Bearish momentum may return but strategic buying is starting to kick in

EUA price action: The seeds of the rally may have come from Red Sea troubles, higher freight rates and higher ARA coal prices. Add in record short positioning in EUAs, nat gas being cheap relative to oil in Asia, participants in the EU ETS purchasing EUAs strategically, rising temperature adj. nat gas demand in Europe (though absolute demand still very, very weak due to warm weather) and lastly a weather forecast pointing to more normal temperatures in North West Europe. And ”Bob’s your uncle”, the EUA Dec-24 price rallied 10.8% from EUR 52.2/ton on Feb 26 to EUR 57.84/ton ydy.

Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB

It is normal with short-covering rallies in bear markets. What puzzled us a little was the involvement of coal prices in the rally together with nat gas and EUAs. Did the upturn in coal prices come from the Chinese market with participants there maybe sniffing out some kind of imminent, large government stimulus package and front-running the market?  No. There has been no rally in iron ore and the upturn in coal prices in Asia have been lagging the upturn in ARA coal prices.

Did the rally come from the Utility side in Europe where Utilities jumped in and bought Coal, Gas and EUAs and selling power against it? Probably not because forward fossil power margins are still very negative.

The most plausible explanation for the upturn in coal prices is thus Red Sea troubles, higher dry freight rates and higher ARA coal prices as a result. ARA coal prices bottomed out on 14 Feb and then started to move higher. The Baltic dry index started to rally already in mid-January. This may have been the seeds which a little later helped to ignite the short-covering rally in nat gas and EUAs. Add in a) Record short positioning in EUA contracts by investment funds with need for short-covering as EUA prices headed higher, b) Japanese LNG trading at only 58% versus Brent crude vs. a 2015-19 average of 73% thus nat gas was cheap vs. oil, c) Participants in the EU ETS starting to buy EUAs strategically because the price was close to EUR 50/ton, d) Gradually improving nat gas demand in Europe in temperature adjusted terms though actual.

Mixed price action this morning. Bearish momentum may return but strategic buying is kicking in. Today the EUA price is falling back a little (-0.3%) along with mixed direction in nat gas prices. The coal-to-gas differential (C-t-G diff) for the front-year 2025 still looks like it is residing at around EUR 47/ton and lower for 2026 and 2027. We expect C-t-G diffs to work as attractors to the EUA price from the power market dynamics side of the equation. Thus if nat gas prices now stabilizes at current levels we should still see bearish pressure on EUAs return towards these C-t-G diff levels. The forward hedging incentive index for power utilities in Germany is still deeply negative with no incentive to lock in forward margins as these largely are negative. Thus no normal purchasing of EUAs for hedging of power margin purposes.

That said however. We do see increasing interest from corporate clients to pick up EUAs for longer-term use and strategic positioning and that will likely be a counter to current bearish power market drivers. Even utilities will likely step in a make strategic purchases of EUAs. Especially those with coal assets. Irrespective of current forward power margins. An EUA price below EUR 60/ton is cheap in our view versus a medium-term outlook 2026/27 north of EUR 100/ton and we are not alone holding the view.

The Baltic dry index (blue) bottomed in mid-Jan and rallied on Red Sea issues. European coal, ARA 1mth coal price (white) bottomed on 14 Feb and then rallied. 

Source: Blbrg graph and data

ARA 1mth coal price in orange starting to move higher from 14 Feb. EUA Dec-24 price bottomed for now on 26 Feb

Source: Blbrg graph, SEB highlights

Net speculative positioning in EUAs by financial players. Record short

Source: Blbrg graph and data

Price of Japanese LNG vs price of TTF nat gas as a spread in EUR/MWh. Rising price of Japanese LNG vs. TTF. But this could be coming from changes in LNG freight rates

Source: SEB graph and calculations

Price of Japanese LNG vs. Brent crude traded all the way down to 58% making it cheap in relative terms to oil.

Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg data

The German forward hedging incentive index just getting more and more negative

Source: SEB calculations and graph

Forward EUA prices in green (today’s prices) and the EUA balancing price for Coal power vs Gas power in lilac. The latter is calculated with today’s nat gas prices and closing prices for ARA coal from ydy. In a medium-tight EUA market the Coal-to-Gas differential in lilac will typically be an ”attractor” for the EUA price in terms of power market dynamics.

Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg data

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