This post from The Wall Street Journal’s The Source blog provides a brief overview of the current natural gas production boom in the U.S. and why Europe is unlikely to benefit from it any time soon. In short, the infrastructure necessary to export the gas will take several years at a minimum to build out and environmental concerns are likely to keep a similar production boom from occurring in Europe. The inability to export is likely to keep domestic natural gas prices depressed for the foreseeable future. “In the U.K. last week, politicians hailed the good news as utilities cut a meager 5 percent from their customers’ sky-high gas bills. Meanwhile, in the U.S., natural gas has become so abundant and the price so low that a company in Texas was burning the stuff off as a waste product.”
• Commodities suffered last year amid global growth concerns, but investor sentiment appears to be reversing course. Speculators increased wagers on rising commodities to the highest level since November 2011 as money managers expanded combined net-long positions across 18 U.S. futures and options by 7.2 percent to 719,991 contracts in the week ended January 10, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Money flow also improved, as Cambridge, Massachusetts-based EPFR Global reported that investors put $537 million into commodity funds in the week ended January 11. It was the first inflow in four weeks and the biggest since November 23. Finally, Goldman Sachs reiterated an “overweight” recommendation on commodities over the next 12 months, predicting a 15 percent gain in the widely followed S&P GSCI Enhanced Commodity Index.
• Much of the news surrounding Europe’s sovereign debt crisis has focused on austerity measures and reducing rising debt levels. However, an equally important factor that hasn’t received as much attention is stimulating growth and investment in new technologies. Italy’s new prime minister is one of the new leaders in Europe who has been more vocal that austerity alone will not help the continent. For Europe to return to its competitive position in the world economy, it must focus as much on growth and employment as austerity.
• Goldman Sachs analysts said copper, oil and gold may rally in 2012 as economic growth in the U.S. and China offsets the impact of a European recession. They maintained a forecast for commodities to climb 15 percent. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange may gain to $9,500 per metric ton in 12 months, Brent crude may rise to $127.50 per barrel and gold may climb to $1,940 an ounce, they said.
• Economist Jim O’Neill discounts the view that China’s growth slowdown will cause a hard landing, following reports of 8.9 percent Q4 growth in China — higher than consensus expectations of 26 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. He reminds us that if China can maintain growth of at least 7.5 percent throughout this decade, it will contribute more to world growth than the U.S. and Europe combined.
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