King Coal: The King Is Dead – here’s proof

 Signs That Coal Is Getting Killed

Coal is having a hard time lately. U.S. power plants are switching to natural gas, environmental restrictions are kicking in, and the industry is being derided as the world’s No. 1 climate criminal. Prices have crashed, sure, but for a real sense of coal’s diminishing prospects, check out what’s happening in the bond market.

Bonds are where coal companies turn to raise money for such things as new mines and environmental cleanups. But investors are increasingly reluctant to lend to them. Coal bond prices tumbled 17 percent in the second quarter, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Intelligence. It’s the fourth consecutive quarter of price declines and the worst performance of any industry group by a long shot.

Bonds fluctuate less than stocks, because the payoff is fixed and pretty much guaranteed as long as the borrower remains solvent. A 17 percent decline is huge, and it happened at a time when other energy bonds—oil and gas—were rising. Three of America’s biggest coal producers had the worst-performing bonds for the quarter:

  • Alpha Natural Resources: -70 percent
  • Peabody: -40 percent
  • Arch: -30 percent

Coal powered the industrial revolution and helped lift much of humanity out of poverty, but its glory days have reached an end. Here are four of the biggest pressures facing the industry:

1. The U.S. Grid Is Changing

About 17 percent of U.S. coal-fired power generation will disappear over the next few years, according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Obstacles include age, the abundance of cheap natural gas, and new EPA rules to cut pollution. Here’s a great visual breakdown of what’s happening to U.S. coal power.

Coal Plants on the Way Out by 2020

Source: Bloomberg Business / BNEF

The map shows coal plants in 2010 that may be headed for retirement. Blue circles represent plants that will be shuttered by 2020, while yellow will convert to gas, and red have undetermined futures. Big coal won a small victory over the EPA’s new mercury restrictions at the Supreme Court in June, but it’s most likely a temporary reprieve.

2. Even China Is Approaching Peak Coal

The biggest power investments are now happening in renewable energy, but fossil fuels will be with us for decades to come. The global burning of coal won’t peak on a global scale until around 2025, according to BNEF. But that doesn’t indicate a thriving industry. Even China, the world’s biggest consumer of coal, wants to be rid of it.

While China’s electricity demand will soar in the coming decades, its coal use will remain relatively flat, peaking by 2030 and then declining, according to BNEF. The pollution is too thick and the alternatives too cheap for coal to flourish. The chart below shows China’s ever-falling price of wind power (blue) and solar (yellow) vs. the rising cost of coal (dark gray) and natural gas (light gray) over the next 25 years.

Wind and Solar Will Win the Price War

Source: BNEF

3. Financial Distress

The declining prices of bonds is a huge problem for U.S. coal companies. When bond prices fall, the cost of borrowing money goes up. And coal needs more money.

Coal companies are allowed to avoid costly insurance premiums by showing they have the capital to clean up after themselves. It’s called self-bonding. This year the federal government has started taking a closer look at whether the struggling coal companies still qualify.

In May, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality told Alpha Natural Resources it no longer qualifies for self-bonding in the state, and the company has until Aug. 24 to post collateral or cash against $411 million of reclamation liabilities. The department last week confirmed that Peabody, the largest U.S. coal producer, can continue to self-bond.

4. Renewables Are …

Coal is an industry in terminal decline, and financial markets are reflecting this new reality. Drastic new energy policies are still needed to avoid catastrophic climate change, according to nearly every credible analysis. But even setting aside the environmental and health issues, renewables are on a trajectory to outcompete fossil fuels, starting with coal. Between now and 2040, two-thirds of the money spent on adding new electricity capacity worldwide will be spent on renewables, according to BNEF. The table below forecasts the proportion of renewable electricity in select countries by 2040.

Winning

In the past year, global stock prices for coal companies are down almost 50 percent, but it’s in the bond market that coal is really getting hammered. The focus of energy finance has shifted from coal to renewables, and it’s not likely to turn back.

Trading Alert : Peabody Energy ( BTU)

A positive Supreme Court ruling mere days ago has done nothing to halt the precipitous decline of Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU)’s shares, which are imploding  in trading this morning, down by nearly 26% already.

The sad spectacle has inflated the loss of the company’s shares year-to-date to an ugly 79%. The latest major blow comes after Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU) was forced to downgrade its loss estimate for its current fiscal quarter, the results of which it will post on July 28. Among other things, lower coal prices and bad weather have been cited as reasons for the revision, while demand is also weakening in China. The latest blow is bad news for Dmitry Balyasny‘s Balyasny Asset Management, which opened a 27.31 million-share stake in the first quarter, worth $134.34 million at the end of March, doubtlessly feeling he was getting a discount at the time, with shares already down heavily in the first quarter. They’ve done even worse in the second.
Read more at http://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/active-morning-movers-peabody-energy-corporation-btu-the-chubb-corporation-cb-ace-limited-ace-fitbit-inc-fit-358238/#4G1QcBikzuSWS1Hf.99

TheStreet Ratings team rates PEABODY ENERGY CORP as a Sell with a ratings score of D. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

“We rate PEABODY ENERGY CORP (BTU) a SELL. This is driven by several weaknesses, which we believe should have a greater impact than any strengths, and could make it more difficult for investors to achieve positive results compared to most of the stocks we cover. The company’s weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its deteriorating net income, generally high debt management risk, disappointing return on equity, poor profit margins and weak operating cash flow.”

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The company, on the basis of change in net income from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 264.1% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from -$48.50 million to -$176.60 million.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is very high at 2.55 and currently higher than the industry average, implying increased risk associated with the management of debt levels within the company. To add to this, BTU has a quick ratio of 0.61, this demonstrates the lack of ability of the company to cover short-term liquidity needs.
  • Return on equity has greatly decreased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of major weakness within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, PEABODY ENERGY CORP’s return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • The gross profit margin for PEABODY ENERGY CORP is currently extremely low, coming in at 14.06%. It has decreased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of -11.48% is significantly below that of the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to $3.40 million or 93.71% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing the cash generation rate to the industry average, the firm’s growth is significantly lower.

Save taxes offshore http://www.youroffshoremoney.com

Big Oil’s Push to Replace Coal : Coal Mining and Shipping Sectors At Risk

BP Plc coined the slogan “Beyond Petroleum.” The new industry mantra might be “Beyond Oil and Into Gas.” Oh, and while we’re at it, “Down With Coal.”

Consider Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s recent $70 billion acquisition of BG Group Plc — clearly a huge bet that natural gas will prove to be its cash cow of the future.

The petroleum industry’s move toward gas is hardly new — the hydraulic fracturing shale revolution is in its second decade, after all. Still, Shell’s move is an emphatic confirmation that some among the Big Oil family firmly believe gas will play a growing role in meeting the energy demand of emerging countries such as China and India that are trying to move away from dirtier coal.

“Gas will likely overtake coal as the world’s second fuel by the late 2020s,” said Jonathan Stern, head of the natural gas program at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

Gas is emerging as a preferred fuel around the world because it’s cleaner to burn than coal and oil, prompting the International Energy Agency to say in 2011 that the world was entering into the “golden age of gas.” In a highly symbolic move, China announced last month it would convert the last of four major coal-fired power plants around Beijing to gas next year.

Last September, in a petroleum industry meeting timed to a United Nations session on global warming, some of the world’s leading producers got up to argue that gas gave them a huge advantage over coal in the climate-change battle, according to the website Responding to Climate Change.

“One of our most important contributions is producing natural gas and replacing coal in electricity production,” said Helge Lund, then chief executive officer of Statoil ASA, citing figures that switching from coal to gas could halve global emissions.

Fast Growing

Until recently, coal was the world’s fastest-growing major energy source, averaging a 5 percent annual rate. The Paris-based IEA forecast the rate would slow down to 1 percent from 2012 to 2020, and decelerate further to 0.3 percent in the 2020s as China and other emerging countries battle pollution.

Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said in February that “a shift from coal to natural gas” was needed to battle climate change. “When burnt for power, gas produces half the CO2 coal does,” he told an industry audience.

For Shell, this is the second gas-focused deal in so many years. In early 2014, it bought the liquefied natural gas business of Spain’s Repsol SA for $4.1 billion. The Anglo-Dutch group is not alone betting on gas: Chevron Corp., BP, Total SA and Exxon Mobil Corp. are spending heavily on the fuel.

Gas Focused

Trevor Sikorski, head of natural gas, coal and carbon for consultant Energy Aspects Ltd., said companies were “starting to recognize” a trend in emerging markets in favor of gas and against coal. “This deal potentially kicks off acquisitions of other gas-focused companies the size of BG or maybe smaller,” he said. Among the potential candidates, analysts are looking at Woodside Petroleum Ltd. and Santos Ltd. of Australia, U.S.-based Devon Energy Corp. and Noble Energy Inc., among others.

The bet on gas has been extremely profitable so far for Shell. The company reported underlying earnings of $10.4 billion in 2014 from gas, up 470 percent in five years.

But it has its risk, nonetheless. First, LNG prices have dropped about a quarter from the torrid levels reached after Japan bought large quantities of the fuel following the 2011 nuclear crisis of Fukushima. The price drop will hurt profits.

Coal Prices

At the same time, coal prices have fallen to levels not seen since the global financial crisis, providing cost-sensitive countries, including India, a strong reason to keep buying. BP CEO Bob Dudley last June warned that with coal prices falling, the commodity was “extending its competitive edge in power generation” over gas.

Second, the shift from coal into gas depends in a great part on climate change negotiations of uncertain outcome.

And third, analysts worry that energy companies would struggle to keep construction costs under control, jeopardizing the future of the LNG sector.

If Big Oil is successful in its push toward gas at the expense of coal, those most at risk will likely be global mining groups including Glencore Plc, Anglo American Plc and Rio Tinto Group with billions of dollars in coal deposits in South Africa, Australia and Colombia.

Gas Price Drop Pressures Aging Coal and Nuclear Power

A 37 percent drop in natural gas prices since June has lowered what U.S. nuclear and coal plants can charge for electricity, potentially speeding the demise of generators teetering on the brink of closing.

While power plants that burn gas get a break on the cost side, allowing them to charge less for their product, coal and nuclear operators are seeing thinning profits. The gas squeeze comes as companies are upgrading plants to meet new environmental rules and demand weakens as a result of competition from solar and wind energy.

FirstEnergy Corp. (FE), NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), and the generation unit that will be spun off fromPPL Corp. (PPL), are among companies most at risk from depressed energy prices, according to a Dec. 31 note published by UBS AG energy analysts. Exelon Corp. (EXC), the biggest U.S. owner of nuclear reactors, said it needs to almost double power prices to keep a New York plant running.

“Natural gas prices have been falling and that’s generally not a good thing for coal and nuclear power producers who sell in competitive wholesale markets,” said Paul Patterson, a New York-based analyst for Glenrock Associates LLC.

Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (PEG) could also face reduced revenues, UBS said. Plant closings threaten the reliability of power supplies in some regions. Mild weather has disappointed hopes for a surge in summer cooling and winter heating demand for gas.

Changing Fuels

“The latest slide in natural gas prices raises the specter of big coal-to-gas switching in 2015,” said Julien Dumoulin-Smith, a New York-based analyst for UBS.

Expectations for a repeat of last year’s polar vortex, when frigid temperatures spurred record demand and soaring prices for gas and electricity, are dwindling due to milder-than-expected winter weather.

“As you get further along in the winter, the risk of extreme weather begins to go down,” Patterson said.

Gas settled yesterday in New York at $2.938 per million British thermal units after hitting a two-year low this week. Gas last month hit historic lows in some parts of the Mid-Atlantic.

Power prices for delivery during the peak hours of the day for winter has fallen 21 percent to $54 a megawatt-hour since mid-December in PJM Interconnection LLC, the nation’s largest U.S. electricity grid. PJM serves more than 61 million people from Washington, D.C. to Chicago.

Stocks Suffer

Shares of some of the nation’s largest power generators have also suffered. NRG, the largest U.S. independent generation owner, has fallen 22 percent since hitting a recent high on Nov. 7. Dynegy Inc., another large independent operator, is down 15 percent over the same period.

Owners of utilities, which are allowed to charge rates that provide a profit, are exiting the competitive power business that leaves them vulnerable to market swings. American Electric Power Co. (AEP), the biggest U.S. coal burner, said yesterday it had hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to advise on a potential sale of seven power plants as the utility owner struggles to compete amid falling prices.

Utilities including FirstEnergy, which owns about 10,000 megawatts of coal capacity, and Exelon are lobbying regulators and grid operators to boost what they can charge customers at their financially pinched units. They say closing the plants will risk blackouts and raise customer bills even higher.

After recording losses that exceeded $100 million from 2011 to 2013, Exelon said it needs to charge about 83 percent more than wholesale prices to earn a profit at its Rochester-area Ginna plant. Last month, Entergy Corp. shut Vermont’s only operating reactor citing low power prices.

EPA Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said today it will delay the release of carbon-emission rules for all power plants until the middle of the summer. Industry groups and Republican lawmakers said the proposed rules would effectively ban new coal facilities.

The companies say gas shortages last winter showed the value of coal and nuclear plants that were needed to keep the lights on. PJM, the grid operator, is asking federal regulators to allow for increasing payments to plant owners to ensure at least 2,000 megawatts of aging generation is kept in operation through next winter, according to a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

That won’t provide any relief in the short term as milder weather and lower gas prices could reduce FirstEnergy’s earnings per share by 20 cents in 2015, according to UBS. The company is among “the most exposed” to declining use of coal-fired power units, UBS said.

Hedging Help

NRG could see a $30 million reduction in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in 2015, UBS said.

To protect themselves from volatile price swings, power companies are using hedging contracts to lock in future prices for power and gas.

FirstEnergy is taking “aggressive actions” to reduce its exposure to the market and has increased its hedged contracts since November, said Tricia Ingraham a spokeswoman for FirstEnergy. Exelon reduces its exposure to power price movements with a three-year forward hedging strategy, spokesman Paul Adams said. NRG, PPL and Public Service declined to comment on the UBS report. Dynegy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

This year, coal-fired power production in PJM could be close to the lowest level since 2008, according to UBS.

Miners Sector 2015 Forecast :Dumping Assets At Fire-sale Prices

Senior mining companies are still holding many unnecessary and troubled assets on their books. So it would not be a surprise to see a few more dirt-cheap deals in 2015.

Scott Douglas/Riversdale Mining Ltd.Senior mining companies are still holding many unnecessary and troubled assets .

The junior mining sector is in such brutal shape right now that most companies are unwilling to even pay for booths at conferences that are geared to them.

 

Mr. Dethlefsen’s firm, Corsa Coal Corp., was approached this year about buying coal assets in Pennsylvania from Russian steel giant OAO Severstal, which was bailing out of the United States.

Severstal had bought these operations for $900 million in 2008, when steelmaking coal prices were hitting all-time highs. Mr. Dethlefsen would not pay anything close to that in today’s awful coal market, but he didn’t have to. Corsa bought the operations for a grand total of US$60 million, or less than 8% of what Severstal paid.

“It’s a tough market. We have our work cut out for us with this business and it’s not going to be easy,” said Mr. Dethlefsen, Corsa’s chief executive.

“But we’d rather start by paying US$60 million than US$500 million.”

Indeed. It used to be that when mining companies put assets up for auction, they wouldn’t actually sell them unless they got a very full price. That could be because their commodity price assumptions were too optimistic, or they were just too attached to them and convinced they could extract more value. Dozens of interesting projects were put up for auction in recent years and never changed hands because sellers demanded too much money.

We have our work cut out for us with this business and it’s not going to be easy

That changed in 2014, especially at the low end. This will go down as the year when miners were happy to dump their troubled assets. They just wanted to get them off the books and make them someone else’s problem.

The Corsa-Severstal deal was one such example. Rio Tinto Ltd., another, sold coal assets in Mozambique for US$50 million, just three years after paying US$3.7 billion for them. Kinross Gold Corp. dumped Fruta del Norte, possibly the world’s richest undeveloped gold project, for US$240 million, or less than a quarter of what it paid six years ago.

A Billion Dollar Loss – and more of these stories to be written in 2015

And then there was the unfortunate tale of Alberta coal miner Grande Cache Coal Corp. A pair of Asian commodity traders (Marubeni Corp. and Winsway Enterprises Holdings) paid $1 billion for the company in 2011. But coal prices turned dramatically against them. So in October, they agreed to sell their Grand Cache stakes for a buck. Each.

These fire-sale prices generated some laughs across the industry. Yet the deals have an undeniable logic in the current volatile market conditions.

Handout/Grande Cache Coal

Handout/Grande Cache CoalA pair of Asian commodity traders (Marubeni Corp. and Winsway Enterprises Holdings) paid $1 billion for Grande Cache Coal in 2011. But coal prices turned dramatically against them. So in October, they agreed to sell their Grand Cache stakes for a buck. Each.

During the mining bull market (roughly 2002 to 2011), the industry was undergoing massive consolidation as miners rode the wave of rising metal prices. Senior mining companies like Rio Tinto and Vale SA snapped up almost everything in sight, piling up a lot of debt and unnecessary assets in the process. As long as commodity prices were high, who cared? They were just happy to get bigger.

It took a steep drop in prices — and an embarrassing wave of writedowns — to force them to reconsider their strategy. They realized too much management time was being wasted on non-core assets that deliver minimal or no return. They also recognized that low commodity prices may last for a while and that they needed to shed these assets to get as lean as possible.

It has helped that almost every major mining company replaced its CEO over the last couple of years. These guys have no emotional attachment to the assets their predecessors overpaid for, and are happy to do whatever it takes to get value out of them.

“Everyone is looking at rationalizing their portfolios to their best core assets,” said Melanie Shishler, a partner and mining specialist at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP. “In furtherance of that, I think people are being quite unrelenting in what they’re prepared to do to reach that goal.”

And there was nothing CEOs wanted to divest more than their problem assets. These assets were unloaded for bargain-basement prices after they backfired in spectacular ways.

For Severstal, it was a combination of a deteriorating coal market and Vladimir Putin. When Severstal bought the U.S. assets in 2008, coking coal prices were soaring above US$300 a tonne. Supply was so tight that steelmakers were terrified they would not be able to source product, so they started snapping up coal mining operations.

Today, that strategy seems absurd. Benchmark prices have plunged to US$117 a tonne, due to soaring supply and uncertain Chinese demand. Steelmakers no longer see any need to be vertically integrated.

Advertisement

Kinross – Poster Child For Mining Sector Errors

For Toronto-based Kinross, the central issue was also politics. The problem with the Fruta del Norte (FDN) project is that it is in Ecuador, a country with no history of large-scale gold mining. Kinross paid $1.2 billion for FDN in 2008 even though Ecuador did not have a firm mining law at the time. It was a reckless gamble, and it backfired after the government demanded outrageous windfall profits taxes. (Kinross owns equity in FDN’s new owner, so it could still benefit if the mine is built.)

Rio Tinto fell victim to a lack of good due diligence. It paid billions for the Mozambique coal assets without having a firm transportation plan in place. The transportation constraints were far bigger than anticipated, making the coal assets almost worthless in Rio’s eyes.

Handout/Kinross

Handout/KinrossKinross paid $1.2 billion for the Fruta del Norte mine in 2008 even though Ecuador did not have a firm mining law at the time. It was a reckless gamble, and it backfired after the government demanded outrageous windfall profits taxes.

 

In the two-dollar Grande Cache deal, the Asian sellers decided the assets definitely worthless to them at these prices. Experts said the sellers were facing potential cash outflows in the short term, something they clearly wanted to avoid.

Senior mining companies are still holding many unnecessary and troubled assets on their books. So it would not be a surprise to see a few more dirt-cheap deals in 2015.

One notable thing about these transactions is they usually involved a large company selling to a very small one. Sometimes it takes a small company to give a problem asset the attention it needs to create value. If they can’t get the assets turned around, then these deals are not such a great bargain.

“I’ve always said one company’s non-core asset is the cornerstone asset of another one,” said Jack A. Bass, managing partner at Jack A. Bass and Associates.

That is certainly the case with Corsa, which transformed into a serious player overnight with the Severstal deal. But now that the excitement has worn off, the company has to prove it can generate actual value out of these operations in a miserable coal market. If Corsa pulls that off and prices rebound, it could turn out to be one of the best mining deals in decades.

“We took the opportunity to come in and buy at what we think is the trough,” Mr. Dethlefsen said.

“To do that, you’ve got to have a pretty strong stomach. Over the next 12 months, it’s going to be a knife fight.”

You Have Options:

What To Do ?

Here is our recent letter:

Managed Accounts Year End Review and Forecast

November 2014 – 40 % cash position
Gold and Precious MetalsThe largest gains for our clients came from the exit from the gold producers at $18oo an ounce and continuing until we hold no gold and no gold miners . This from the author of The Gold Investors Handbook.2015 – We continue to be on the sidelines for this sector – regardless of the gnomes of Switzerland . As a safe haven gold simply wasnot there for investors despite turmoil in the Middle East, Africa and Ukraine.How much more frightening can the prospect for peace be than to have wars in multiple locations? Secondly the spectre of inflation – on which I have given numerous talks – simply failed to materialize. In fact economists and portfolio managers such as myself are now more concerned about deflation – and the spectre is a Japanese style decades long slide in the world economy.
Shipping Sector / Bulk ShippersYou can review our stock market letter athttp://www.amp2012.com to follow our profits in the shipping sector before our retreat as overcapacity has yet to effect continued overbuiding. In 2008-9 rates-  illustrated by the Baltic Dry Index – were at their peak. The BDI hit over 10,000. Today it is roughly 10 % of that benchmark and the sector slide continues. We have an impressive watchlist of former ” darlings” – but we are content to watch and wait.
Oil/ Energy I am very happy for the call in natural gas prices – out at $12 and into oil. When oil was above $100 we lessened positions and that is our saving grace in the past two weeks. We are not bottom feeders and will wait for a turn in the market before reentering drillers or producers.On Friday November 27th, crude oil prices dropped to below $72 and the slide has continued into the weekend, with Brent crude oil at $70.15 as I write this post. Shares of major oil companies traded down on Friday. Our former energy sector holdings are down another between 4% and 11%, including SDRL, which dropped another 8% following Wednesday’s 23% plunge…

Have you avoided these sectors – you would have been better off to follow our advice in 2014 and now you have to decide for 2015.
No one – and I am not being humble here – can project the future with great accuracy but our clients continue to do very well and we offer that experience to you.

Fees : 1 % annual set up and a performance bonus of 20 % – only if we perform.

You can withdraw your funds monthly if you require an income stream.

Alternate Guaranteed Income Payments

Private client funds Minimum $10,000 Maximum Loan $500,000

Our client is seeking funds to expand their tanker fleet .

Interest 12 % compounded – paid 1% per month

Floating charge of the full $500,000 against the fleet – valued at  more than $ 1 M

 

Contact information:

To learn more about portfolio management ,asset protection, trusts ,offshore company formation and structure for your business interests (at no cost or obligation)

Email

jackabass@gmail.com OR

info@jackbassteam.com  OR

Call Jack direct at 604-858-3202

10:00 – 4:00 Monday to Friday Pacific Time ( same time zone as Los Angeles).

Similar to wise buying decisions, exiting certain underperformers at the right time helps maximize portfolio returns. Selling off losers can be difficult, but if both the share price and estimates are falling, it could be time to get rid of the security before more losses hit your portfolio.

Tax website  Http://www.youroffshoremoney.com

Get Out Of Natural Gas and Oil Stocks – worse to come – Updated Dec.25

In this Dec. 17, 2014 photo, workers tend to oil pump jacks behind a natural gas flare near Watford City, N.D. Natural gas, the nation's most prevalent heating fuel, is getting cheaper just as winter is arriving because of mild temperatures and plentiful supplies. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Natural gas, the nation’s most prevalent heating fuel, is getting cheaper just as winter is arriving because of mild temperatures and plentiful supplies.

The price of natural gas has dropped 29 percent in a month, to $3.17 per 1,000 cubic feet on Tuesday from nearly $4.50 in late November. That’s a steep drop even for a fuel notorious for volatile price swings.

The lower prices are expected to linger and could reduce electricity prices and heating bills in the coming months. Natural gas is used by half of the nation’s households for heating and to generate 26 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Natural gas often rises as winter weather approaches, and a frigid November sent the price higher. But December warmed up, and temperatures for the rest of the winter are expected to be close to normal.

.

Oil falls, near $60 on supply glut, strong dollar

A customer waits as an employee of state-owned Pertamina refuels his car at its petrol station in Jakarta

In 2013 and 2014 a theme of my speeches to investors has been the problems facing exploration and production companies in natural gas . Then I projected that companies unprofitable at $4.00 would be in difficulty – today it is a crisis – expect bankruptcies and mergers to be the story in 2015..

Natural gas futures slid in New York  Thursday Dec.24 -to the lowest level since September 2012 after a government report showed U.S. inventories fell last week by less than forecast.

The Energy Information Administration said stockpiles dropped 49 billion cubic feet in the week ended Dec. 19 to 3.246 trillion. Analysts estimated a decline of 63 billion while a survey of Bloomberg users predicted a withdrawal of 59 billion.

“It’s so small because it was warm,” said Aaron Calder, senior market analyst at Gelber & Associates in Houston. “We expected some power generators to switch more to natural gas because of lower prices, but we didn’t see that. Meanwhile, the market continues to be flooded by production.”

Brent oil fell on Wednesday ( Dec .23), trading around $60 per barrel weighed down by strong supply in the United States and a rising dollar.

Brent for February delivery was down $1.50 to $60.19 at 1327 GMT after gaining $1.58 on Tuesday. It hit a low of $59.93 earlier in the session.

U.S. crude was down $1.17 to $55.95 a barrel, after closing $1.86 higher in the previous session.

Trade was thin as many in the European and U.S. market were off for the Christmas break.

Data from the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group, showed U.S. crude stocks rose by 5.4 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 19. Analysts had expected a drop of 2.3 million barrels.

In Europe, gasoline stocks reached their highest in five months in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp oil hub, data from PJK International showed.

A supply glut in the United States and elsewhere has helped push oil down some 46 percent since it reached this year’s peak above $115 per barrel in June.

“There was a large build in the API data and there are high stocks for now, although strong U.S. GDP growth should help demand,” said Olivier Jakob, analyst at Petromatrix in Zug, Switzerland.

The dollar index stayed close to its highest since April 2006 after a revised third-quarter U.S. gross domestic product report surprised with the fastest growth in 11 years.

A strong dollar makes commodities priced in the greenback more expensive for holders of other currencies.

Now investors face more volatile markets and securities that no longer move in lock-step. At the same time, investors must cope withslower growth in China, minuscule growth in the euro area and negative growth in Japan.

Such widespread sluggish demand — along with ample supplies of oil and most everything else — is the reason commodity prices are falling. They have been since early 2011, but many people failed to notice until recently, when crude oil prices nosedived.

Normally, less demand and a supply glut would lead the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, beginning with Saudi Arabia, to cut production. As the de facto cartel leader, the Saudis would often reduce output to prevent supply increases from driving down prices.

Of course, this also cost the Saudis market share and encouraged cheating by OPEC members. Saudi leaders must grind their teeth over the last decade’s unchanged demand for OPEC oil, while all the global growth has been among non-OPEC suppliers, principally in North America.

The Fools In Chesapeake ( CHK)

Yesterday Chesapeake announced it would spend a billion dollars on stock buy backs – this is foolishness bordering on gross mismanagement – like the captain of the Titanic rearranging the deck chairs. Companies must husband their funds – the best will survive and cherry pick assets from corpses – to mix as many metaphors as I can.

No Glory for Prophets

My best call in 2014 was to reverse on Quicksilver ( KWK) and sell out at $ 2.50 – it is now down a further 90 % to pennies.Many more companies will follow – don’t hold on for a recovery. That sell call earned me the most email – all negative- for the year and no thanks from investors.

The millions of dollars – per well – now at work -have to complete their drilling and this will bring on additional natural gas supplies in the U.S. that in turn will pressure oil prices well into 2015. LNG exports from the U.S. ( starting in about 12 months by Cheniere at the gulf coast in the U.S. ( and projects in Australia) will pressure international prices and also depress oil.

Planned Australian LNG projects threatened by energy price crash

Woodside's Pluto LNG Loading jetty, Pluto LNG onshore gas plant.

Handout/ WoodsideWoodside’s Pluto LNG Loading jetty, Pluto LNG onshore gas plant.

Planned Australian liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects, including the costly Scarborough floating vessel, are at risk as sinking energy prices make investments unviable, analysts said.

A nearly 50% slump in Asian LNG prices this year has pressured any project without a Final Investment Decision (FID). Just last week, Woodside Petroleum Ltd  delayed the FID for its US$40-billion Browse floating project with Royal Dutch Shell and BP.

The next cab off that rank could be ExxonMobil and BHP Billiton’s  US$10-billion Scarborough project.

Scarborough will be “commercially challenging” to justify given a raft of competing LNG projects, said Noel Tomnay, global gas and LNG research head at Wood Mackenzie.

“China’s growing pains as well as slugs of LNG coming into the market: that’s a fairly wicked combination. It would take a very brave soul to ignore the prevailing market.”
BHP and ExxonMobil were not available for comment.

The future for other Australian LNG projects without FID is also uncertain.

GDF Suez and Santos are seeking alternatives for their Bonaparte floating project, Woodside has indefinitely delayed its Sunrise project, while Shell has yet to commit to its Arrow project where it has cut hundreds of positions.

Coal Will Continue To Contract

Coal is going to be used for the next 50 years – but high sulphur mines will close and electrical generation will rely on cheap natural gas . Stay away from trying to pick the bottom in the sector.

You Have Options:

What To Do ?

Here is our recent letter:

Managed Accounts Year End Review and Forecast

November 2014 – 40 % cash position
Gold and Precious MetalsThe largest gains for our clients came from the exit from the gold producers at $18oo an ounce and continuing until we hold no gold and no gold miners . This from the author of The Gold Investors Handbook.2015 – We continue to be on the sidelines for this sector – regardless of the gnomes of Switzerland . As a safe haven gold simply wasnot there for investors despite turmoil in the Middle East, Africa and Ukraine.How much more frightening can the prospect for peace be than to have wars in multiple locations? Secondly the spectre of inflation – on which I have given numerous talks – simply failed to materialize. In fact economists and portfolio managers such as myself are now more concerned about deflation – and the spectre is a Japanese style decades long slide in the world economy.
Shipping Sector / Bulk ShippersYou can review our stock market letter athttp://www.amp2012.com to follow our profits in the shipping sector before our retreat as overcapacity has yet to effect continued overbuiding. In 2008-9 rates-  illustrated by the Baltic Dry Index – were at their peak. The BDI hit over 10,000. Today it is roughly 10 % of that benchmark and the sector slide continues. We have an impressive watchlist of former ” darlings” – but we are content to watch and wait.
Oil/ Energy I am very happy for the call in natural gas prices – out at $12 and into oil. When oil was above $100 we lessened positions and that is our saving grace in the past two weeks. We are not bottom feeders and will wait for a turn in the market before reentering drillers or producers.On Friday November 27th, crude oil prices dropped to below $72 and the slide has continued into the weekend, with Brent crude oil at $70.15 as I write this post. Shares of major oil companies traded down on Friday. Our former energy sector holdings are down another between 4% and 11%, including SDRL, which dropped another 8% following Wednesday’s 23% plunge…

Have you avoided these sectors – you would have been better off to follow our advice in 2014 and now you have to decide for 2015.
No one – and I am not being humble here – can project the future with great accuracy but our clients continue to do very well and we offer that experience to you.

Fees : 1 % annual set up and a performance bonus of 20 % – only if we perform.

You can withdraw your funds monthly if you require an income stream.

Alternate Guaranteed Income Payments

Private client funds Minimum $10,000 Maximum Loan $500,000

Our client is seeking funds to expand their tanker fleet .

Interest 12 % compounded – paid 1% per month

Floating charge of the full $500,000 against the fleet – valued at  more than $ 1 M

 

Contact information:

To learn more about portfolio management ,asset protection, trusts ,offshore company formation and structure for your business interests (at no cost or obligation)

Email

jackabass@gmail.com OR

info@jackbassteam.com  OR

Call Jack direct at 604-858-3202

10:00 – 4:00 Monday to Friday Pacific Time ( same time zone as Los Angeles).

Similar to wise buying decisions, exiting certain underperformers at the right time helps maximize portfolio returns. Selling off losers can be difficult, but if both the share price and estimates are falling, it could be time to get rid of the security before more losses hit your portfolio.

Tax website  Http://www.youroffshoremoney.com

Shipping Sector Sinking : Capesize Rates Collapse with Coal / China Imports

“It looks like the market is going to continue being a big disappointment”

A deeper slump in earnings for ships that carry most of the world’s coal and ore cargoes would force owners to take vessels out of service, according to shipbroker RS Platou Markets AS.

Average daily earnings for Capesize ships fell to $3,735 today, the lowest in more than two years, according to data from the Baltic Exchange in London. Rates will probably remain low next year, according to Herman Hildan, shipping analyst at Platou.

“At the moment, they’re barely covering their operating costs,” Hildan said by phone today from Oslo. “It doesn’t make sense for owners to participate in fixing vessels” if rates fall further.

Signs of slowing growth in China, the world’s largest importer of thermal coal and iron ore, have caused a collapse in Capesize rates of about 90 percent this year. China’s economy will expand by 7 percent next year, the slowest growth in a quarter century, according to economist forecasts in a Bloomberg survey. Customs data showed a slump in ore imports in November.

Hildan’s own estimates show Capesize vessels are currently earning $6,900 a day on average. Shippers would begin taking their vessels out of service when the daily rate falls below $5,000, he said.

The rate for the vessels, which can carry as much as 160,000 metric tons of iron ore, has averaged $13,923 in 2014, according to Baltic Exchange data. Analysts were expecting daily earnings of $18,500, according the median of estimates gathered by Bloomberg in January.

“It looks like the market is going to continue being a big disappointment” in 2015, Hildan said.

It is human nature to look for bargains – and destroy your portfolio as you gather losers into what used to be a ” nest” egg.

Look at Seeking Alpha and count the ” analysts” saying Dryships ( DRYS) is going to turn – how none forecast the sub dollar level it now enjoys.

What To Do ?

Here is our recent letter(the section on shipping)

Managed Accounts Year End Review and Forecast

Shipping Sector / Bulk ShippersYou can review our stock market letter at http://www.amp2012.com to follow our profits in the shipping sector before our retreat as overcapacity has yet to effect continued overbuiding. In 2008-9 rates-  illustrated by the Baltic Dry Index – were at their peak. The BDI hit over 10,000. Today it is roughly 10 % of that benchmark and the sector slide continues. We have an impressive watchlist of former ” darlings” – but we are content to watch and wait.

Have you avoided these sectors – you would have been better off to follow our advice in 2014 and now you have to decide for 2015.
No one – and I am not being humble here – can project the future with great accuracy but our clients continue to do very well and we offer that experience to you.

Fees : 1 % annual set up and a performance bonus of 20 % – only if we perform.

You can withdraw your funds monthly if you require an income stream.

Alternate Guaranteed Income Payments

Private client funds Minimum $10,000 Maximum Loan $500,000

Our client is seeking funds to expand their tanker fleet .

Interest 12 % compounded – paid 1% per month

Floating charge of the full $500,000 against the fleet – valued at  more than $ 1 M

Contact information:

To learn more about portfolio management ,asset protection, trusts ,offshore company formation and structure for your business interests (at no cost or obligation)

Email

jackabass@gmail.com OR

info@jackbassteam.com  OR

Call Jack direct at 604-858-3202

10:00 – 4:00 Monday to Friday Pacific Time ( same time zone as Los Angeles).

Similar to wise buying decisions, exiting certain underperformers at the right time helps maximize portfolio returns. Selling off losers can be difficult, but if both the share price and estimates are falling, it could be time to get rid of the security before more losses hit your portfolio.

Tax website  Http://www.youroffshoremoney.com

 

Lor Loewen's photo.