Archive for the ‘Oil’ Category

There should be no doubt that greed makes people do funny things.

Take investing in oil.

Sure, there’s a lot of companies that truly want to buy oil.  To create gas.  Asphalt.  Lubricants, paint thinners, and dry-cleaning solvents.  Charcoal briquettes.  Wax birthday candles and crayons.  Polyester shirts.  Plastic drinking cups, toothbrushes, and hair combs.  And so on.

But there are also a lot of people that simply want to trade in oil… without never, ever taking delivery of oil.

These traders have played a rather interesting game.  They buy oil contracts.  But these contracts actually oblige them to take delivery of oil, because, after all, that’s what they’re buying.

But remember they never, ever really want to take delivery of oil… I mean, where are they going to put it, in their swimming pool?

So the plan is always to sell the contracts before having to take delivery.

That’s the way it’s worked for a long time.

Until this week.

Hoping for a last minute Hail Mary (i.e., something that would spike the price of oil higher), it looks like a group of oil contract holders held on to their contracts a bit too long.

Normally this isn’t a problem.  There’s always a buyer at the right price, right?

Not if there isn’t readily available storage for that purchased oil!

And that’s what happened this week.  There was no readily available storage… which caught a group of traders with their proverbial pants down.  Faced with the prospect of actually having to fill their swimming pools with black oil, these traders literally had to pay companies to take it off their hands.

And, thus, we saw the first NEGATIVE oil prices ever.

It didn’t last long.  And it wasn’t for that many contracts.  But it was a spectacular flame-out… an absolute spectacle to watch.

The lesson?  If you’re an oil trader and there isn’t any oil storage, DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE TO GET RID OF YOUR CONTRACTS.

And, except for a few isolated cases, chances are most oil traders won’t come anywhere close to doing that again.

Duh, right?

But, you never know.  :)

Anyone that reads this blog knows I root for oil to go down, down, down… because, while that doesn’t benefit an outdated oil industry, it does benefit every other person on the planet… and, oh by the way, it benefits the planet, too.

The facts all virtually guarantee oil will keep driving lower… because of lack of demand (remember the world has shut down!)… because of geopolitical bickering… and because — go figure — the world is really, truly almost out of oil storage.

Ha, those are some pretty great facts!

So why would anyone take a flyer on oil going up now, with oil trading in the low teens?

Because that’s what contrarians do… the opposite from what everyone else thinks.

Case in point:  After oil getting absolutely crushed over the last few days, it had a rather big pop today.

So oil can go up, if no other reason than a dead-cat bounce.

Or, let’s say there’s a threat of war… like what may have happened this morning given Trump told the military to shoot at any harassing Iranian gunboats they want.  Military disruption like that tends to spike oil prices.

Or, let’s say Trump just can’t help himself and he starts levying tariffs on foreign oil.  The U.S. is (sadly) the world’s biggest consumer — by a wide margin — so tariffs would mean the price of oil would be artificially raised in a rather meaningful way.

Or, let’s say that the world gets unbelievably creative and somehow finds a lot more storage space… like old train storage containers… or old storage silos or such… because it’s the lack of storage space that caused the extreme oil pricing mania yesterday.  (“What do you mean I have to keep all the oil in my swimming pool?!”)

Or, let’s say of the 70 vaccines in testing right now, one of them makes it to the finish line relatively soon.  The real possibility of the world reopening for business would also cause oil to spike.

Or, let’s say OPEC decides that their 9.7m barrels a day cut from a week or two ago was completely and utterly insufficient… and so they call another “emergency” session and cut oil by 30, no, 40 MILLION barrels a day… way more than anyone would expect… because they know the time for horse-shitting around is over.  That would send oil prices skyrocketing.

And, let’s say Trump can’t stand being out of the spotlight for more than 12 seconds and he politically forces the Saudis and Russians to cut supply… by offering guaranteed cuts from U.S. producers (something that was left off the table the last time OPEC got together).  With oil at perceived negative prices, he just might have the go-ahead to make that type of commitment.

Note that nothing above is, “when aliens invade the planet” crazy.

So, call it contrarian or whatever, but I just don’t trust that something, ANYTHING won’t happen to interrupt the greatest “fuck oil!” party ever.

Sadly.

Dow is a hair away from 24,000 as I write this.  Nasdaq a shade over 8,500.  We’re back to being closer to the top than the recent bottom.

Today’s action felt like it’s really, truly going to be a V-shaped recovery… that we should be back at our old highs in no time at all.

But… b-e-w-a-r-e.

Because it was just a few weeks ago that it felt like the crashing would really, truly never end.

And that’s what happens during a crisis… the mania swings in both directions.

Don’t get me wrong:  We have a lot going for us in this crash.  Oil is really low… and that’s my #1 requirement for an advancing economy.  Companies headed into this crisis with a lot more going for them, too (i.e., real growth, real revenues, and real profits).  And lots of technology companies are going to absolutely thrive in this crisis, for example, Amazon, Netflix, DoorDash… anything to do with the cloud… and so on.

And, critically, the government has backstopped everything with TRILLIONS in bailout money.  (“Oh, yeah, that.”)

But let’s call a few spades spades here:  THE ENTIRE WORLD JUST STOPPED!  That’s going to affect many, many more companies than will benefit.  Stocks ran up waaay too much before the crash, too, so even without a crash, they needed a 10-20% correction just to whack them back in line.  And — most significantly — no one really knows when we go back to normal.

This last point is the key.

This V-shaped rally — where stocks go straight down, then go straight back up, forming a “V” pattern — is almost entirely predicated on us getting back to normal soon.

As in, investors already know this quarter is going to be a disaster, but they think they might have the next one in the bag.

But what about the next quarter?

If I’m the CEO or CFO responsible for offering public company forward guidance… in this environment… there’s no way I’m touching that with a 10-foot pole.  That’s a guaranteed lawsuit just waiting to happen.

So, unless I’m one of the handful of companies that are crushing it during this crisis, there’s no way I’m going to be even the slightest bit optimistic about the future.  Because everything is uncertain.  How long this will last.  What the 2nd wave looks like.  Or the 3rd.  Or if people really are developing immunity.  And so on.

So I either give the biggest low-ball guidance in history — or what is happening more and more — I simply refuse to offer any forward guidance.

That’s when the next shoe drops.

When analysts and investors see this negativity… then try to understand this negativity… then realize they’re now really, truly flying blind… that’s when the rug gets pulled out from under them…

… and the market, too.

Because that’s not going to feel like “soon.”  That will, for a period, feel just like FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).

It’s inevitable.

Because mania is inevitable.

Oil — really the cost of a unit of energy — affects the cost of EVERYTHING on the planet.

Which means that when oil prices go up, that FINANCIALLY HURTS everyone on the planet…

… including EVERY AMERICAN.

So why is Trump actively trying to drive oil prices higher?  In fact, why do all American presidents feel the need to do this?

I know people will say, “to protect America’s oil producers” … and so that we’re not strategically dependent on foreign oil.

Hogwash.

The way to do this is NOT to artificially raise set prices.  It’s to innovate.

Either we figure out a way to extract oil less expensively…

… or we figure out economically viable energy alternatives…

… say a conversion to natural gas, where we have a 100-year supply… or, electric cars… or solar-driven residential and commercial buildings.

And so on.

Anything but charging Americans MORE, which means we just end up FUNDING THE VERY PEOPLE THAT WANT TO DO US HARM MORE.

Sorry, energy industry.  Innovate or die.  Just like every other industry has had to do.  But don’t drag the rest of the country down with you.

Unless you’re short — and other than the great St. Patrick’s Day holiday where we all get to be green — not many silverlinings these days.

Except one big one:  The planet Earth is happier.

Maybe shutting down everything will give the planet a chance to breathe again?

After all, in terms of our stewardship of Earth, we’ve all acting like kindergarteners…

… so it’s fitting that the solution to climate change might very well be a global time out! 

Everyone is weighing in on Coronavirus prognostications.

I will try to keep mine to just the ones I feel are fairly unique.

My theme?  We couldn’t be better prepared for exactly the crisis we’re going to be going through.

*  This isn’t like the last two great crashes.

The 2001 “Dotcom Crash” was based on massive valuations with zero profits — and in many cases, zero revenues.

The 2008 “Great Recession” crash was based on artificially pumped up real estate prices, not real productivity gains.  (It was also exacerbated by skyrocketing oil prices, due to political, not fundamental, issues… and had twice the unemployment we have now.)

Whatever we’re calling 2020 — The Corona Crash? — we’re starting with real businesses, with real revenue growth, making real profits, involved in real productivity gains, historically low unemployment, and extraordinarily low oil prices.

In other words, we’re already starting with a much stronger hand.

*  Ironically, many of the productivity gains of the last decade involve remote technologies, i.e., letting employees work from home, ordering pretty much anything online, and, as important, socializing from a far.

So, in many ways, the last decade or two has been great practice for this exact situation:  Remote working, remote living, and social distancing.

*  Not only are the remote technologies in place, but the entire millennial generation prefers to socially distance.

Half the time millennials have their heads buried in their phones — even when they’re sitting right next to each other.  So do you really think they care whether they’re in the same room or a different state?  Not at all.

*  While older generations panic about bailouts and handouts and such, the entire millennial generation knows nothing but bailouts and handouts.

So do millennials think we’re in a crisis?  Absolutely not.  Feels pretty normal to them, like it’s just something we go through every once in a while.  What’s the fuss?

*  And finally:  The market needed to be popped.  Markets aren’t supposed to go straight up, like they did almost the entire month of February.

So we’re down 20%?  I can easily make the case we were 30% overvalued.  Because markets aren’t supposed to go straight up.

I’m not saying it’s not going to be rough, but I am saying we seem to be particularly prepared for this crisis.  It’s like a lot of what we need to do is already done.

We’ll see.

There’s a lot of noise in the market.

But there’s usually a lot of noise.

By definition — at any point in time — 50% of people think there’s enough bad in the market to sell their shares to the other 50% who thinks there’s good.

Can’t have a market otherwise.  That’s why I always scoff when someone refers to “easy” trading periods.  It’s never easy.

What helps guide you through the noise is whether your fundamental investment thesis is still intact.

Is mine?  I think the two biggest drivers of corporate profits — which drive the market — are the price of oil and interest rates.  Let’s see where they stand:

* While oil took a little run to the upside, I wouldn’t call it misbehaving.  In fact, it’s shed much of its 2018 gain

* Interest rates are spooking everyone… but 10-year is sneaking back down… and Trump’s on fire about the Fed messing things up — so much so that a few Fed governors have had to reiterate that they won’t, uhm, mess things up (i.e., “will still be accommodative for quite a while”)

* Sentiment is negative.  While that’s not comfortable, as a contrarian I prefer this

So, for me, at least right now, the noise is… just noise… and what we’re seeing is some healthy “letting some air out of the balloon”… which we like… so it doesn’t pop.

 

P.S.  A great example of “noise” was Caterpillar earnings.  They beat top & bottom line.  But everyone was fretting about China and tariffs… and the stock got pounded… even though if you read their commentary, you find CAT itself wasn’t so worried about the effect of China or tariffs on its business.  Here’s some commentary from their 10/23/18 earnings call:

* CATERPILLAR SAYS FEEL GOOD ABOUT EQUIPMENT DEMAND IN CHINA NEXT YEAR

* CATERPILLAR SAYS EXPECT BUSINESS TO CONTINUE TO IMPROVE IN 2019 VERSUS 2018

* CATERPILLAR SAYS CONTINUE TO EXPECT INDUSTRY SALES IN CHINA FOR 10-TON-AND-ABOVE EXCAVATORS TO BE UP ABOUT 40 PERCENT FOR THE FULL YEAR

* CATERPILLAR SAYS EXPECT IMPACT OF 25 PERCENT IMPORT TARIFF ON ADDITIONAL $200 BILLION CHINESE GOODS TO BE ‘QUITE MINOR’

These are all good things, right?!

For some reason, I thought shale was invincible… that is, a technology-enabled, found source of additional oil for many decades into the future.

But I just read a ZeroHedge piece — The Shale ‘Miracle’ & The Reality-Optional World Of Bizarro Finance — and apparently shale isn’t going to be the grand savior after all.

The two original big shale plays, the Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in south Texas, have now apparently peaked and the baton has passed to the Permian Basin in west Texas. If the first two bonanzas were characteristic of shale, we can look forward not very far into the future when the Permian also craps out. There are only so many “sweet spots” in these plays.

The unfortunate part of the story is that the shale oil miracle only made this country more delusional at a moment in history when we really can’t afford to believe in fairy tales.

Let’s not give up on renewables quite yet!

 

I kinda grew up with Ron Insana, back when he was a news anchor with FNN (Financial News Network)… that eventually become CNBC.  My wife (girlfriend at the time) often remarked that he was our morning alarm clock.

He wrote an editorial today about Trump and pollution and the Paris Treaty that I think is spot on.

It’s short and worth reading, but there’s one point he makes that I often use myself:

Ron said it like this:

I am not a “tree hugger.” I don’t have the necessary scientific background to claim expertise in this area. I don’t know if the changes we are seeing are the result of natural cycles that occur in geologic time, or if they are governed by solar cycles, or are, as many worry, anthropogenic (caused by humans).

To me, it doesn’t really matter. It seems obvious that whatever the reason, we, as humans, should act responsibly when it comes to the care and cleaning of our habitat.

Bravo, Ron.

I like to say it like this:  I don’t care if global warming is real or not… who the hell wants to live in smog-infested cities like LA and Beijing?

It scares me that OPEC is so quiet.

OPEC countries usually love to grab the spotlight during big meetings (and the media loves to shine the spotlight on anyone that looks anywhere close to being an oil minister!).

That’s not happening for the big confab tomorrow, though… where everyone universally believes OPEC will extend their production cuts.  After all, the leading OPEC members said as much in a press conference on Monday.

Quiet is a bad sign… as is the Middle East unanimously agreeing on anything.

Could there be some hugely negative surprise tomorrow?

There have been little chirps here and there about Iran (the #2 player in OPEC) not wanting production cuts to apply to them…

… but nothing disruptive.  Indeed, everything seems civilized… which is a word not many would associate with the players involved.

Unbelievably, I think there’s a really good reason why OPEC may be in agreement:  The production cuts seem to be working.

Crude oil is trading about 15% higher than before the production agreement was announced last Nov.  Maybe more significantly, it dramatically changed the trend line.  Before the announcement oil was spiraling downward, everyone (there’s that “universally” thing again) was sure it would soon be trading in the 30’s.  OPEC’s agreement seemed to single-handedly stop the decline in its tracks…

… and there in lies the major motivation for cooperation:  Oil in the 50’s is a lot better than oil in the 30’s.

Guess we’ll see how it plays out in the next 24 hours or so.

 

OPEC Games?

Posted: May 22, 2017 in Business, Farros, Oil, OPEC, Royal
Tags: , , , ,

To say the oil market is sensitive to news coming out of the Middle East is an understatement.

In November I wrote, “If I Were A Bad (Oil) Guy“… essentially wondering if countries in the Middle East might be jerking oil markets around on purpose to earn a little side money.

Guess we’ll find out this week… there’s another very big meeting on Thursday… and while everything seems quite hunky-dory right now… it will be interesting to see if anyone tries to upset the oil cart this week.

Stay tuned.

P.S.  It’s quite possible that something like this already happened… UWT (which tracks crude oil 3x) was trading just under 23 about a month ago… about two weeks ago it his just above 13.50… that’s a pretty sizable drop in such a short period of time.

UWTI and DWTI are wildly popular 3x ETF’s that track WTI oil.

That means they approximate three times the daily move by WTI oil… and there’s a lot of daily volume so there are no weird trading patterns.

WTI was up about 0.33% today, which means UWTI should have been up about 1% today… and DWTI should have been down about 1%.

But, UWTI was up about 5.5%… while DWTI was down about 5.5%.

That makes no sense.  I’ve tracked these ETFs daily for years and I’ve never seen this.

There are some extracurriculars going on here, most notably it was announced yesterday that Credit Suisse AG is going to shut down the wildly popular UWTI and DWTI ETFs.  I don’t think this affected price because if it did, it would have had an equally negative impact on both.   Instead, both issues had completely mirrored performance today, just as you would expect — only, the mirrored performance was off by almost 6x!

Also, it could have been some kind of rumor out of the “practice” meeting at Doha, but, if that were the case, that would have affected WTI price first, which it did not… WTI was relatively calm today.

I’m trying to figure out whether this is one of those rare times when some kind of inefficiency affected price.  If that’s true, you would expect a snap back rather suddenly on Monday, possibly an interesting trading opportunity.  Problem with that thinking is these ETFs trade in such high volume, that kind of inefficiency is almost impossible.

This one certainly has me scratching my head.

The great historical fiction writer Leon Uris characterized in The Haj how difficult it was to negotiate with the Middle East… I roughly remember the language he used:  “Do you know how hard it is to negotiate with horse-traders that have been negotiating for 1,500 years?”

That’s not a direct quote… just something I read a long time ago that made an impression on me.

It’s also what I’ve observed when it comes to the Middle East.

Sometimes I wonder — since oil is incredibly sensitive to any comments coming out of Saudi Arabia — and since the Saudis clearly have a cash flow problem these days — whether they’re speculating on the side.

In my experience, almost all professions do it… it’s said that an honest bartender only steals 10% of the evening’s take… and that’s why we have insider trading laws and regulators.

I can only imagine how ineffective any kind of laws and/or regulators are in an area of the world as wild, wild west as the Middle East.

If I was a bad oil guy and wanted to make a chunk of cash speculating in oil in the next few weeks, I would have a “practice” meeting and leak that it was an utter failure.  That would send oil plummeting.  Then, miraculously, at the final meeting, I would triumphantly declare success, grabbing victory straight from the jaws of defeat… and, of course, sending oil soaring.

Even though people would eventually unravel the terms of the deal and find that it was mostly hype over substance…

… as a bad oil guy, short term I would still win on both ends of that horse trade.

Just sayin’.

(Note:  The “practice” meeting is in Doha, Qatar tomorrow… and the final meeting in Vienna, Austria on Nov 30th.  Stayed tuned.)

NOV 30 UPDATE:  Well, the timing was a bit off… they mostly waited to about a week before the meeting… but, yes, oil, which had a dramatic move downward in the last few days, is now soaring this morning on the heels of a (still unconfirmed) deal… so there may be bad oil guys in OPEC after all.  Go figure.

The setup:  Since last Friday, it seemed like a deal was completely and utterly dead.  First, it was announced the Saudis would not attend the preliminary Monday session, which was viewed as being a negative sign that the Saudis were putting their feet in the ground, including horrible “R” word rumors:  That they may be reneging on prior agreements.  

Then came the slew of press releases stating things like, “the Saudis can go pound sand, we’re not cutting!”… and “we think a freeze right now is the same thing as a cut in 2017″… and such.  

Over the weekend the head Saudi oil minister was even quoted as saying, “oil is rebalancing, anyhow, so if there’s not an agreement, everything will still be fine.”

Then came the last 24 hours where things appeared to be so bad, the Saudi oil minister even resorted to “sneaking in a side door” to avoid having to face the press and other countries.  Understand there is a lot of pomp and showing of strength (i.e., “mine’s bigger”) at these meetings so not making a formal entrance was also considered very negative.

Magically, though, an agreement — even bigger than what was expected — emerged this morning.  And now oil is soaring.

Imagine that.

 

 

 

Data is one of the things that moves the oil market these days.

Every Tuesday at 1:30pm pst we get data from the American Petroleum Institute (API).

I have found Marketwatch does a great job covering this report — which we mere mortals can’t actually get directly since we don’t pay the big bucks for a data subscription.

Yesterday Marketwatch reported a 3.65 million barrel build… compared to a 2 million barrel decline that analysts were expecting.  Relatively speaking, that’s a big miss… and would be quite bearish for oil prices.

CNBC, on the other hand, reported a 3.6 million barrel build… BUT as compared to analysts expectations of a 1.5 million barrel INCREASE.  That’s obviously a less dramatic miss.

So who’s right?

Who knows!  In this highly automated news era, it’s impossible to get in touch with any news agency to ask them to verify potentially big typos in reporting.  I’ve been trying to leave comments on the CNBC site… and am logged in correctly (since I got the “Welcome, Royal!” message)… but for some reason (maybe a bug) my comments aren’t posting.  (And, no, I don’t post a lot of comments so I haven’t been banned or anything.)

Technology is absolutely wonderful but still has a ways to go, eh?

Guess we’ll find out the true answer when the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports at 7:30am pst today.

That is, if the news agencies can get the reporting right.

UPDATE:  The EIA reported that the actual build was 5.3 million barrels… which I’m happy to say both news agencies got right… BUT, Marketwatch still is using an analyst figure of an expected decline of 2 million barrels… while CNBC is still using an analysts figure of a 1.5 million barrel increase.  Ugh!  Go figure.

OPEC just announced some “kinda” agreement about production levels and freeze.

Oil just skyrocketed on the potential “news” (up 5.3% @ $47.05 for the Nov ’16 contract).

Everyone has been waiting for this moment… a signal from OPEC that the strategy it’s employed the last few years is changing.

Everyone — 100% of all analysts — have come out saying this will put a floor under oil prices now.

The contrarian in me says when everyone thinks one way, the opposite usually happens.

What could possibly go wrong?

Maybe this inspires more U.S. shale oil to be produced… that was one of the reasons oil dropped from the triple digits not so long ago.

Maybe the “cuts” aren’t real cuts, just natural scale-back given the time of year (between summer driving and winter heating)… so any temporary euphoria in the market will soon get replaced with the commonsense observation that everyone is still pumping at near-record levels.

Maybe it’s just all of the OPEC members playing games with each other — and the world — again.

Who knows, but it will be interesting to see!

 

All we’ve been hearing about is that our oil reserves are near an all-time high… which I think is a good thing… since it puts a downward pressure on the price of oil… which means we consumers pay less for everything… which means greater corporate profits… etc., etc.

The “near an all-time high” has been an important investment theme, too, since it signals a glut of oil on the market.

I just read something, though, that scares the hell out of me.

Our “all-time high” is 3 billion barrels of crude… which sounds like a lot..

… but according to CNBC it’s only one month of global consumption… ?

That’s it?  That’s our big cushion?

Yikes.

I think we’re a ways away from the bull case… but given that statistic… and unless alternative energy sources become much more prevalent… you can see how the bull case will eventually (sadly) run rampant.

Right.

Not for the faint of heart.

On days like Thursday and Friday — where the market was pounded into oblivion — it’s good to take a step back and test popular thinking.

There are two themes driving the market:  China and oil.

China

China is slowing down.  Which businesses are affected?  Certainly the infrastructure businesses.  The fall out?  The commodity free fall.  (Yet another thing pressuring oil downward.)  What about Chinese consumers?  Not so much, China is still growing at 6-7% — considered hypergrowth for just about everyone else — so obviously the Chinese working class is still benefiting.  Remembering that the ills in the Shanghai stock market only affects 1 in 10 Chinese consumers… which (I’m concluding something obvious for emphasis) leaves 9 of 10 unaffected by the volatility… and I suspect consumer spending in China probably feels like Silicon Valley restaurants during the last two stock market crashes:  Still packed.

Oil

Oil is going down, which some people think is bearish because they believe it’s an indication that the world has stopped growing.  I won’t say that’s a good thing…

… but cheaper energy prices means more money in everyone’s pocket… which means everyone can buy more things… like highly desirable iPhones and such… and that means higher corporate profits…

… which is a great thing.

So, weird to me that people are weirded out by falling oil prices… that’s something to celebrate.

BTW, falling oil prices are less a function of lessening demand and more a function of greater supply.  We’re producing more than the world needs right now, no wonder oil prices are coming down.

More Responsible At Home?

On top of all of this, U.S. consumers seem to be acting more responsibly… check a news item that seems to have slipped through the cracks on Friday:

The national average FICO score is now 695 — the highest it has been in at least a decade, according to the latest analysis from Fair Isaac Corporation, the score’s creator.

In Summary

I disagree with the major themes driving the market.

The Chinese consumer isn’t history.

Lower oil prices are good for everyone except for those in the oil business (sorry oil business!).

And, as painful as it is to say, blowing off steam isn’t the worst thing in a bull market that’s lasted as long as this one… in fact, it’s kinda healthy.

Falling oil prices give me a sense of comfort that current economic growth can continue.  Why?  Because that means the cost of everything is less, which means we can all buy more.

In contrast, everything I’m reading about oil — yet again — is negative… everyone seems to think the decline is somehow bad for the economy.

Huh?

Finally, I just read something from someone who has articulated the benefit of falling oil prices rather nicely:

Forget quantitative easing and low base rates, the REAL great global stimulus—tumbling prices in commodities and, most importantly, oil— continues and it’s hard to see what’s going to change any time soon.

This huge transfer of wealth from commodity producers to consumers has shown little sign of abating despite a brief spring rally off the lows, which are once again being challenged in products from copper to iron.

If consumers are the bulk of GNP… essentially the engine for commerce in the world… why is it so bad that we have more money in our pockets to spend?

Seems like that’s a good thing for corporate profits, too.

P.S.  Stephen Sedgwick’s article was really about, “why it might be different this time”… meaning conditions that are contributing to lower oil prices today really are different than in the past… essentially the world has a lot more production capabilities… and new sources of oil (shale)… and that in turn is driving a completely different attitude about holding on to marketshare... i.e., a real live price war.

HOWEVER, what I also love about this article is Stephen pointing out the contrarian view… that is everyone is so convinced that oil is going lower — as they were a few years back when oil was raging above $100 and everyone was absolutely convinced that it was going to keep going higher — that something is bound to happen to change everyone’s thinking.

Could be something as simple as OPEC realizing they have a scarce commodity and that it might be better to sit on the sidelines — even for a very short while?  That alone would probably increase oil prices by 20%-50% seemingly overnight.

BTW, I think we’ll have to be staring at the real possibility of a 2 handle on crude oil before anyone flinches… it really may be an incredibly high-stakes game of “chicken” after all!

Inaccurate Coupling

Posted: December 18, 2014 in Business, Farros, Oil, Royal, Uncategorized
Tags:

Oil has been dragging stocks down.  Incorrectly.  Smart people are getting confused by what to make of “supply & demand” these days… they assume there is somehow less demand and that’s signaling a global slowdown.

Rubbish.

It’s because there is more supply… which could signal the beginning of the end of the horrible, terrible, monopolistic choke-hold the Middle East has held the world in.

Not only is that good news… but that’s GREAT news.

Oil is a proxy for energy… and the cost of energy affects the cost of EVERYTHING.

So when the price of oil goes down because we have new sources of supply, a several things happen:

(1)  The cost of EVERYTHING goes down

(2)  People have more money in their pockets to save & spend… and goodness knows the world spends

(3)  More spending means more corporate profits

Think of it this way:  Instead of paying a trillion dollars a year to the Middle East… we get to keep a lot of that money to save & spend on ourselves.

How in the world can anyone think that’s bad?

UPDATE:  Maybe this whole post is moot?  Maybe the market was just worried about the Fed… because since yesterday’s dovish comments, the stock market has gone up… while oil has continued to go down… to me an appropriate uncoupling that even Gwyneth Paltrow would be proud of. <smile>

It’s my strong belief that oil’s extreme rise in 2007-2008 triggered The Great Recession (by triggering the subprime meltdown)…

     … but that oil’s extreme decline in 2008-2009 ultimately revived the economy (by putting more money in people’s pockets to save & spend).

(For more on oil and the economy, either search my blog for “oil”… or click here for something I wrote in 2009.)

Over the last few years oil scarily started rising again… back above the $100 level… which has acted as a tipping point in the past.

It did so gradually, though, i.e., didn’t misbehave… i.e., didn’t spike and didn’t cause the price of everything to crushingly spike (like it did in the period leading up to The Great Recession).  The world — including the world economy — is OK with gradual things.

But oil has been in retreat since June.

On Friday — with OPEC deciding not to cut production — oil plummeted…

… and by the end of the day was down more than 10%… to $66 a barrel, something we haven’t seen since (coincidentally) 2009.

And, expectations are that it will keep declining.

Which should be great news… unless of course you’re reading the news headlines, which is pretty much painting the decline as a disaster.

While it is tough news for the energy sector, it’s AWESOME news for 100% of everything else… because lower oil ultimately translates into (I’ll say it again) more money in people’s pockets to save & spend.

Why would the press do this?  I’m tempted to say “attention getting” (i.e., sensationalism), which I believe is partially true, but I suspect it’s also a nice contrast with the other positive news of the day… and there’s certainly news this year to be thankful on this Thanksgiving weekend.

Maybe more to the point:  Why wouldn’t OPEC cut supply, which would increase demand and therefore increase price?

Best guess is they are trying to drive oil prices down… which will make it harder to justify all the great investment going into energy alternatives… not just clean alternatives like solar and wind, but also increasing domestic oil supplies, too.

No doubt, OPEC is playing hardball with everyone in the energy business…

… which, thankfully, helps everyone else on the planet.

P.S.  Now we just have to make sure Europe doesn’t implode, Ebola doesn’t dig in, the U.S. debt ceiling doesn’t collapse, etc., etc.!

Lower Oil = More Money In People’s Pockets = Higher Economy = Better Earnings = Better Stock Market

I think that formula says it all… although, it may seem a bit odd given the absolute crushing of the market recently.

No doubt, I have my backside waving in the wind right now.

P.S.  Since the price of oil affects virtually 100% of the cost of everything, this means we’ll all have a few extra bucks in our pockets… and since consumer spending is 70% of the U.S. economy… and the U.S. economy is the commerce engine of the world… this turns out to be a very big deal indeed.