Oil slides on variant concerns
Oil is among the assets taking a heavy beating on the variant news today, falling more than 5% as traders fret about the impact on restrictions and behaviour this winter. Even without severe restrictions, people will adopt more caution which will weigh on demand, as OPEC+ has repeatedly stated and factored into their models.
It seems the US and other consuming countries have played their hand too soon. Sure, Biden will score some political points ahead of the midterms as voters see prices at the pump fall, which was ultimately the goal. But should prices spike again early next year, what then?
Crude is back at levels last seen at the start of October and if this risk aversion continues in the weeks ahead, there’s plenty of room to fall. While OPEC+ would likely have avoided altering production plans next week or in the months following in response to the SPR releases, it may soon feel its hand is being forced. Next week may come too soon but another major outbreak could see them slam on the brakes.
Gold jumps on safe-haven appeal
Times like this are when gold shines and we’re seeing investors flock back to an old reliable friend today. It has pulled a little off its highs after hitting $1,815 earlier in the session but it remains above $1,800 at the time of writing. It’s an interesting one for gold and bonds, as the situation now is very different from last year.
Central banks can’t just turn on the taps again with a “whatever it takes” avalanche of cheap cash as they have before. Inflation is a real problem and lockdowns will exacerbate the problem. Sure, they may be a little more patient and hold off on raising rates next month in the case of some or accelerating tapering in the case of the Fed, but they can hardly ramp up their stimulus measures in any considerable way. Their hands are tied.
This should still be bullish for gold as, at the very least, central banks will delay tightening until they have a better idea of the risks to the economy. Allowing inflation to run hot unaddressed could increase the hedge appeal of gold again, particularly in these uncertain times.
Bitcoin remains a speculative risk asset, for now
In recent weeks we’ve seen that, in times of real uncertainty, bitcoin has not done well as an inflation hedge or a safe haven asset. There’s no doubt it’s a fascinating tradable instrument and a highly speculative one, but it’s quite clear now that it’s a risk asset and nothing more. Not at the moment anyway. Who knows what the future holds.
It’s taking a real beating today, off around 8% and looking vulnerable. Key support around $55,500 has fallen which will now draw attention back to $50,000. I’m sure soon enough the eternal crypto bulls will pile back in and smell a bargain but as we’ve seen so often in the past, bitcoin is capable of enormous gains and eye-watering corrections.
If this new variant triggers major risk aversion in the markets, it could come under serious pressure. Unless of course, the inflation narrative catches again. No sign of it yet but, as ever with crypto, it has an incredible ability to find the bullish case in anything. Maybe this will be next.
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