Posts Tagged ‘Oil price’

“Sell everything” – stocks to fall by 20% and oil to $16 – says RBS

January 12, 2016

The Royal Bank of Scotland is predicting a “cataclysmic” 2016 and advising its clients to “sell everything” except high quality bonds. Stocks will collapse by 10 – 20% and oil will drop to $16/barrel. As pessimism goes this is not just “Doom” it is “Painful and Imminent Doom”. The RBS team are clearly expecting an increasing panic feeding on itself, since there are “few exit doors”. Certainly their dire scenario will itself contribute to the darkening “mood”.

For the modest investor there are few “good” options. The task for them is not so much looking for upsides but one of limiting the downsides. It is probably best to just rely on the wisdom of the Godfather. Convert to cash and “go to the mattresses”.

Keep Calm Sell Everything - Telegraph

Keep Calm Sell Everything – Telegraph

The Telegraph:

RBS has advised clients to brace for a “cataclysmic year” and a global deflationary crisis, warning that major stock markets could fall by a fifth and oil may plummet to $16 a barrel.

The bank’s credit team said markets are flashing stress alerts akin to the turbulent months before the Lehman crisis in 2008. “Sell everything except high quality bonds. This is about return of capital, not return on capital. In a crowded hall, exit doors are small,” it said in a client note.

Andrew Roberts, the bank’s credit chief, said that global trade and loans are contracting, a nasty cocktail for corporate balance sheets and equity earnings. This is particularly ominous given that global debt ratios have reached record highs.

“China has set off a major correction and it is going to snowball. Equities and credit have become very dangerous, and we have hardly even begun to retrace the ‘Goldlocks love-in’ of the last two years,” he said.

Mr Roberts expects Wall Street and European stocks to fall by 10pc to 20pc, with even an deeper slide for the FTSE 100 given its high weighting of energy and commodities companies. “London is vulnerable to a negative shock. All these people who are ‘long’ oil and mining companies thinking that the dividends are safe are going to discover that they’re not at all safe,” he said. ….

Brent oil prices will continue to slide after breaking through a key technical level at $34.40, RBS claimed, with a “bear flag” and “Fibonacci” signals pointing to a floor of $16, a level last seen after the East Asia crisis in 1999. The bank said a paralysed OPEC seems incapable of responding to a deepening slowdown in Asia, now the swing region for global oil demand.

Morgan Stanley has also slashed its oil forecast, warning that Brent could fall to $20 if the US dollar keeps rising. It argued that oil is intensely leveraged to any move in the dollar and is now playing second fiddle to currency effects.

RBS forecast that yields on 10-year German Bunds would fall time to an all-time low of 0.16pc in a flight to safety, and may break zero as deflationary forces tighten their grip. The European Central Bank’s policy rate will fall to -0.7pc.

US Treasuries will fall to rock-bottom levels in sympathy, hammering hedge funds that have shorted US bonds in a very crowded “reflation trade”. ………..

Business Insider has the RBS bullet list of concerns which are giving their bleak view of 2016:

My bullet point themes into 2016 are (remain):

  1. Bearish China
  2. Bearish global commodities (hards, softs, fluids). And more specifically . . .
  3. Bearish oil (target $26, then clear risk of $16)
  4. CBs (mostly everywhere) will ease more
  5. The world has far too much debt to be able to grow well – global output
  6. gap widens
  7. Emerging market majors (outside India & Eastern Europe) all remain sells
  8. Automation on its way to destroy 30-50% of all jobs in developed world
  9. Currency war / mercantilism

 And my new bullet point themes:

  1. Global disinflation risks turning into global deflation in 2016
  2. Everyone thinks ‘goldilocks’. We thought this strongly for >2 years (on our liquidity theme) but now worry about equities/credit, both huge, multi-year, well held positions. Negative returns in 2016 are probable, though without a recession they should be manageable, think -10-20%, rather than a rout
  3. If we see weaker ‘risk on’ products, the last safe ‘high yielder’ is the EMU periphery. Our new 0.75% 10y BTP target could prove too high a yield
  4. Risks to 0.16% new 10y bund target are on the downside, not upside
  5. Main risk comes from oil. A plunge sub $20 would aid consumption

It could be a bad year for the small investor.

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Saudi oil policy has ensured the survival of the shale oil producers

January 1, 2016

WTI Crude Oil Price. $107 in June 2104 and $37 yesterday (graphic Bloomberg).

WTI Crude oil price 2014-2015 (Bloomberg)

WTI Crude oil price 2014-2015 (Bloomberg)

In years to come the Saudi strategy through the last 2 years will form the basis of case-studies in business school about classic strategies which back-fired.

The Saudi overproduction has not managed – as they hoped – to kill off the US shale oil producers during 2015. They have reduced their costs much more sharply than the Saudi’s calculated for. They have also developed the ability to “mothball” and restart their wells at short notice. Iranian oil will come into the market in 2016 and their production costs are even lower than the Saudi cost.

Fighting for market share – while the market is down – is an expensive business. But I think the fundamental error in the Saudi strategy is believing that they will be able to retain market share when the market turns up. Not only will they have to fight off the Iranians but with an increase in demand, all the shale producers will be back. Moreover new shale producers in the UK and Asia are waiting in the wings. The Saudi attack on the shale oil producers has only made them far more competitive, very much faster than they ever expected. With the US experience to draw on, the learning curve for new producers in new countries will be that much easier and faster to traverse.

Reuters:

The U.S. shale industry, meanwhile, surprised the world again with its ability to survive rock-bottom crude prices, churning out more supply than expected, even as the sell-off in oil slashed by two-thirds the number of drilling rigs in the country from a year ago.

The United States also took a historic move in repealing a 40-year ban on U.S. crude exports to countries outside Canada, acknowledging the industry’s growth.

“You do have to tip your hat to the U.S. shale industry and their ongoing ability to drive down costs and hang in there, albeit by their fingernails,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital, an energy hedge fund in New York.

The bottom line is that Saudi oil is no longer without alternatives. That shale oil producers will disappear is a Saudi fantasy. In fact they have now helped the shale oil industry to become lean and mean enough such that their survival is guaranteed. The oil prices during 2015 were insufficiently low to drive an economic recovery but that could well come in 2016. The number of oil producers will only multiply and Saudi oil revenues will be permanently impaired.

Iran deal is done, Bibi unhappy, Greek deal done, Greeks unhappy.

July 14, 2015

Reuters and other anonymous sources are reporting that an Iran deal has been done.

Greece yesterday, Iran today, what’s for tomorrow?

Bibi is neither pleased nor amused. A “pre-emptive” strike by Israel on Iran now becomes that much more difficult. Saudi Arabia will not be too pleased either. If sanctions are  lifted and also on weapons sales by Iran then we can see the pro-Iranian factions across the Middle East getting a boost. Which will probably constrain the advance of ISIS somewhat (and whatever the Saudis might say it is private Saudi money funding the barbarians). The pro-Iranian factions in Syria and Iraq will not only get a boost, they may also be more successful on the ground than the US-led coalition.

However Saudi Arabia will not be too unhappy about the additional downward pressure on oil prices. It will be sometime before Iran can ramp up production and during this time, low-cost Saudi oil will win further market share. Though Saudi Arabia failed to wipe out shale oil from the US, it is still increasing production and contributing further to the current oil glut. Saudi seems to be pursuing a revised strategy of keeping oil prices relatively low for 2 years or more in a war of attrition against the higher-cost oil producers. Market share is perceived as their prime weapon to try and get rid of the higher-cost producers. But I think they have miscalculated even here. A discontinued shale oil well can be restarted with very little investment and at very short notice. Production costs of shale oil have decreased sharply. Shale oil developers will just ramp their production up and down depending upon the prevailing oil price. And the larger shale oil wells can make money even with oil prices down at $40/ barrel.

It isn’t quite time for vacation yet in Europe (apart from Sweden which is closed for July). Some kind of framework resolution for the whole package of the 3rd bailout needs to be passed by the Greek parliament by tomorrow. Some resistance is showing today but the resolution will surely pass. Of course that says nothing about the Greek government’s implementation of all they have signed up for. Their track record of implementing what has been solemnly promised is not good. And if the reports today that the ECB will not be pumping liquidity willy-nilly into the Greek banks are correct, then the banking system will have to start issuing IOU’s to keep functioning while the negotiations are concluded. That will effectively be an alternative currency and it won’t be long before the IOU’s start trading at a different value to par. A currency by another name than “Euro” is still a Grexit for as long as that currency is used.

But an Iran back in the international fold is undoubtedly a good thing.

Iran prepares to resist Saudi Arabia even with $25 oil price

January 19, 2015

Iran needs $72 per barrel for its budget. That Iran (along with oil shale production) is one of the targets of Saudi Arabia’s oil price strategy seems very clear. They have the lowest cost of extraction and with their accumulated reserves they could probably withstand 5 -8 years with a price lower than $50. However their strategy will be completely nullified if there is growth in demand (for example with an economic recovery in China) before they have brought the shale oil producers and Iran to their knees. The question now is how low the price can go?

Light crude price February 2015

Light crude price February 2015

The Iranians are girding their loins for a battle and are adjusting their budgets to be able to withstand a longer period with relatively low prices. Iran probably wants to avoid precipitating a further fall but I suspect that just mentioning their worst fears – in the present atmosphere – will only ensure that those fears come true. It would seem, from the almost belligerent Iranian stance, that prices will now almost certainly drop to around $25 per barrel within the next 6 -12 months.

Reuters:

Iran sees no sign of a shift within OPEC toward action to support oil prices, its oil minister said, adding its oil industry could ride out a further price slump to $25 a barrel.

The comments are a further sign that despite lobbying by Iranand Venezuela, there is little chance of collective action by the 12-member OPEC to prop up prices – entrenching the reluctance of individual members to curb their own supplies.

In remarks posted on the Iranian oil ministry’s website SHANA, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh called for increased cooperation between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. ……. 

Oil has plunged by more than half since June 2014 to below $50 a barrel on Monday, pressured by a global glut and OPEC’s refusal at its last meeting in November to cut its output. ……. 

OPEC decided against a production cut despite misgivings from non-Gulf members such as Iran and Venezuela, after top producer Saudi Arabia argued the group needed to defend market share against U.S. shale oil and other competing sources. ……… 

Zanganeh said Iran had no plans to cut its own oil production and that it had no further meetings with Saudi Arabia – Iran’s main political rival in the Gulf – since the OPEC meeting.

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said countries behind the price fall would regret their decision and warned that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait would suffer alongside Iran from the price drop.

Zanganeh said Iran’s budget should be based on oil at $72 per barrel, but Iran could withstand lower oil prices. “Even if the oil price goes down to $25 a barrel, the oil industry will not be threatened,” the Fars news agency quoted him as saying.

Oil price decline is the antibiotic for India’s inflation infection

December 15, 2014

The effects of the dramatic fall in oil prices since June is now beginning to work its way through into cost and inflation statistics. In India, where oil imports are a major burden on both costs and foreign exchange, the impact seems to be killing the persistent inflation virus. The latest government figures for November 2014 have just been released:

The annual rate of inflation, based on monthly WPI, declined to 0.0% (provisionally) for the month of November, 2014 (over November,2013) as compared to 1.77% (provisional) for the previous month and 7.52% during the corresponding month of the previous year. Build up inflation rate in the financial year so far was 0.67% compared to a build up rate of 6.70% in the corresponding period of the previous year.

The most significant contributor has been the cost of fuel:

The index for this major group declined by 5.4  percent to  199.3 (provisional) from 210.7 (provisional) for the previous month due to lower price of furnace oil (13%), high speed diesel oil (10%), aviation turbine fuel (8%), petrol (5%) and kerosene (3%).

WPI inflation has now dropped for 6 consecutive months. Retail inflation is also declining and reached a record low of 4.38% in November. The target was to get it down to 6% by January 2016 and the oil price decline has allowed this target to be met a year in advance. And this in spite of the government raising some of the taxes on fuel to protect their revenues. With industrial growth also down to 4.2% in October the calls for a cut in Reserve Bank rates are increasing.

India is one of the few countries still fighting inflation. Currently growth is running in the 5.4-5.9% range. The Reserve Bank of India is not cutting rates just yet. It will probably wait until the figures for January and February 2015 are out. But the drop in oil prices has provided welcome relief for Indian consumers – even if the inflation virus has not been eradicated.

Less than $60 – but where’s the bottom for oil price

December 12, 2014

I reckon the bottom is about 6 months away and probably less than $40 per barrel before there is some recovery. If the price does not fall that much, or if it recovers faster, then Saudi Arabia will have lost its battle against shale oil. In any event, shale oil is here to stay and all Saudi Arabia can hope for is to restrict new and small oil shale wells. Even a steep fall to around $40, held for a period of only 6 – 12 months, will not be enough to put all shale oil producers out of business and win the battle against shale oil.

oil price bottom

Saudi attack on shale oil could backfire

November 12, 2014

If the recent drop in oil price has been engineered (even in part) by Saudi Arabia as an attempt to put some of the burgeoning shale oil production sites out of business they will need to go much further. A break-even for shale oil production is probably at less than $50 per barrel. In any event the drop so far (25%+ in 6 months) is just the fillip the world economy needs. Saudi Arabia is probably not as vulnerable as other oil producing countries but increasing production to drive down the oil price is a dangerous game which could be self-defeating. Whether the current glut is just due to reduced world (read Chinese) demand and increased shale oil (US) production or has also been exacerbated by increased Saudi production, the oil consumer wins. Consumption will increase – and that will automatically reduce the glut and further increase the production of oil from shale.

If the global economy is to come out of the doldrums it needs the Asian economies – the tigers, the dragon and the elephant – to start prowling in earnest. Increasing consumption in the developing world seems to be one of the most effective ways of stimulating the world economy. It inevitably leads to increased production of consumer goods in the developed countries. And this current step-reduction of oil price could be just the trigger that is needed.

Yesterday the price of crude (WTI) was at about $77 per barrel and that price is sufficient to keep even the small shale oil wells in operation.

crude oil price Nov 2014

crude oil price Nov 2014

 

Two years of $70 oil could be the boost the global economy needs desperately

October 27, 2014

There are two questions here of course:

  1. How will oil price develop over the next 2 years? And the only certain thing is that forecasts will be wrong, and
  2. Can the net difference between the positive effect on oil consuming countries and the negative effects on oil producing countries be sufficient to lift the global ecoonmy out of its doldrums?

Oil prices have dropped 25% since June and currently WTI crude is at $81 and Brent crude is at $86 – down from around $110 – 115 in June. How far can prices drop and for how long? Of course this depends on supply and demand. But I think there is a new paradigm here and created by the injection of shale oil into the mix. I suspect that shale oil production now establishes a new floor price which means that the prices cannot drop lower than about $60 or possibly even $70. Oil from the traditional, large oil wells can still be produced profitably at much lower prices. But shale oil is more expensive to produce partly due to the costs of fracking but also due to smaller individual wells which last for shorter periods than the large oil wells. This in turn means that there is both a higher investment cost and a higher operating cost for shale oil compared to “traditional” oil. It is thought that as shale oil increases its contribution to the total mix, this production cost will set a floor for all oil at around $60-70 instead of the $30-40 needed for break-even (zero exploration) with traditional oil. The oil companies will maintain profits and dividends by scaling down jobs and their new exploration costs which is the variable they can play with . It is the oil producing countries who will lose tax revenues (offset by increased production – if any).

oil price 2710214 oil-price.net

oil price 27102014 oil-price.net

Goldman Sachs have forecast in a new research report that prices could drop to $70 by the second quarter of 2015.

Reuters 27/10: Brent crude futures fell below $86 a barrel on Monday after Goldman Sachs cut its price forecasts for the contract and for U.S. oil in the first quarter of next year by $15.

The U.S. investment bank said in a research note on Sunday that it had cut its forecast for West Texas Intermediate to $75 a barrel from $90 and that for Brent to $85 from $100, with rising production in non-OPEC countries outside North America expected to outstrip demand.

The bank expects WTI to fall as low as $70 a barrel and Brent to hit $80 in the second quarter of 2015, when it expects oversupply to be most pronounced.

Even Saudi Arabia now seems to have accepted that a regime of low prices will last  1 – 2 years.

Reuters 26/10The recent decline in global oil prices will prove temporary even if it lasts a year or so, since population growth will ultimately bring higher consumption and prices, the chief executive of Saudi Basic Industries Corp said on Sunday.

Mohamed al-Mady was speaking to reporters after the company, one of the world’s largest petrochemicals groups and the Gulf’s largest listed company, reported a 4.5 percent drop in third-quarter net income, missing analysts’ forecasts.

At these price levels for 2 years almost $3 trillion will shift from the “few” producers to the “many” consumers.  But most of this could fuel consumer growth (which it would not do to the same extent when in the hands of the oil producers). The consumer countries will also lose the foreign exchange constraints they must operate under for purchase of oil in US Dollars. It could release monies desperately needed for infrastructure projects. But the consumer countries need the prices to stay low for some time – and I would guess that 2 years is a minimum – for the public funds released to be utilised in “growth” projects.

The EconomistFor governments in consuming countries the price fall offers some budgetary breathing-room. Fuel subsidies hog scandalous amounts of money in many developing countries—20% of public spending in Indonesia and 14% in India (including fertiliser and food). Lower prices give governments the opportunity to spend the money more productively or return it to the taxpayers. This week India led the way by announcing an end to diesel subsidies. Others should follow Narendra Modi’s lead.

Producer countries will be hit. Russia has actually been helped by the fall in the rouble which has cushioned – a little – the rouble values of the dropping oil revenue.

The most vulnerable are Venezuela, Iran and Russia.

The first to crack could be Venezuela, home to the anti-American “Bolivarian revolution”, which the late Hugo Chávez tried to export around his region. Venezuela’s budget is based on oil at $120 a barrel. Even before the price fall it was struggling to pay its debts. Foreign-exchange reserves are dwindling, inflation is rampant and Venezuelans are enduring shortages of everyday goods such as flour and toilet paper.

Iran is also in a tricky position. It needs oil at about $140 a barrel to balance a profligate budget padded with the extravagant spending schemes of its former president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Sanctions designed to curb its nuclear programme make it especially vulnerable. Some claim that Sunni Saudi Arabia is conspiring with America to use the oil price to put pressure on its Shia rival. Whatever the motivation, the falling price is certainly having that effect.

Compared with these two, Russia can bide its time. A falling currency means that the rouble value of oil sales has dropped less than its dollar value, cushioning tax revenues and limiting the budget deficit.

There are a number of other effects of $70 per barrel for oil.

Bio-fuels and bio-diesel, which are fundamentally unsound, have stayed alive on the back of subsidies on the one hand and a high oil price on the other. If the prices stay at $70 for 2 years or longer, land currently being wasted on bio-fuels could revert to food production. With lower fertiliser and transport costs in addition, a great deal of pressure on food prices go away. If the floor price is set by shale oil production costs, it may be too low for oil production from tar sands to take off in any big way. Electricity production costs will be bench-marked against the cost of gas turbine combined cycle plants.

But most importantly, another 2 years or longer with the public spending pressures reduced will allow a number of other countries to get their own shale oil (and gas) production going. And that will make Opec and the oil cartel obsolete. Oil and gas price speculation will no longer be possible.

It could provide the start for a long sustained period – perhaps even a decade or two – with oil prices stable at around $70 per barrel.

Can consumer countries fuel global growth with sharply reduced oil prices?

October 20, 2014

Oil prices have “crashed”.

Currently prices are at less than $80 per barrel compared to over $110 in June and the peak of $147 just before the financial bubble burst in 2008. It seems that it is due to the oil glut brought about by the shale oil revolution in the US together with a downturn in global growth. The $147 peak was, I think, more of a trial balloon by the oil producers to test where the resistance lay and the producers concluded that a level of a little over $100 would maximise profits and was sustainable. But I suspect that this $100 level itself has contributed to delaying and prolonging the recovery. Not only because of the increased direct costs to the oil consumer but also due to its knock-on effects which have unnecessarily raised the cost to all electricity consumers. The prolongation of the path to recovery in Europe is certainly – if only partly – due to the very high energy prices that prevail. But right now it is the abundance of shale oil and gas which seems dominant.

BloombergBut the bigger factor appears to be surging global oil production, which outpaced demand last year and is shaping up to do so again in 2014. To try to keep prices high, Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest petroleum exporter, has reduced its oil production from 10 million barrels a day—a record high—in September 2013 to 9.6 million as of Sept. 30. That hasn’t done much to raise prices, mostly because other OPEC countries are pumping more crude as the Saudis try to slow down. Sharply higher production increases from Libya and Angola, along with surprisingly steady flows out of war-torn Iraq, have pushed OPEC’s total output to almost 31 million barrels a day, its highest level this year and 352,000 barrels a day higher than last September. Combined with the continued increase in U.S. oil production, the world has more than enough oil to satisfy current demand.

crude oil price history 2000-2014

crude oil price history 2000-2014

But this crash in oil prices is probably a “good thing”.

The additional revenues from increasing oil price to the few in the oil producing countries have not been sufficient to counter the hit to the many in the consuming countries. Much of the additional revenue has gone not to fuelling growth but in blowing up new real-estate bubbles.

The additional spending power in consumer countries with reducing oil price is spread among the many (at the lower end of the wealth scale) whereas the reduction in producer oil revenues is generally spread among an affluent few. My contention is that the additional revenues with high oil price in – for example –  the Middle East does not need to be spent on real things which could fuel growth. Revenues in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and other countries have fuelled bubbles and jihad instead of just growth. A great deal went instead into very high margin, weapons systems and to the imaginary values of real estate. In Russia the oil revenue did contribute to some growth but there was still a large proportion spent on imaginary values of various bubbles (which by definition cannot contribute to growth). My simple calculation tells me that 1000 people buying washing machines in China contribute more to global growth than one person spending the same amount on an apartment (his second or third home) in London. A $10 drop in oil price is said to shift 0.5% GDP growth from producer countries to consumer countries. But the pattern of consumption where the “few” fuel the bubbles of imaginary value while the “many” consume mundane goods and services means that the real effect on growth is greater than a net zero. It is shifting an ineffective 0.5% to a more efficient consumption for growth. The net effect is probably a growth in global GDP of 0.2 – 0.3%. Similarly the purchase of large-volume, low-margin goods and services provides more growth and jobs than spending the same amount on low-volume, high margin goods and services. Spending $1000 on an 80% margin Gucci handbag provides less direct growth and fewer direct jobs than buying ten $100, 10% margin travel bags.

Historically – though it is a relatively crude generalisation – low oil price has usually given – or coincided with – consumer-led growth and stability.

crude oil price history 1970-2014

crude oil price history 1970-2014

Some oil producers are more vulnerable than others to the fall in expected revenues. Russia’s budget needs an oil price of over $100 to be balanced. Venezuela spends nearly all of its revenues as it is generated and has nothing put by. The war-torn areas of the Middle East also have nothing put by. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have put by vast reserves though some of it is in “bubble” values. A pricking of some of the bubbles they have inflated is probably no bad thing. It is also no bad thing if they have to fall back on reserves and have less excess cash to fund jihadists from Afghanistan to Libya.

Most Asian countries are oil importers and gain from a low oil price.

Clarion Ledger: The picture is reversed in Asia, where most countries are major importers and some subsidize the price of fuels.

China is the second-largest oil consumer and on track to become the largest net importer of oil. Falling prices will provide China’s economy some relief, according to Huang Bingjie, professor from the School of Economics and Management at China University of Petroleum. But lower oil prices won’t fully offset the far wider effects of a slowing economy.

India imports three-quarters of its oil and analysts say falling oil prices will ease the country’s chronic current account deficit. Samiran Chakraborty, head of research in India for Standard Chartered Bank, also says the cost of India’s fuel subsidies would fall by $2.5 billion during its current fiscal year if oil prices stay low.

Japan imports nearly all of the oil it uses. Following the accident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in 2011, Japan has turned more to oil and natural gas, which is priced based on oil, to generate electric power.

The picture is a little more mixed in the Americas and Europe:

Low prices could eventually threaten the boom in oil production in such countries as the U.S., Canada, and Brazil because that oil is expensive to produce. Investors have dumped shares of energy companies in recent weeks, helping to drag global stock markets lower.

For now, lower crude oil and fuel prices are a boon for consumers. In the U.S., still the world’s biggest oil user, consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the U.S. economy, and lower energy prices give consumers more money to spend on things other than fuel.

The same is true in Europe. Christian Schulz, senior economist at Berenberg Bank, says that a 10 percent fall in oil prices would lead to a 0.1 percent increase in economic output. That’s meaningful because the 18-country currency union didn’t grow at all in the second quarter.

There could be another market crash coming though it is not likely to be as deep as the 2008 crash. But to get back onto a solid, sustainable growth path again it does need the oil consumer countries to grow. And that probably needs a steady oil price at less than $70 per barrel. The oil producer countries will have to revamp their economies to live with the loss of their monopoly as the production of oil from shale spreads.

Oil price drops as Mubarak steps down – will Saudi Arabia follow?

February 12, 2011

We are in for a period with very volatile oil prices as the Middle East enters the age of “people power”. It is quite unlikely that this wave of popular “revolt” will stop with Tunisia and Egypt. Yemen is already showing signs and Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan and the Gulf States are all regimes with a potential for revolution. Saudi Arabia is the big one though for oil price.

But the events in Egypt with no clear political leader and with no retaliatory violence to deliberate provocation are both amazing and encouraging. There is a widespread political maturity that is quite fantastic after 30 years of authoritarian rule.

The Hindu reports:

Besides Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s stepping down, the rising dollar index and rally of U.S. stocks triggered oil selling and sent the price to a 10-week low. …

… Light, sweet crude for March delivery dropped 1.15 dollars to 85.58 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest settlement since Nov. 30, 2010. The crude oil price went up and down following Egypt’s fears and joys. The commodity had experienced an approximately 6 percent price increase since the crisis began on Jan. 25. Much of that move pertained to the uncertainty surrounding the leadership of Egypt. Although Egypt is not a main oil producer, it controls the Suez Canal, which is an important transportation route for oil from the Middle East.


The short term consequences for oil price when (and it has to be “when” and not “if”) the Saudis finally dismantle the anachronistic regime they have cannot be predicted. But the long-term consequences will probably be a reduction of the base price.

The key is when. It is also amazing in this information and “spying” dominated world that the entire intelligence community had no inkling  of what was coming in Tunisia and Egypt. Information was probably available but clearly no one made the correct analysis or drew the right conclusions.


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