Prices in limbo as superstorm hits

Simon Hartley.
Simon Hartley.
Superstorm Sandy, which is lashing the United States' east coast, has left gold and oil prices in limbo and global markets factoring in the effects of insurance claims, refinery interruptions and the cost of home heating oil and petrol.

The superstorm initially overshadowed investor risk appetite for higher yielding currencies and the New Zealand dollar traded down again, falling by more than US1c on Monday, but yesterday both the kiwi and Australian dollars made slight gains, underpinned by some buoyancy in Asian markets.

While the New York Stock Exchange is expected to be closed for at least two days, global trading in oil and gold continued, with gold up barely 0.1% at $US1710 ($NZ2082).

Craigs Investment Partners broker Peter McIntyre said the New Zealand and Australian dollars were continuing to trade in a narrow but volatile range.

North Sea Brent crude oil was trading down 1.9% at $US107.53 per barrel, while West Texas intermediate was down US74c at $US85.54.

Mr McIntyre said there had been margin weakness in oil recently and highlighted it was the maintenance season for refineries at present, and he expected a recovery in the near future.

Many storm-threatened refineries in the US had cut capacity or shut down while pipeline operators were also bracing for the storm and shipping was expected to be disrupted.

US petrol and heating oil futures gained while US Treasuries also rose on Monday, as economic worries over Sandy fuelled safe-haven buying in thin trading as the storm began battering the coast, Reuters reported.

US heating oil futures gained, touching the highest level relative to US crude oil on record, as dealers hedged against the risk of power outages and flooding from Sandy which could damage refineries and shut down production for weeks.

"Markets will be watching for reports of damage to energy infrastructure, notably refineries, post-Sandy, given the state of extremely low gas and oil inventories as we move into winter season," Deutsche Bank analysts said.

In Europe, stocks, led by insurers, fell on expectations Sandy-related damage will boost claims, while political jitters in debt-laden Italy cast shadows on the euro zone, Reuters reported.

Reinsurers Swiss Re and Hannover Re led a weaker European insurance sector index as the market tried to estimate the clean-up costs of Sandy.

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