Thursday afternoon saw a report that US GDP in Q2 shrank by 32.9%. Now this may have beaten expectations, but it’s a bit like saying that you didn’t come last in the 38,000-person London Marathon, you came second last. That kind of incredible fall is the reason for the huge drops in demand for commodities and transport around the world. If you add that to German GDP data which reported a fall of 10.1% and lower growth rate than China at 3.2%, it does not make pretty reading.
The markets, of course, did not react particularly enthusiastically to the release of this news, adding further concern to the increasingly bleak world economic picture of a growing resurgence in the virus. European and American stock markets both fell – at the time of writing the FTSE 100 was off nearly 3% and the Dow Jones nearly 2% – with crude markets also selling off in the afternoon session.
If the apprehension of the hard facts from lockdowns across the world isn’t your thing, it’s probably best not to look at any of the news pages. Worldwide virus cases now stand at 17 million with over 660,000 deaths. Infection rates are spiking in some US states and South America is still struggling to contain the first wave of the virus. Things are looking so bad in the United States that is has prompted the President to suggest that November’s election should be postponed. If this says more about the situation in the US or more about the incumbent’s poll ratings is up for debate, but it is adding even more uncertainty to an out of control outbreak.
But don’t let that cheer you up too much. Whenever you are feeling down, just think about the iron ore market. Prices are still holding strong above the $100 mark with hopes of further Chinese government stimulus. Beijing is aiming to issue special local government bonds by the end of October as a stimulus for renewed infrastructure projects. Brazil is really doing its best – and largely succeeding – in increasing ore production, with hopes still alive for Vale to make its ambitious production target.
The dry freight markets may have received a bit of a hammering after their rise above the $30,000 per day, but late this week it has seen a bit of a resurgence on the Capes from around $16,500 back upwards towards the $20,000 level with people getting in fixtures before Friday’s Singapore holiday.
Oil markets had been plodding along in the $43 to $45 bracket for some time now, but that has shunted lower into a $42-44 range. Producers of gasoil and jet fuel would be particularly downhearted this week, with Thursday alone dealing out gasoil losses of nearly $30 per tonne from high to low. Fuel oil markets were less hard hit with VLSFO falling $17 from London opening Thursday and HSFO down $5, with crude down 1.2%. As has been noted several times, the airline industry’s slow comeback and the oversupply of products in the market, coupled with still relatively high refinery utilisation means that there isn’t any place for this product to go. All there is to do is sit and hope for as swift return of demand as possible.
As NASA launched its Perseverance rover from Cape Canaveral this week, blasting up into space on its seven-month journey to Mars, here back on earth things have been more of a sullen drop. Perhaps when the rover returns it may need to search for life amongst the markets on Earth. Ever the optimist, there is only really one way to go from here, but ouch, that’s one hell of a hit to the economy and one long journey back to normality.