What to Expect for the Winter, the Election and the Economy3 min read
Constellation hosted our monthly Energy Market Intel Webinar on October 21st. During the broadcast, the Constellation team examined November and winter weather forecasts, potential election results and their impact on U.S. energy policy, the continued economic effects of COVID-19, and the primary energy market fundamentals leading into the winter-heating season.
Dave Ryan, Constellation’s chief meteorologist, reviewed national and regional forecasts for the upcoming month of November and the greater winter period as well. The current atmospheric condition is known as a “weak La Niña.” Weak La Niña is typically associated with a colder-than-normal month of November and then shifts to an overall warmer-than-normal winter in the eastern half of the U.S. The current 11-15 day outlook supports the start to a colder-than-normal November. It continues to be hotter and very dry in the West, and this does not portend well for what has already been a record wildfire year in that part of the country. There have been past anomalies to the La Niña model, wherein a weak La Niña has not always been followed by a warm winter, and energy buyers should be aware that forecasting weather months in advance has numerous risks.
Election 2020 Preview
David Gilbert, Vice President, Federal Government Affairs at Exelon provided an overview of the coming election. Discussion focused on the Presidential electoral map, the current state of the polls and a look at state races for the U.S. Senate. Republicans have several more Senate races up for grabs this cycle compared to the Democrats and will be challenged to hold their current majority. The amount of early voting in this election is unprecedented; Democrats hold the lead in the number of early voters, but Republicans are expected to vote in-person in greater numbers. There is some expectation that the results of the Presidential election may not be known on Election Night, as many mail-in and absentee ballots may be outstanding. David Gilbert also provided a view into the candidates’ energy policies; a Biden environmental and energy program would likely focus on the accelerated development of renewable energy, while a second Trump administration would probably continue down the path of removing regulations and allowing energy development on federal lands.
Ed Fortunato, Exelon’s chief economist, reviewed various economic indicators including employment data, retail sales, and housing starts. Continuing claims for unemployment for the month of September were about 750,000, close to what was expected, but indicating a bit of a slowdown to what has largely been a better-than expected scenario regarding the current economic recovery. Housing starts and sales of existing homes are up sharply, and retail sales continue to surprise to the upside. Unemployment currently sits at 7.8%, and more than ten million Americans are still out of work. Several states continue to struggle with reopening, and there is a surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in some states that is of concern to watchers of the economy.
The Constellation Commodities Management Group (CMG) discussed the primary energy market fundamentals as the winter-heating season approaches. Injections of natural gas into storage over the past several weeks have been below average, as some heating demand has moved into the upper Midwest while exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) have been ramping up to near pre-pandemic levels. This noted, storage inventories will be at an all-time record at the end of October. Production of natural gas has largely been flat at approximately 87 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day for the past several months, and EIA forecasts a reduction in production into April 2021. LNG exports, after having bottomed-out at 3.5 Bcf/d early this summer, have been ramping up into the fourth quarter and are near pre-COVID levels. It is forecast that LNG exports will continue to be strong through the winter season. Natural gas prices in the prompt-month and winter strips have been surging for the past month as production has flattened, exports are ramping up, and winter is approaching.
We invite you to join us for our next Energy Market Intel Webinar in 2021 where Constellation energy experts offer detailed updates related to the energy market, economy and weather, and much more each month. Register by visiting http://www.constellation.com/marketintelwebinar.