Carbon Options Signal 20% Gain as Europe Nears Record Price

(Bloomberg) -- Even after surging more than any other major commodity this year, the runaway rally in European carbon futures won’t halt any time soon, if you believe the options market and a growing chorus of analysts and traders.

The rights to pollute the atmosphere with carbon dioxide raced through 25 euros ($29) per ton and are now trading at their highest level in a decade. Option data shows that traders are making bigger and bigger bets on prices at or above 30 euros in 2019 already. That’s also the level analysts from HSBC Holdings Plc to Carbon Tracker say prices will reach next year.

Carbon Options Signal 20% Gain as Europe Nears Record Price

“Prices have skyrocketed since August and the trend might continue,” said Ingo Ramming, the head of corporate & investor solutions at Commerzbank AG in London.

The once-moribund market sparked to life this year after the European Commission finally convinced traders that the upcoming market reform will actually limit supply after several false dawns. The Market Stability Reserve, designed to automatically control the supply of allowances, starts Jan. 1 and will start to remove permits next year. Utilities, industrial polluters and airlines need the certificates to cover their greenhouse gas emissions.

Benchmark futures surged more than 23 percent in the past week and have tripled this year, outperforming Brent crude’s 16 percent gain and the 4.7 percent advance in the S&P GSCI commodities index.

Carbon hit 25 euros a ton in London on Monday after trading at less than 5 euros a little more than a year ago.

Bullish HSBC

“Carbon prices have further to rise on lower supply and could rise to the low-to-mid 30 euros,” said HSBC, who upgraded their 2019 price estimate last week to 25 euros from 14 euros. “Pricing momentum has surprised us and now seems established.”

The rally has boosted the amount of outstanding call options, or open interest, to buy benchmark carbon futures at 30 euros and above next year. Sellers of those options may have to hedge by buying carbon futures, adding further fuel to the rally.

Carbon Options Signal 20% Gain as Europe Nears Record Price

While call options at 50 euros may look far-fetched now, “they may not look so silly in a few months’ time,” said Ramming at Commerzbank. But he’s also wary that the price could plunge back to 15 euros “should the speculators decide to exit.”

HSBC’s forecast added to recent predictions of further market gains from Berenberg Bank to German utility RWE AG, Europe’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. The EU’s measures may push prices to as high as 50 euros in three years, Carbon Tracker, a climate-change research group, said last month.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.