorite Tex-Mex joints. Rents soar. –Bloomberg

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“This economy is on fire,” said Morales – who is also the proprietor of Mulberry Cafe and Gerardo’s Casita. Unfortunately, the fire is so hot that the Mayor is scrambling to fill open jobs – from local government positions, to cooks at his restaurants. 

In the country’s busiest oil patch, where the rig count has climbed by nearly one third in the past year, drillers, service providers and trucking companies have been poaching in all corners, recruiting everyone from police officers to grocery clerks. So many bus drivers with the Ector County Independent School District in nearby Odessa quit for the shale fields that kids were sometimes late to class. The George W. Bush Childhood Home, a museum in Midland dedicated to the 43rd U.S. president, is smarting from a volunteer shortage.

And it doesn’t take much to get hired by the oil industry – which, as Bloomberg summarizes, “will hire just about anyone with basic training“… and it will quickly double, triple or x-ple their pay in the process. “It is crazy” said Jazmin Jimenez, 24, who flew through a two-week training program at New Mexico Junior College about 100 miles north of Midland. Jimenez was hired by Chevron as a well-pump checker. “Honestly I never thought I’d see myself at an oilfield company. But now that I’m here — I think this is it.

And at $28-an-hour, Jimenez makes double what she was earning as a prison guard at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs. 

Meanwhile, innovations in oilfield technology promise to find new and efficient ways of finding and pulling oil from the pancaked lawyers of rock in the 75,000 square-mile Permian basin – an extraction method which now accounts for 30% of all US output

The booming shale economy has also effected the local real-estate market – as the supply of homes for sale is the lowest on record according to the Texas A&M Real Estate Center. 

The $325,440 average price in Midland is the highest since June 2014, the last time the world saw oil above $100 a barrel. Apartment rents in Midland and Odessa are up by more than a third from a year ago, with the average 863-square-foot unit commanding $1,272 a month.

People who move for jobs are stunned by the cost of living. Armin Rashvand’s apartment is smaller and costs more than the one he rented in Cleveland before moving last August to run the energy-technology program at Odessa College.

“That really surprised me,” he said, because Texas’s reputation is that it’s affordable. “In Texas, yes — except here.”

Some of Rashvand’s students with two-year degrees are making more than he does, despite his master’s degrees in science, electrical and electronic engineering.

Keep on truckin’

And for those who would rather work a bit further upstream from the oilfields, schools that teach how to pass the test for a commercial drivers license (CDL) are packed.  “A CDL is a golden ticket around here,” said Steve Sauceda, head of the workforce training program at New Mexico Junior College. “You are employable just about anywhere.

Truckers in the shale fields can easily make six-figures, such as Jeremiah Fleming, 30, who is on track to make $140,000 driving flatbed trucks for Aveda Transportation & Energy Services Inc., hauling rigs. 

“This will be my best year yet,” said Fleming, who used to work in the once-bustling shale play in North Dakota. “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”

So what is Mayor Morales doing? 

In order to try and retain employees, Morales has come up with several strategies – such as weekly vs. twice-monthly paychecks, more opportunities for overtime, and a “common-sense pitch” to employees thinking of jumping ship for the oil fields: 

“If you’ll stay with me, I can give you three quarters of what the oil will give you but you don’t have to get dirty or worry about getting hurt.”

Source: ZeroHedge

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‘Moving in droves’ to Midland, Texas
CNN’s famous 2013 Midland Texas oil boom report

 

 

 

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In Unprecedented Move, China Plans To Pay For Oil Imports With Yuan Instead Of Dollars

Just days after Beijing officially launched Yuan-denominated crude oil futures (with a bang, as shown in the chart below, surpassing Brent trading volume) which are expected to quickly become the third global price benchmark along Brent and WTI, China took the next major step in challenging the Dollar’s supremacy as global reserve currency (and internationalizing the Yuan) when on Thursday Reuters reported that China took the first steps to paying for crude oil imports in its own currency instead of US Dollars.

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A pilot program for yuan payments could be launched as soon as the second half of the year and regulators have already asked some financial institutions to “prepare for pricing crude imports in the yuan“, Reuters sources reveal.

According to the proposed plan, Beijing would start with purchases from Russia and Angola, two nations which, like China, are keen to break the dollar’s global dominance. They are also two of the top suppliers of crude oil to China, along with Saudi Arabia.

A change in the default crude oil transactional currency – which for decades has been the “Petrodollar“, blessing the US with global reserve currency status – would have monumental consequences for capital allocations and trade flows, not to mention geopolitics: as Reuters notes, a shift in just a small part of global oil trade into the yuan is potentially huge. “Oil is the world’s most traded commodity, with an annual trade value of around $14 trillion, roughly equivalent to China’s gross domestic product last year.” Currently, virtually all global crude oil trading is in dollars, barring an estimated 1 per cent in other currencies. This is the basis of US dominance in the world economy.

However, as shown in the chart below which follows the first few days of Chinese oil futures trading, this status quo may be changing fast.

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Superficially, for China it would be a matter of nationalistic pride to see oil trade transact in Yuan: “Being the biggest buyer of oil, it’s only natural for China to push for the usage of yuan for payment settlement. This will also improve the yuan liquidity in the global market,” said one of the people briefed on the matter by Chinese authorities.

There are other considerations behind the launch of the Yuan-denominated oil contract as Goldman explains:

  • A commercial benchmark and hedging tool. Until now, Chinese oil imports were based on FOB benchmarks, with long-term procurement contracts settling off Platts Oman/Dubai or Dated Brent. The INE contract has therefore the potential to become the pricing reference for CIF China crude oil, enabling corporate financial hedging. Its warehouse structure is however likely to limit its use for physical crude delivery and may in fact at times reduce its hedge efficiency.
  • A new investment vehicle for onshore investors. The majority of China commodity futures trading volumes are from retail investors, yet these had until now little ability to trade oil futures. China’s capital control was the main bottleneck  to trading contracts like Brent as authorities only allow $50,000 outflow a year per person. While several petrochemical and bitumen contracts already trade in China, INE will be the first contract for crude oil, likely drawing significant interest.
  • Direct access to China’s commodity markets for offshore investors. China offers deep and liquid commodity markets to its onshore investors. Due to China’s tight capital controls, however, foreign investors have so far only been able to trade these through qualified onshore subsidiaries. The INE contract opens up the first channel for offshore investors to trade in its onshore commodity market, with both the USD deposit and capital gains transferable back to offshore accounts. The government further announced last week that it would waive income taxes for foreign investors trading these new contracts for the first three years. The obligation to trade in Yuan will also add a currency risk exposure to offshore investors. We illustrate in Exhibit 6 a likely template (amongst others) of how overseas investors will be able to access INE liquidity.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/China%20petrodollar%20gs%201.jpg?itok=9RV49Cj0(Click to enlarge)

The danger, of course, is that such a shift would also boost the value of the Yuan, hardly what China needs considering it was just two a half years ago that Beijing launched a controversial Yuan devaluation to boost its exports and economy.

Still, in light of the relative global economic stability, Beijing may be willing to take the gamble on a stronger Yuan if it means greater geopolitical clout and further acceptance of the renminbi.

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Which is why restructuring oil fund flows may be the best first step: as of this moment, China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer and in 2017 overtook the United States as the biggest importer of crude oil; its demand is a key determinant of global oil prices.

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If China’s plan to push the Petroyuan’s acceptance proves successful, it will result in greater momentum across all commodities, and could trigger the shift of other product payments to the yuan, including metals and mining raw materials.

Besides the potential of giving China more power over global oil prices, “this will help the Chinese government in its efforts to internationalize yuan,” said Sushant Gupta, research director at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie. In a Wednesday note, Goldman Sachs said that the success of Shanghai’s crude futures was “indirectly promoting the use of the Chinese currency (which, however as noted above, has negative trade offs as it would also result in a stronger Yuan, something the PBOC may not be too excited about).

Meanwhile, China is wasting no time, and Unipec, the trading arm of Asia’s largest refiner Sinopec already signed a deal to import Middle East crude priced against the newly-launched Shanghai crude futures contract, which incidentally is traded in Yuan.

The bottom line here is whether Beijing is indeed prepared and ready to challenge the US Dollar for the title of global currency hegemon. As Rueters notes, China’s plan to use yuan to pay for oil comes amid a more than year-long gradual strengthening of the currency, which looks set to post a fifth straight quarterly gain, its longest winning streak since 2013.

In a sign that China’s recent Draconian capital control crackdowns have sapped market confidence in a freely-traded Yuan, the currency retained its No.5 ranking as a domestic and global payment currency in January this year, unmoved from a year ago, but its share among other currencies fell to 1.7 percent from 2.5 percent, according to industry tracker SWIFT.

A slew of measures put in place in the last 1-1/2 years to rein in capital flowing out of the country amid a slide in yuan value has taken off some its shine as a global payment currency.

But the yuan has now appreciated 3.4 percent against the dollar so far this year, with solid gains in recent sessions.

“For PBOC and other regulators, internationalization of the yuan is clearly one of the priorities now, and if this plan goes off smoothly then they can start thinking about replicating this model for other commodities purchases,” said a Reuters source.

Still, it will be a long and difficult climb before the Yuan can challenge the dollar and for Beijing to shift the bulk of its commodity purchases to the yuan because of the currency’s illiquidity in forex markets. According to the latest BIS Triennial Survey, nearly 90% of all transactions in the $5 trillion-a-day FX markets involved the dollar on one side of a trade, while only 4% use the yuan.

* * *

Still, not everyone is convinced that the new Yuan-denominated contract will create a “petro-yuan” as the following take from Goldman highlights:

The launch of the INE contract is not just about oil, as it will also be the first Yuan denominated commodity contract tradable by offshore investors. Such a set-up meets the PBOC’s monetary policy committee goal to raise the profile of its currency in the pricing of commodities. It has raised however the question of whether the INE contract is an incremental step in achieving the currency reserve status for the Yuan. We do not believe so.

While the INE launch does represent an additional step in the CNY internationalization, the CNY denomination of the INE contract does not in itself imply CNY investments. The INE contract does not represent an opening of China’s capital accounts since foreign deposits operate in a closed circuit, deposited in designated accounts and not to be used to purchase other domestic assets. In practice, the collateral deposit and any capital gains can be transferred back to offshore accounts. The potential for greater foreign ownership of Chinese assets is therefore not impacted by CNY oil invoicing and would require instead oil exporters to recycle their proceeds in local assets, for example. The incentive to do this has not changed with the introduction of the INE contracts. In particular, most Middle East oil producers still have currencies pegged to the dollar and limited ability to hedge CNY exposure.

Whether or not Goldman is right remains to be seen, however it is undeniable that a monumental change is afoot in global capital flows, where the US – whether Beijing wants to or not – will soon be forced to defend its currency status as oil exporters (and investors in this highly financialized market) will now have a choice: go with US hegemony, or start accepting Yuan in exchange for the world’s most important commodity.

https://www.corbettreport.com/update-china-to-start-paying-yuan-for-oil/

Source: ZeroHedge

 

There Is Just One Thing Preventing Elon Musk’s Vision From Coming True: The Laws Of Physics

When Elon Musk stepped on stage at Tesla’s product-launch event earlier this month, he knew the market’s confidence in Tesla’s brand had sunk to an all-time low since he took over the company a decade ago. So, he resorted to a tactic that should be familiar to anybody who has been following the company: Shock and awe.

While the event was ostensibly scheduled to introduce Tesla’s new semi-truck – a model that won’t make it’s market debut for another two years, assuming Tesla sticks to its product-rollout deadline – Musk had a surprise in store: A new model of the Tesla Roadster that, he bragged, would be the fastest production car ever sold.

Musk made similarly lofty claims about the battery life and performance of both vehicles. The Tesla semi-trucks, he said, would be able to travel for 500 miles on a single charge. The roadster could clock a staggering 620 – more than double the closest challenger.

There was just one problem, as Tesla fans would later find out, courtesy of Bloomberg: None of it was true.

In fact, many of the promises defy the capabilities of modern battery technology.

Elon Musk knows how to make promises. Even by his own standards, the promises made last week while introducing two new Tesla vehicles—the heavy-duty Semi Truck and the speedy Roadster—are monuments of envelope pushing.

To deliver, according to close observers of battery technology, Tesla would have to far exceed what is currently thought possible.

Take the Tesla Semi: Musk vowed it would haul an unprecedented 80,000 pounds for 500 miles on a single charge, then recharge 400 miles of range in 30 minutes. That would require, based on Bloomberg estimates, a charging system that’s 10 times more powerful than one of the fastest battery-charging networks on the road today—Tesla’s own Superchargers.

The diminutive Tesla Roadster is promised to be the quickest production car ever built. But that achievement would mean squeezing into its tiny frame a battery twice as powerful as the largest battery currently available in an electric car.

These claims are so far beyond current industry standards for electric vehicles that they would require either advances in battery technology or a new understanding of how batteries are put to use, said Sam Jaffe, battery analyst for Cairn Energy Research in Boulder, Colorado. In some cases, experts suspect Tesla might be banking on technological improvements between now and the time when new vehicles are actually ready for delivery.

“I don’t think they’re lying,” Jaffe said. “I just think they left something out of the public reveal that would have explained how these numbers work.”

While Jaffe seems inclined to give Tesla the benefit of the doubt, there’s little, if anything, in Musk’s recent behavior to justify this level of credulity. In recent months, Musk has repeatedly suffered the humiliation of seeing his lies and half-truths exposed. For example, the self-styled “visionary” claimed during the unveiling of the Model 3 Sedan that he would have 1,500 copies of the new model ready for customers by the end of the third quarter. Instead, the company managed a meager 260 models as factory-line workers at its Fremont, Calif. factory struggled to assemble the vehicles by hand as the Model 3 assembly line hadn’t been completed.

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Increasingly agitated customers who placed deposits with Tesla back in March 2016 have begun asking for refunds, only to be chagrined by the company’s sluggish response. While nobody in the mainstream press has (somewhat bafflingly) made the connection, Tesla revealed earlier this month that it burned an unprecedented $1.4 billion of cash during the third quarter – or roughly $16 million per day – despite Elon Musk’s assurance that Tesla had its “all-time best quarter” for Model S and X deliveries.

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And let’s not forget the fiasco surrounding Tesla’s autopilot software. Musk has repeatedly exaggerated its performance claims. And customers who paid more than $8,000 for a software upgrade more than a year ago have been repeatedly disappointed by delays and sub-par performance.

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Musk’s exaggerations about the Tesla Roadster were particularly egregious.

Tesla claims that its new $200,000 Roadster is the quickest production car ever made, clocking zero to 60 in 1.9 seconds. Even crazier is the car’s unprecedented battery range: some 620 miles on a single charge. That’s a longer range than any battery-powered vehicle on the road—almost twice as long as Tesla’s class-leading Model S and Model X.

To achieve such power and range, Musk said the tiny Roadster will need to pack a massive 200-kilowatt-hour battery. That’s twice the size of any battery Tesla currently has on the road. Musk has previously said he won’t be making the packs bigger on the Model S and Model X because of space constraints. So how can he double the pack size in the smaller Roadster?

BNEF’s Morsy has a twofold answer. First, he expects Tesla will probably double-stack battery packs, one on top of the other, beneath the Roadster’s floor. That creates some engineering problems for the battery-management system, but those should not be insurmountable. Still, Morsy said, the batteries required would be too large to fit in such a small frame.

“I really don’t think the car you saw last week had the full 200 kilowatt hours in it,” Morsy said. “I don’t think it’s physically possible to do that right now.”

Is it possible that, thanks to incremental improvements in battery density and cost, Musk somehow manages to hit these lofty targets? Perhaps, though, as Bloomberg points out, the fact that Musk is basing these claims on a set of projections that haven’t yet been realized is hardly confidence inspiring.

To be sure, there’s an important caveat to Musk’s claims. While they may be staggeringly exaggerated, there’s still the possibility that incremental improvements in battery technology will make these targets more feasible by the time the models hit the market.

Again, Musk may be banking on the future. While Tesla began taking deposits on the Roadster immediately—$50,000 for the base model—the first vehicles won’t be delivered until 2020. Meanwhile, battery density has been improving at a rate of 7.5 percent a year, meaning that by the time production starts, packs will be smaller and more powerful, even without a major breakthrough in battery chemistry.

“The trend in battery density is, I think, central to any claim Tesla made about both the Roadster and the Semi,” Morsy said. “That’s totally fair. The assumptions on a pack in 2020 shouldn’t be the same ones you use today.”

However, in its analysis of the feasibility of Musk’s claims, Bloomberg overlooked one crucial detail: Back in August, the company’s veteran director of battery technology, Kurt Kelty, unexpectedly resigned to “explore new opportunities,” abruptly ending a tenure with the company that stretched for more than a decade, and comes at a critical time for Elon Musk.

Kelty’s resignation – part of an exodus of high-level executives that is alarming in and of itself – hardly inspires confidence in Tesla’s ability to innovate. We’ve noticed a trend with Tesla: The more the company under delivers, the more Musk over promises.

In our opinion, this is not a sustainable business strategy.  

Source: ZeroHedge

De-Dollarization Accelerates: China Readies Yuan-Priced Crude Oil Benchmark Backed By Gold

The world’s top oil importer, China, is preparing to launch a crude oil futures contract denominated in Chinese yuan and convertible into gold, potentially creating the most important Asian oil benchmark and allowing oil exporters to bypass U.S.-dollar denominated benchmarks by trading in yuan, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

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The crude oil futures will be the first commodity contract in China open to foreign investment funds, trading houses, and oil firms. The circumvention of U.S. dollar trade could allow oil exporters such as Russia and Iran, for example, to bypass U.S. sanctions by trading in yuan, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

To make the yuan-denominated contract more attractive, China plans the yuan to be fully convertible in gold on the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges.

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Last month, the Shanghai Futures Exchange and its subsidiary Shanghai International Energy Exchange, INE, successfully completed four tests in production environment for the crude oil futures, and the exchange continues with preparatory works for the listing of crude oil futures, aiming for the launch by the end of this year.

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Source: ZeroHedge

Russia and China’s All Out War Against US Petrodollar

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The formation of a BRICS gold marketplace, which could bypass the U.S. Petrodollar in bilateral trade, continues to take shape as Russia’s largest bank, state-owned Sberbank, announced this week that its Swiss subsidiary had begun trading in gold on the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

Russian officials have repeatedly signaled that they plan to conduct transactions with China using gold as a means of marginalizing the power of the US dollar in bilateral trade between the geopolitically powerful nations. This latest movement is quite simply the manifestation of a larger geopolitical game afoot between great powers.

According to a report published by Reuters:

Sberbank was granted international membership of the Shanghai exchange in September last year and in July completed a pilot transaction with 200 kg of gold kilobars sold to local financial institutions, the bank said.

Sberbank plans to expand its presence on the Chinese precious metals market and anticipates total delivery of 5-6 tonnes of gold to China in the remaining months of 2017.

Gold bars will be delivered directly to the official importers in China as well as through the exchange, Sberbank said.

Russia’s second-largest bank VTB is also a member of the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

To be clear, there is a revolutionary transformation of the entire global monetary system currently underway, being driven by an almost perfect storm. The implications of this transformation are extremely profound for U.S. policy in the Middle East, which for nearly the past half century has been underpinned by its strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia.

THE RISE & FALL OF THE PETRODOLLAR

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The dollar was established as the global reserve currency in 1944 with the Bretton Woods agreement, commonly referred to as the gold standard. The U.S. leveraged itself into this power position by holding the largest reserve of gold in the world. The dollar was pegged at $35 an ounce — and freely exchangeable into gold.

By the 1960s, a surplus of U.S. dollars caused by foreign aid, military spending, and foreign investment threatened this system, as the U.S. did not have enough gold to cover the volume of dollars in worldwide circulation at the rate of $35 per ounce; as a result, the dollar was overvalued.

America temporarily embraced a new paradigm in 1971, as the dollar became a pure fiat currency (decoupled from any physical store of value), until the petrodollar agreement was concluded by President Nixon in 1973.

The quid pro quo was that Saudi Arabia would denominate all oil trades in U.S. dollars, and in return, the U.S. would agree to sell Saudi Arabia military hardware and guarantee the defense of the Kingdom.

A report by the Centre for Research on Globalization clarifies the implications of these most recent moves by the Russians and the Chinese in an ongoing drive to replace the US petrodollar as the global reserve currency:

Fast forward to March 2017; the Russian Central Bank opened its first overseas office in Beijing as an early step in phasing in a gold-backed standard of trade. This would be done by finalizing the issuance of the first federal loan bonds denominated in Chinese yuan and to allow gold imports from Russia.

The Chinese government wishes to internationalize the yuan, and conduct trade in yuan as it has been doing, and is beginning to increase trade with Russia. They’ve been taking these steps with bilateral trading, native trading systems and so on. However, when Russia and China agreed on their bilateral US$400 billion pipeline deal, China wished to, and did, pay for the pipeline with yuan treasury bonds, and then later for Russian oil in yuan.

This evasion of, and unprecedented breakaway from, the reign of the US dollar monetary system is taking many forms, but one of the most threatening is the Russians trading Chinese yuan for gold. The Russians are already taking Chinese yuan, made from the sales of their oil to China, back to the Shanghai Gold Exchange to then buy gold with yuan-denominated gold futures contracts – basically a barter system or trade.

The Chinese are hoping that by starting to assimilate the yuan futures contract for oil, facilitating the payment of oil in yuan, the hedging of which will be done in Shanghai, it will allow the yuan to be perceived as a primary currency for trading oil. The world’s top importer (China) and exporter (Russia) are taking steps to convert payments into gold. This is known. So, who would be the greatest asset to lure into trading oil for yuan? The Saudis, of course.

All the Chinese need is for the Saudis to sell China oil in exchange for yuan. If the House of Saud decides to pursue that exchange, the Gulf petro-monarchies will follow suit, and then Nigeria, and so on. This will fundamentally threaten the petrodollar.

According to a report by the Russian government media, significant progress has been made in promoting bilateral trade in yuan, between the two nations, as the first step towards an even more ambitious plan—using gold to make transactions:

One measure under consideration is the joint organization of trade in gold. In recent years, China and Russia have been the world’s most active buyers of the precious metal.

On a visit to China last year, deputy head of the Russian Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov said that the two countries want to facilitate more transactions in gold between the two countries.

In April, Sberbank expressed interest in financing the direct import of gold to India—also a BRICS member. Make no mistake that a BRICS gold marketplace could be used to bypass the dollar in bilateral trade, and undermine the hegemonic control enjoyed by the US petrodollar as the global reserve currency.

“In 2014 Russia and China signed two mammoth 30-year contracts for Russian gas to China. The contracts specified that the exchange would be done in Renminbi [yuan] and Russian rubles, not in dollars. That was the beginning of an accelerating process of de-dollarization that is underway today.” according to strategic risk consultant F. William Engdahl.

Russia and China are now creating a new paradigm for the world economy and paving the way for a global de-dollarization.

“A Russian-Chinese alternative to the dollar in the form of a gold-backed ruble and gold-backed Renminbi or yuan, could start a snowball exit from the US dollar, and with it, a severe decline in America’s ability to use the reserve dollar role to finance her wars with other peoples’ money,”

Source: The Most Revolutionary Act

 

Meet The Only Private Equity Fund In History To Raise $2 Billion From Investors And Return $0

(ZeroHedge) Sir Richard Branson once said that the quickest way to become a millionaire was to take a billion dollars and buy an airline. But, as EnerVest Ltd, a Houston-based private equity firm that focuses on energy investments, recently found out, there’s more than one way to go broke investing in extremely volatile sectors. 

As the Wall Street Journal points out today, EnerVest is a $2 billion private-equity fund that borrowed heavily at the height of the oil boom to scoop up oil and gas wells.  Unfortunately, shortly after those purchases were made, energy prices plunged leaving the fund’s equity, supplied primarily by pensions, endowments and charitable foundations, worth essentially nothing. 

The outcome will leave investors in the 2013 fund with, at most, pennies for every dollar they invested, the people said. At least one investor, the Orange County Employees Retirement System, already has marked its investment down to zero, according to a pension document.

Though private-equity investments regularly flop, industry consultants and fund investors say this situation could mark the first time that a fund larger than $1 billion has lost essentially all of its value.

EnerVest’s collapse shows how debt taken on during the drilling boom continues to haunt energy investors three years after a glut of fuel sent prices spiraling down.

But, at least John Walker, EnerVest’s co-founder and chief executive, expressed some remorse for investors by confirming to the WSJ that they “are not proud of the result.”

All of which leaves EnerVest with the rather unflattering honor of being perhaps the only private equity fund in history to ever raise over $1 billion in capital from investors and subsequently lose pretty much 100% of it. 

Only seven private-equity funds larger than $1 billion have ever lost money for investors, according to investment firm Cambridge Associates LLC. Among those of any size to end in the red, losses greater than 25% or so are almost unheard of, though there are several energy-focused funds in danger of doing so, according to public pension records.

EnerVest has attempted to restructure the fund, as well as another raised in 2010 that has struggled with losses, to meet repayment demands from lenders who were themselves writing down the value of assets used as collateral, according to public pension documents and people familiar with the efforts.

So, who’s getting wiped out?  Oh, the usual list of pension funds, charities and university endowments.

A number of prominent institutional investors are at risk of having their investments wiped out, including Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Canada’s second-largest pension, which invested more than $100 million. Florida’s largest pension fund manager and the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Plan, a manager of retirement savings for union members in nearly 30 states, each invested $100 million, according to public records.

The fund was popular among charitable organizations as well. The J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur and Fletcher Jones foundations each invested millions in the fund, according to their tax filings.

Michigan State University and a foundation that supports Arizona State University also have disclosed investments in the fund.

Luckily, we’re somewhat confident that at least the losses accrued by U.S.-based pension funds will be ultimately be backstopped by taxpayers…so no harm no foul.

Economic Support For Housing Industry In Shale Oil States Has Arrived

How OPEC Lost The War Against US Shale, In One Chart

At the start of March we showed a fascinating chart from Rystad Energy, demonstrating how dramatic the impact of technological efficiency on collapsing US shale production costs has been: in just the past 3 years, the wellhead breakeven price for key shale plays has collapsed from an average of $80 to the mid-$30s…

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.. resulting in drastically lower all-in break evens for most US shale regions.

Today, in a note released by Goldman titled “OPEC: To cut or not to cut, that is the question”, the firm presents a chart which shows just as graphically how exactly OPEC lost the war against US shale: in one word: the cost curve has massively flattened and extended as a result of “shale productivity” driving oil breakeven in the US from $80 to $50-$55, in the process sweeping Saudi Arabia away from the post of global oil price setter to merely inventory manager.

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This is how Goldman explains it:

Shale’s short time to market and ongoing productivity improvements have provided an efficient answer to the industry’s decade-long search for incremental hydrocarbon resources in technically challenging, high cost areas and has kicked off a competition amongst oil producing countries to offer attractive enough contracts and tax terms to attract incremental capital. This is instigating a structural deflationary change in the oil cost curve, as shown in Exhibit 2. This shift has driven low cost OPEC producers to respond by focusing on market share, ramping up production where possible, using their own domestic resources or incentivizing higher activity from the international oil companies through more attractive contract structures and tax regimes. In the rest of the world, projects and countries have to compete for capital, trying to drive costs down to become competitive through deflation, FX and potentially lower tax rates.

The implications of this curve shift are major, all of which are very adverse to the Saudis, who have been relegated from the post of long-term price setter to inventory manager, and thus the loss of leverage. Here are some further thoughts from Goldman:

  • OPEC role: from price setter to inventory manager In the New Oil Order, we believe OPEC’s role has structurally changed from long-term price setter to inventory manager. In the past, large-scale developments required seven years+ from FID to peak production, giving OPEC long-term control over oil prices. US shale oil currently offers large-scale development opportunities with 6-9 months to peak production. This short-cycle opportunity has structurally changed the cost dynamics, eliminating the need for high cost frontier developments and instigating a competition for capital amongst oil producing countries that is lowering and flattening the cost curve through improved contract terms and taxes.
  • OPEC’s November decision had unintended consequences: OPEC’s decision to cut production was rational and fit into the inventory management role. Inventory builds led to an extreme contango in the Brent forward curve, with 2-year fwd Brent trading at a US$5.5/bl (11%) premium to spot. As OPEC countries sell spot, but US E&Ps sell 30%+ of their production forward, this was giving the E&Ps a competitive advantage. Within one month of the OPEC announcement, the contango declined to US$1.1/bl (2%), achieving the cartel’s purpose. However, the unintended consequence was to underwrite shale activity through the credit market.
  • Stability and credit fuel overconfidence and strong activity: A period of stability (1% Brent Coefficient of Variation ytd vs. 6% 3-year average) has allowed E&Ps to hedge (35% of 2017 oil production vs. 21% in November) and access the credit market, with high yield reopen after a 10- month closure (largest issuance in 4Q16 since 3Q14). Successful cost repositioning and abundant funding are boosting a short-cycle revival, with c.85% of oil companies under our coverage increasing capex in 2017.

That said, the new equilibrium only works as long as credit is cheap and plentiful. If and when the Fed’s inevitable rate hikes tighten credit access for shale firms, prompting the need for higher margins and profits, the old status quo will revert. As a reminder, this is how over a year ago Citi explained the dynamic of cheap credit leading to deflation and lower prices:

Easy access to capital was the essential “fuel” of the shale revolution. But too much capital led to too much oil production, and prices crashed.  The shale sector is now being financially stress-tested, exposing shale’s dirty secret: many shale producers depend on capital market injections to fund ongoing activity because they have thus far greatly outspent cash flow.

This is the key ingredient of what Goldman calls the shift to a new “structural deflationary change in the oil cost curve” as shown in chart above. As such, there is the danger that tighter conditions will finally remove the structural pressure for lower prices. However, judging by recent rhetoric by FOMC members, this is hardly an imminent issue, which means Saudi Arabia has only bad options: either cut production, prompting higher prices and even greater shale incursion and market share loss for the Kingdom, or restore the old status quo, sending prices far lower, and in the process collapsing Saudi government revenues potentially unleashing another budget crisis.

Source: ZeroHedge