Phil Flynn is writer of The Energy Report, a daily market commentary discussing oil, the Middle East, American government, economics, and their effects on the world's energies markets, as well as other commodity markets. Contact Mr. Flynn at (888) 264-5665
I feel the earth move under my feet; I feel the sky tumblin’ down. I feel my heart start to tremblin’ when Joe Biden comes around. The earth is shaking and so is oil as geo-political risk factors are on the rise and Biden’s erratic foreign policy is raising the risk of conflict around the globe. Oil prices are fluctuating in a bull flag mode as Joe Biden’s foreign policy is adding to global risk factors as well as a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in southern Iran that has damaged a critical oil facility and disrupted production.
While Biden talks with Iran to beg and plead for the nation to rejoin the nuclear accord seems to be making progress, the shadow war that Iran has with Israel and Saudi Arabia continues. Bloomberg News reports that, “The U.S. and Iran edged closer to ending their standoff over the nuclear deal abandoned by former President Donald Trump, with Washington describing talks as “constructive” and the Islamic Republic signaling that it was ready to debate the details of how the two sides can revive the stricken 2015 accord. Jake Sullivan, United States National Security Adviser, told Fox News on Sunday, “the talks in Vienna have been constructive in the sense that there is a real effort underway there” and that world powers were focused on restoring the agreement on a “compliance for compliance” basis. Yet Reuters reports that Saudi and Iranian officials held direct talks this month in a bid to ease tensions between the two foes, a senior Iranian official and two regional sources said, as Washington works to revive a 2015 nuclear pact with Tehran and end the Yemen war.
The April 9 meeting in Iraq, first reported by the Financial Times on Sunday, did not lead to any breakthrough, the Iranian official and one of the regional sources familiar with the matter said. The regional source said the meeting focused on Yemen, where a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group since March 2015. “This was a low-level meeting to explore whether there might be a way to ease ongoing tensions in the region,” the Iranian official said, adding that it was based on Iraq’s request.
Politico reports that Joe Biden on Saturday denounced Russia over its treatment of prominent Putin critic Alexei Navalny amid reports his health is deteriorating in prison. “It’s totally, totally unfair,” Biden said, according to a pool report. “Totally inappropriate.” Navalny was arrested in January after coming back to Russia from Germany, where he recovered for several months from poisoning that he blames on Russia, which the country has denied. He was quickly sentenced to more than two years in prison on charges he has said are bogus. He’s being held in the notorious Matrosskaya Tishina prison. Navalny, who has been on a hunger strike for nearly three weeks, said in an Instagram post that an official had told him his health was worsening and that he may be force-fed if he continued not to eat. Navalny has demanded his doctor be able to see him after getting severe back pain and leg numbness in prison. Navalny’s wife has said he has had issues talking.
“I was clear with President Putin that we could have gone further, but I chose not to do so. I chose to be proportionate,” Biden said Thursday. “The United States is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia. We want a stable, predictable relationship.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that, “according to Energy and restructuring law firm Haynes and Boone, bankruptcies by North American oil producers climbed to the highest first-quarter level since 2016 as energy firms continue to struggle to recover from the carnage of the oil price crash in 2020. Haynes and Boone have reported there were eight bankruptcies by North American oil and gas producers in Q1 2021, the second-highest figure for a first quarter ever since 17 were reported for Q1 2016, the last time U.S. crude futures dipped under $30 a barrel over the past decade.
Natural gas fundamentals are looking strong. The Energy Information Administration reports, “That last winter the US saw larger-than-average U.S. natural gas withdrawals from storage. EIA says that significantly colder-than-normal temperatures in the Lower 48 states in late January through mid-February resulted in increased heating demand for natural gas in the United States, despite an otherwise warmer-than-normal winter. As a result, the winter had larger-than-average winter natural gas withdrawals. Before the cold snap, winter temperatures had been relatively mild, but a combination of increased heating demand, record liquefied natural gas (LNG) and pipeline exports and decreased natural gas production contributed to the withdrawal activity during February. Working natural gas in storage in the Lower 48 states as of March 31, 2021—the traditional end of the heating season that began November 1, 2020—totaled 1,778 billion cubic feet (Bcf), 1.4% less than the five-year (2016–20) average for the end of the heating season, according to EIA’s Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report released on April 8. Net withdrawals from working natural gas inventories during the 2020–21 heating season exceeded the five-year average by 10.6%. This means that we should see tightening supply into summer. Time to get some calls or start to build a long position.
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