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SPI Management Newsletter 15.09.23

ECB Hikes Interest Rate to All-Time High, Indicates Possible Pause

The European Central Bank (ECB) has increased its deposit rate to 4%, marking the 10th consecutive hike but suggesting that rates may have reached their peak. The decision led to a decline in the euro's value and bond yields, while boosting European stock indices. ECB President Christine Lagarde hinted that this could be the final rate hike unless new economic data indicates a need for further increases. This view has made investors reconsider future ECB rate hikes, causing the euro to depreciate and bond yields to fall. Even though the eurozone has higher inflation and weaker economic growth compared to the U.S., analysts from Pictet Wealth Management believe that the ECB is likely done with rate hikes for now.

Major central banks like the Federal Reserve are also contemplating halting their historic interest- rate increases, due to global economic uncertainties. Current market expectations suggest that rates will plateau and even start declining by next spring. Investor opinions before the ECB decision were mixed, reflecting uncertainty about how past rate hikes and economic slowdown would affect inflation in the eurozone, which has remained at 5.3%.

Despite a majority agreement among ECB officials to raise the rate, Lagarde indicated that some governors preferred to hold rates steady. New ECB data suggests a more severe slowdown in eurozone growth than previously expected, while inflation is predicted to remain well above the 2% target.

Concluding, while Lagarde didn't specifically mention future rate cuts, the central bank is wary of acting too quickly to reduce rates, as this could risk reigniting inflation. The effectiveness of recent rate increases in controlling inflation remains a concern.

Uranium Prices Reach 12-Year Peak Amid Renewed Interest in Nuclear Energy

Uranium prices have reached a level not seen in over a decade, hitting a 12-year high and underlining a growing global shift back to nuclear energy. The commodity has experienced a 12% price increase in the past month, rising to $65.50 per pound. This peak surpasses last year's highs and is the most expensive uranium has been since 2011, according to data from UxC, a pricing data provider.

This surge in uranium prices comes as nations from Washington to Seoul and Paris are showing renewed interest in nuclear energy. Governments are extending the operational life of their existing nuclear reactors and even contemplating the construction of new ones. This uptick in demand is in part a reaction to the rising gas prices.

The increased cost of uranium is a significant milestone for the nuclear power industry. It represents its renewed importance as a critical, carbon-free source of baseload electricity, especially as the world grapples with the challenges of climate change. This resurgence is a dramatic turn from a decade ago when the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan led to a global pullback in uranium demand and a halt in new mining projects.

Several factors have conspired to push uranium prices upward. A recent coup in Niger, which accounts for approximately 4% of global uranium production, has added fuel to the fire. Operational issues at Cameco, one of the world’s leading uranium producers, have also contributed to this trend. Last week, Orano, France’s state-owned nuclear company, announced that supply shortages have forced it to advance its maintenance schedules. The World Nuclear Association recently updated its forecasts, suggesting that more than 140 existing nuclear reactors could have their operational lives extended, and 35 gigawatt-hours of small modular reactors could be developed by 2040. Industry experts are making bold predictions for the future of uranium. Some anticipate that the price could surge to as high as $200 per pound by 2025, given the current imbalance between supply and demand, exacerbated by geopolitical tensions. The renewed interest in nuclear power, driven by both a push for energy security and clean energy initiatives, signals a significant shift in the global energy landscape.


Adapted from WSJ, FT, NYT, Reuters, CNBC, Bloomberg, Mining.com

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