Category Archives: Energy
The big global banks have begun to warn clients that the blistering rally in oil and industrial commodities in recent weeks has run far ahead of economic reality, raising the risk of a fresh slump in prices over the summer.
Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank have all issued reports advising investors to tread carefully as energy and base metals fall prey to unstable speculative flows in the derivatives markets.
Oil has jumped 40pc since January even as the US, China and the world economy as a whole have been sputtering, falling far short of expectations.
“Watch out: this rally may not last. The risks for a reversal in recent commodity price trends are growing,” said analysts at Barclays.
“There is a huge disconnect between the price action in physical markets where differentials are signalling over-supply and the futures markets where all looks rosy.”
Miswin Mahesh, the bank’s oil strategist, said a glut of excess oil is emerging in the mid-Atlantic, with inventories rising at a rate of 1m barrels a day. Angola and Nigeria are sitting on 80m barrels of unsold crude and excess cargoes are building up in the North Sea and the Mediterranean.
Morgan Stanley echoed the concerns, warning that speculators and financial investors have taken out a record number of “long” positions on Brent crude on the futures markets even though the world economy keeps falling short of expectations. “We have growing concerns about crude fundamentals in the second half of 2015 and 2016,” it said.
Shale producers in the US are taking advantage of the artificial surge in prices to hedge a large part of their future output, more or less guaranteeing that the US will continue to pump 10m b/d and wage a war of attrition against high-cost producers in the rest of the world.
A comparable dynamic is playing out in the copper market, where net long positions have jumped 60pc since the start of the year and helped power the longest rally in copper prices since 2005, even as industrial output grinds to a halt in China.
The warnings come as a draft report from OPEC painted a gloomy picture of energy industry, predicting that oil wouldn’t touch $100 in the next 10 years.
The mini-boom in energy and metals has taken on huge significance since it is being taken as evidence that global recovery is under way and that the dangers of a deflationary spiral have abated. Barclays said that this in turn is a key factor driving up global bond yields, and therefore in repricing the cost of global credit.
If the commodity rally is being driven by investor exuberance in the derivatives markets – rather than a genuine recovery in the world economy – it is likely to short-circuit before long and could even lead to a relapse into deflation. It is extremely difficult for central banks to navigate these choppy waters, raising the risk of a policy mistake.
Fresh data suggest that the US economy may have contracted in the first quarter, and is currently growing at a rate of just 0.8pc, below the US Federal Reserve’s stall speed indicator.
Deutsche Bank has also warned that the energy rally is showing “signs of fatigue”, with near-record inventories in the US, and little likelihood of further stimulus from central banks at this stage to keep the game going. “We see fresh downside risks to crude oil prices heading into the summer,” it said.
Durable oil rallies are typically driven by OPEC cuts but this time the cartel has boosted supply by 500,000 b/d to 31m as Saudi Arabia tries to drive marginal drillers out of business across the world.
Contrary to expectations, America’s shale producers have yet to capitulate. The rig count has fallen by more than half but output has held up longer than expected. While a few drillers have gone bankrupt, others are already signalling plans to crank up production.
Houston-based EOG said it expects to boost output in the third quarter at the Eagle Ford basin in Texas, benefiting from dramatic gains in technology that are cutting shale costs at an astonishing speed. Devon Energy has raised its growth target to 25pc to 35pc this year, having cut its production costs by a fifth in the first quarter.
Tactical stockpiling of crude oil by China and other countries has masked the scale of oversupply but oil analysts say this effect may be fading. The deep economic slowdown in resource-hungry emerging markets has snuffed out the commodity supercycle. There is little sign yet of a durable rebound.
China is still slowing as President Xi Jinping deliberately engineers a deflation of the country’s investment bubble.
A series of cuts in the reserve requirement ratio and interest rates – including a 25pc reduction over the weekend – merely offsets “passive tightening” caused by capital outflows and rising real borrowing costs.
It is not yet a return to ‘”stimulus as usual”.
Not everybody is willing to throw in the towel on crude oil.
Michael Wittner, from Societe Generale, said US output will decline in the coming months as the delayed effects of lower investment start to bite, ultimately vindicating the Saudi’s shock strategy of flooding the market.
Crude stockpiles tend to build up from March to May. This is the “window of greatest vulnerability for a crude price correction”, Mr Wittner said. That window will be closing within weeks.
Part 1 :: How This Phony CIA Agent Pulled Off a ‘Scam’ to Impose Environmental Regulations on Americans
Kevin Mooney / @KevinMooneyDC / February 10 2015
Remember the EPA bureaucrat who got caught receiving $900,000 in pay without working because he claimed he also was employed by the CIA?
According to a report from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the man, former climate policy expert John Beale, “retired” when questions arose about his spotty attendance and expense records.
Only he didn’t file his retirement paperwork and continued to draw an active-duty salary for some time after. His boss at the time in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, now-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, knew this for about seven months and did nothing to stop it.
>>> This is the first of a two-part series.
“On March 29, 2012, an OAR official raised concerns about Beale’s retirement when he informed McCarthy that Beale was still on payroll,” the report stated.
“Despite being aware of the fact that one of her subordinates was collecting a paycheck without providing any work product, this arrangement continued for seven more months before McCarthy ever contacted Beale.”
In December 2012, McCarthy met with Beale for the first time in nearly 15 months, and he informed her that he was no longer planning on retiring. Two more months passed before concerns with Beale were officially reported to the inspector general. On April 30, 2013, McCarthy had cause to fire Beale, but instead elected to allow him to voluntarily retire with full benefits.
Liz Purchia, press secretary for McCarthy, told The Daily Signal in an email: “[McCarthy] believed he was retired, and [that] was the reason he was not in the office.”
How Did He Do It?
According to the Senate report, Beale’s career at the EPA was marked by relentless dishonesty on matters large and small and a cadre of supervisors who, like McCarthy apparently in the matter of his retirement pay, enabled his self-dealing behaviors.
He claimed an injury so he could ride first-class on flights for government business, which in one case drove the ticket price from $1,000 to $14,000. He forged expense forms, claimed to be away on CIA business for 2½ years worth of work days and flew to Los Angeles and stayed in posh hotels on the EPA’s tab for family visits that had nothing to do with agency work.
Few even attempted to question Beale’s frequent absences, enormous expense reports, exorbitant salary—he retired as the agency’s highest-paid employee—and lack of accountability. He was personally popular, well-connected and believed to be among the agency’s most effective employees.
But Beale’s greatest deception has nothing to do with first-class flights and fancy hotels.
Beale, who is serving a 32-month sentence in the federal prison in Cumberland, Md., for pleading guilty to felony theft of government property, spent most of his career devising regulations under the Clean Air Act that are justified by science few have seen and no one has peer-reviewed, according to the Senate report.
“We should all question how John Beale became a senior official at the EPA and played a major role in long-lasting policy decisions while pulling off a scam I thought only Hollywood could make up,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., told The Daily Signal.
“But this egregious case helped us successfully reveal how EPA has wasted taxpayer resources and mismanagement in a manner that is far too common.”
John Beale and the Clean Air Act
Beale’s penchant for bilking the EPA out of money eroded the trust Americans place in their government and EPA employees place in their superiors and coworkers. But it was the role he played beginning in the mid-1990s in creating and implementing regulations pursuant to Clean Air Act that continues to reverberate and linger at the expense of the American people.
Staffers with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee set out last year to probe the relationship between “sue-and-settle” arrangements and evidence they had uncovered that pointed to the manipulation of scientific data.
What they discovered, as detailed in their report, titled “EPA’s Playbook Unveiled: A Story of Fraud, Deceit and Secret Science,” was how agency officials concealed and misled about the science that underpinned its most significant initiatives and silenced and marginalized their own internal watchdog offices, which enabled the agency to greatly overstate the benefits and underestimate the costs of its Clean Air Act rulemaking.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to create National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter and ozone. The American Lung Association sought to jumpstart this process with a so-called “sue-and-settle” suit filed in 1995.
The idea behind “sue-and-settle” is for friendly plaintiffs to sue a government agency, work out agreeable terms—perhaps even beforehand—and emerge with a court order to implement rules or regulations that could not have been achieved through the democratic or even regulatory process.
The American Lung Association suit resulted in a consent decree that called for the EPA to propose final standards for particulate matter by Nov. 29, 1996, and issue the standards by July 19, 1997. The decree set no deadline for ozone standards because they had been reviewed in 1993 and were not up for another review until 1998.
But Beale and Robert Brenner, his best friend and erstwhile boss, made what documents called a “policy call” and seized on the urgency to produce new particulate matter standards to rush through a new ozone standard as well.
This put the agency in the position of advancing two regulatory standards simultaneously, which it had never done. And it put the agency and those charged with reviewing such regulations, including the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, under impossible deadline pressure.
Why Beale Was Emboldened
The EPA admitted in court papers filed pursuant to the American Lung Association lawsuit that any period shorter than Dec. 1, 1998, for promulgation of the particulate matter standard “would require the EPA to reach conclusions on scientific and policy issues with enormous consequences for society before it has had an adequate opportunity to collect and evaluate pertinent scientific data” and that further time was needed to reach a “sound and scientifically supportable decision.”
Beale had no time for that. He needed an ally to move things along and found one in Carol Browner, the Al Gore acolyte and former staffer who served as administrator of the EPA through both terms of the Clinton administration. Beale formed a close relationship with her and met with her multiple times per week to discuss his progress on this.
The urgency, as well as his influence with the boss and an unwillingness of others at EPA to block him, gave Beale “the mechanism he needed to ignore opposition to the standards.”
Beale’s efforts to include ozone in the new regulations proved expensive for Americans.
The EPA estimated the cost at $2.5 billion, but its estimate was based on receiving the full benefits of cutting ozone but achieving only a partial attainment of the standards, which the law did not permit. The Council of Economic Advisers also measured the cost and found it to be $60 billion—24 times the EPA estimate.
Indeed, as was the case with him getting away with not showing up for work and submitting exorbitant expense reports, succeeding in this regulatory sleight of hand only emboldened Beale to go further.
‘Hidden and Unverified’
That first round of standards, which regulated coarse particulate matter, such as pollen and dust, became known as PM10. But Beale wanted more.
In 1997, with the backing of his superiors, he sought to engage the agency in regulating fine particulate matter—particles a fourth the size of those regulated under PM10 and too small to be visible to the human eye.
But to enact these regulations, EPA first had to produce scientific research that established these smaller particles posed a threat to humans.
To accomplish this, Beale pulled data from two controversial studies—the Harvard Six Cities Study and an American Cancer Society study known as ACSII. The data was not trusted. The air advisory committee pointed out it had not been peer-reviewed, and others indicated Beale was exaggerating the findings for his desired result.
Further undermining those studies’ credibility is that even now, 20 years later, EPA still refuses to release the data, despite McCarthy’s promise to do so during her confirmation hearings.
Though Beal is out of the picture and in prison, his rulemaking techniques he employed to advance the 1997 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and particulate matter remain firmly entrenched.
“This effort codified EPA’s now customary practice of using fine particulates (PM2.5) to inflate the benefits of nearly all regulations issued under the Clean Air Act,” the Senate report concludes. “Yet the science supporting nearly all of EPA’s alleged benefits remain hidden and unverified.”
Part 2 :: EPA Under Fire for Concealing Controversial Scientific Data, Silencing Skeptics
Kevin Mooney / @KevinMooneyDC / February 11, 2015
For more than 15 years, the Environmental Protection Agency has resisted releasing data from two key studies to the general public and members of Congress. Government regulators used those studies to craft some of the most expensive environmental rules in U.S. history.
When skeptics within the federal government questioned and challenged the integrity of the studies—the Harvard Six Cities Study and an American Cancer Society study known as ACS II—they were silenced and muzzled.
That’s when the Republican staff on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee stepped in to shine light on the situation, revealing the scope of the scandal in in a report titled, “EPA’s Playbook Unveiled: A Story of Fraud, Deceit and Secret Science.”
>>> This is the second of a two-part series. Read the first part: How This Phony CIA Agent Pulled Off a ‘Scam’ to Impose Environmental Regulations on Americans
The key player in the scandal is John Beale, who was sentenced to serve 32 months in federal prison on Dec. 18, 2013, after pleading guilty to stealing almost $900,000 from U.S. taxpayers.
It was in 1994 that Beale first began to beguile EPA employees and supervisors into believing he worked for the CIA. When he failed to report for work, Beale would enter “D.O. Oversight” on his calendar, which meant he was a director of operations responsible for covert operations at the CIA.
But it was the role Beale played beginning in the mid-1990s in creating and implementing regulations pursuant to Clean Air Act that continues to reverberate and linger at the expense of the American people.
Two Allies at the EPA
Over the past decade, evidence has emerged to reveal the Six Cities and ACS II studies did not support enacting one of the most controversial, far-reaching and expensive regulations in American history. Otherwise, the agency would have provided access to the data without a fight.
The political appointees who led the EPA at the time feared the consequences of enacting such a regulation without being able to offer scientific evidence of its necessity.
Beale needed an ally. He needed someone to explain the problems with the research and the reasons the data could not be released. Someone who could run interference with various actors in Washington. He found one in top EPA official Robert Brenner.
Brenner had recruited Beale, his former Princeton University classmate, to the EPA as a full-time employee in 1989.
Brenner, then deputy director of the EPA’s Office of Policy Analysis and Review within the Office of Air and Radiation, hired his friend despite Beale’s lack of legislative or environmental policy background. He also placed Beale in the highest pay scale for general service employees—a move typically reserved for those with extensive experience.
He then allowed Beale to collect retention bonuses, which go to only the most highly qualified employees to keep them from jumping ship—an unlikely scenario for a man who had picked apples and worked in a small-time law firm in Minnesota before joining the agency. Employees are supposed to be eligible for such bonuses—potentially worth as much as a fourth of the employee’s annual salary—for only three years, but Brenner helped Beale receive them for more than 10.
The two would work together at the EPA for 25 years—during which time the Office of Policy Analysis and Review would grow “in both scope and influence” as Beale and Brenner worked in tandem to muzzle dissenting voices within the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.
‘Beale Memo’ Details Regulatory Agenda
At the crux of their agenda—the initiative that would build their legend within the agency—was implementation of a fine particle standard regulating air pollution.
The formula had been set with the American Lung Association sue-and-settle agreement and codified in a confidential document known as the “Beale Memo,” which described how Beale pressured regulatory and clean air bodies to back off criticisms of EPA rulemaking both within the agency and in correspondence with members of Congress.
The EPA attempted to conceal this document from Sen. David Vitter’s committee investigators, but a conscientious whistleblower “turned it over surreptitiously,” the report said.
The memo outlined how Beale and Brenner would work to compress the time the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and the voluntary Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee had to review regulations so they could get away with using “secret science.”
The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee opposed from the start the move to regulate fine particulate matter. Members claimed there was no precedent or court order to establish these regulations, that research had not distinguished between dangers posed by PM 10 particles and those a fourth that size under PM 2.5, and that the PM 2.5 target was arbitrary and tied to no known science. (PM stands for particle matter, a term “for particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets,” according to EPA.)
Further, the committee, known as CASAC, complained it was being asked to do the work that took eight years on the previous air quality review in 18 months.
“The Beale memo is interesting in that it provides evidence of Beale’s direct role in ensuring concerns raised by other agencies, CASAC members and OIRA were not considered in the final rulemaking,” wrote Luke Bolar, spokesman for Vitter, in an email to The Daily Signal.
“While there were major concerns with the science and the cost-benefit analysis as outlined in comments filed on the rule, the Beale memo was written to push back against OIRA publicizing those concerns,” Bolar added. “They didn’t have to directly ‘blunt’ criticism, as Beale got his way through his close ties to Mary Nichols (then head of the Office of Air and Radiation) and Carol Browner (EPA administrator.”
Efforts to slow Beale, Brenner and their highly charged regulations failed. As a result, today the “co-benefits” of PM 2.5 are used to justify almost the entirety of the Obama administration’s air quality initiatives even though the immediate benefits still have yet to be proven.
“There is no watchdog now inside the EPA,” laments Steve Milloy, the former editor of JunkScience.com, which has posted a fact sheet that debunks the EPA’s PM 2.5 claims. “Whatever the EPA wants it gets. The agency is allowed to run rampant. There was a time when OIRA use to have stopping power, but now it’s just ignored. OIRA has become a rubber stamp.”
This is especially true of PM 2.5, Milloy says. “There is no real world evidence” PM 2.5 has caused sudden or long-term death, he said. “The claim that PM 2.5 kills people is at the heart and soul of how the EPA is selling these regulations. But it’s a claim that’s not supported by the facts or evidence. The EPA has rigged the whole process.”
Indeed, the purported co-benefits have become the benefits, according to Vitter’s report.
“Historically, EPA used co-benefits in major rules as one of several benefits quantified to justify a rule in the RIA,” the report says. “Yet, at the beginning of the Obama administration, there was a ‘trend towards almost complete reliance on PM 2.5-related health co-benefits.’ Instead of being an ancillary benefit, EPA started using PM 2.5 co-benefits as essentially the only quantified benefit for many CAA regulations.”
The Senate report claims all but five air pollution rules crafted between 2009 and 2011 listed PM 2.5.
Lack of Transparency at EPA
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set air quality standards to protect public health with an “adequate margin of safety.” In its review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, the EPA considers factors such as the nature and severity of health effects, the size of the at-risk groups affected and the science.
Several exhaustive scientific reviews prior and subsequent to the 1997 standards were conducted following open, public processes that allowed for public review and comment prior to updating the standards.
EPA press secretary Liz Purchia told The Daily Signal in an email that the process is open enough.
The National Ambient Air Quality Standards are bolstered by “sound science and legal standards,” she said, and “several exhaustive scientific reviews prior and subsequent to the 1997 standards were conducted following open, public processes that allowed for public review and comment prior to updating the standards.”
Beale’s involvement in no way undermines the rational basis for the agency’s decisions nor the integrity of the administrative process. Reducing the public’s exposure to ground-level ozone and PM protects millions of Americans from costly and dangerous illness, hospitalization, and premature death.
All that may be true, but the EPA still won’t provide the underlying data to put the matter to rest.
Vitter and his team say this is because the EPA can continue to overstate the benefits and understate the costs of federal regulations—just as Beale did in the 1990s.
“This technique has been applied over the years and burdens the American people today, as up to 80 percent of the benefits associated with all federal regulations are attributed to supposed PM 2.5 reductions,” the report states.
Tuesday, 27 January 2015 05:24 Brandon Smith
My theme for 2015 has been the assertion that this will be a year of shattered illusions; social, political, as well as economic. As I have noted in recent articles, 2014 set the stage for multiple engineered conflicts, including the false conflict between Eastern and Western financial and political powers, as well as the growing conflict between OPEC nations, shale producers, as well as conflicting notions on the security of the dollar’s petro-status and the security and stability of the European Union.
Since the derivatives and credit crisis of 2008, central banks have claimed their efforts revolve around intervention against the snowball effect of classical deflationary market trends. The REAL purpose of central bank stimulus actions, however, has been to create an illusory global financial environment in which traditional economic fundamentals are either ignored, or no longer reflect the concrete truths they are meant to convey. That is to say, the international banking cult has NO INTEREST whatsoever in saving the current system, despite the assumptions of many market analysts. They know full well that fiat printing, bond buying, and even manipulation of stocks will not change the nature of the underlying crisis.
Their only goal has been to stave off the visible effects of the crisis until a new system is ready (psychologically justified in the public consciousness) to be put into place. I wrote extensively about the admitted plan for a disastrous “economic reset” benefiting only the global elites in my article ‘The Economic End Game Explained’.
We are beginning to see the holes in the veil placed over the eyes of the general populace, most notably in the EU, where the elites are now implementing what I believe to be the final stages of the disruption of European markets.
The prevailing illusion concerning the EU is that it is a “model” for the future the globalists wish to create, and therefore, the assumption is that they would never deliberately allow the transnational union to fail. Unfortunately, people who make this argument do not seem to realize that the EU is NOT a model for the New World Order, it is in fact a mere stepping stone.
The rising propaganda argument voiced by elites in the International Monetary Fund and the Bank For International Settlements, not to mention the ECB, is not that Europe’s troubles stem from its ludicrous surrender to a faceless bureaucratic machine. Rather, the argument from the globalists is that Europe is failing because it is not “centralized enough”. Mario Draghi, head of the ECB and member of the board of directors of the BIS, tried to sell the idea that centralization solves everything in an editorial written at the beginning of this year.
“Ultimately, economic convergence among countries cannot be only an entry criterion for monetary union, or a condition that is met some of the time. It has to be a condition that is fulfilled all of the time. And for this reason, to complete monetary union we will ultimately have to deepen our political union further: to lay down its rights and obligations in a renewed institutional order.”
Make no mistake, the rhetoric that will be used by Fabian influenced media pundits and mainstream economic snake-oil salesmen in the coming months will say that the solution to EU instability as well as global instability is a single global governing body over the fiscal life of all nations and peoples. The argument will be that the economic crisis persists because we continue to cling to the “barbaric relic” of national sovereignty.
In the meantime, internationalists are protecting the legitimacy of stimulus actions and banker led policy by diverting attention away from the failure of the central planning methodology.
Mario Draghi has recently announced the institution of Europe’s own QE bond buying program, only months after Japan initiated yet another stimulus measure of its own, and only months after the Federal Reserve ended QE with the finale of the taper.
I would point out that essentially the moment the Fed finalized the taper of QE in the U.S., we immediately began to see a return of stock volatility, as well as the current plunge in oil prices. I think it should now be crystal clear to everyone where stimulus money was really going, as well as what assumptions oblivious daytraders were operating on.
The common claim today is that the QE of Japan and now the ECB are meant to take up the slack left behind in the manipulation of markets by the Fed. I disagree. As I have been saying since the announcement of the taper, stimulus measures have a shelf life, and central banks are not capable of propping up markets for much longer, even if that is their intention (which it is not). Why? Because even though market fundamentals have been obscured by a fog of manipulation, they unquestionably still apply. Real supply and demand will ALWAYS matter – they are like gravity, and we are forced to deal with them eventually.
Beyond available supply, all trade ultimately depend on two things – savings and demand. Without these two things, the economy will inevitably collapse. Central bank stimulus does not generated jobs, it does not generated available credit, it does not generated higher wages, nor does it generated ample savings. Thus, the economic crisis continues unabated and even stock markets are beginning to waver.
As demand collapses due to a lack of strong jobs and savings, it pulls down on the central bank fiat fueled rocket ship like an increase in gravity. The rocket (in this case equities markets and government debt) hits a point of terminal altitude. The banks are forced to pour in even more fiat fuel just to keep the vessel from crashing back to Earth. No matter how much fuel they create, the gravity of crashing demand increases equally in the opposite direction. In the end, the rocket will tumble and disintegrate in a spectacular explosion, filled to capacity with fuel but unable to go anywhere.
Oil markets have expressed this reality in relentless fashion the past few months. Real demand growth in oil has been stagnant for years, yet, because of stimulus, because of the real devaluation of the dollar, and because of market exuberance, prices were unrealistically high in comparison. The crash of oil is a startling sign that the exuberance is over, and something else is taking shape…
The disconnect within banker propaganda could be best summarized by Mario Draghi’s recent statements on the ECB’s new stimulus measures. When asked if he was concerned about the possibility of European QE triggering currency devaluation and hyperinflation, Draghi had this to say:
“I think the best way to answer to this is have we seen lots of inflation since the QE program started? Have we seen that? And now it’s quite a few years that we started. You know, our experience since we have these press conferences goes back to a little more than three years. In these 3 years we’ve lowered interest rates, I don’t know how many times, 4 or 5 times, 6 times maybe. And each times someone was saying, this is going to be terrible expansionary, there will be inflation. Some people voted against lowering interest rates way back at the end of November 2013. We did OMP. We did the LTROs. We did TLTROs. And somehow this runaway inflation hasn’t come yet.
So the jury is still out, but there must be a statute of limitations. Also for the people who say that there would be inflation, yes When please. Tell me, within what?”
Firstly, if you are using “official” CPI numbers in the U.S. to gauge whether or not there has been inflation, then yes, Draghi’s claim appears sound. However, if you use the traditional method (pre-1990’s) to calculate CPI rather than the new and incomplete method, inflation over the past few years has stood at around 8%-10%, and most essential goods including most food items have risen in price by 30% or more, far above the official 0%-1% numbers presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But beyond real inflation numbers I find a very humorous truth within Draghi’s rather disingenuous statement; yes, QE has not yet produced hyperinflation in the U.S. (primarily because the untold trillions in fiat created still sit idle in the coffers of international banks rather than circulating freely), however, what HAS stimulus actually accomplished if not inflation? Certainly not any semblance of economic recovery.
Look at it this way; I could also claim that if international bankers lined up on a stage at Davos and danced the funky-chicken, hyperinflation would probably not result. But what is the point of dancing the funky chicken, and really, what is the point of QE? Stimulus clearly has about as much positive effect on the economy as jerking around rhythmically in tight polypropylene disco pants.
Japan and the ECB are in fact launching sizable stimulus measures exactly because the QE of the Federal Reserve achieved ABSOLUTELY NOTHING except the purchase of 5-6 years without total collapse (only gradual collapse). And what is the real cost/benefit ratio of that purchase of half a decade of fiscal purgatory? When the breakdown of debt and forex markets does occur, it will be a hundred times worse than if the Fed had done nothing at all. Which brings me to our current state of affairs in 2015, and the IMF plan to take advantage…
IMF head Christine Lagarde put out a press release this past week, one which was probably drafted for her by a team of ghouls at the BIS, mentioning the formation of what she called the “New Multilateralism”.
Lagarde begins with the same old song about accommodative monetary policy:
“Besides structural reforms, building new momentum will require pulling all possible levers that can support global demand. Accommodative monetary policy will remain essential for as long as growth remains anemic – though we must pay careful attention to potential spillovers. Fiscal policy should be focused on promoting growth and creating jobs, while maintaining medium-term credibility.”
Of course, as we have already established, monetary policy does nothing to inspire demand. So, what is a global syndicate of bankers to do? Promote maximum interdependency! Lagarde laments the impediments of the sovereign attitude:
“No economy is an island; indeed, the global economy is more integrated than ever before. Consider this: Fifty years ago, emerging markets and developing economies accounted for about a quarter of world GDP. Today, they generate half of global income, a share that will continue to rise.
But sovereign states are no longer the only actors on the scene. A global network of new stakeholders has emerged, including NGOs and citizen activists – often empowered by social media. This new reality demands a new response. We will need to update, adapt, and deepen our methods of working together.”
And here we have a more subtle insinuation of the planning and programming I have been warning about for years. Because national sovereignty is no longer “practical” in an economically interdependent world (a world forced into economic interdependency by the globalists themselves), we must now change our way of thinking to support a more globalist framework.
The first big lie is that interdependency is a natural economic state. Historically, economies are more likely to survive and thrive the LESS dependent they are on outside factors. Independent, self contained, self sustaining, decentralized economies are the natural and preferable cultural path. Multilateralism (centralization) is completely contrary and destructive to this natural state, as we have already witnessed in the kind of panic which ensues across the globe when even one small nation, like Switzerland, decides to break from the accepted pattern of interdependency.
Also, take note of Lagarde’s reference to the growing role that developing nations (BRICS) are playing in this interdependent globalized mish-mash. As I have been warning, the IMF and the international banks fully intend to bring the BRICS further into the fold of the “new multilateralism”, and the supposed conflict between the East and the West is a ridiculous farce designed only as theater for the masses.
Lagarde reiterates the IMF push for inclusion of the BRICS (new networks of influence) into the new system, as well as the IMF’s role as the arbiter of global governance:
“This can be done by building on effective institutions of cooperation that already exist. Institutions like the IMF should be made even more representative in light of the dynamic shifts taking place in the global economy. The new networks of influence should be embraced and given space in the twenty-first century architecture of global governance. This is what I have called the “new multilateralism.” I believe it is the only way to address the challenges that the global community faces.”
The IMF head finishes with my favorite line, one which should tell you all you need to know about what is about to happen in 2015. I have for some time been following the progress (or lack of progress) in the IMF reforms presented in 2010; reforms which the U.S. Congress has refused to pass. Why? I believe the reforms remain dormant because the U.S. is MEANT to lose its veto powers within the IMF, and the IMF has already made clear that lack of passage will result in just that.
“Against this backdrop, the adoption of the IMF reforms by the United States Congress would send a long-overdue signal to rapidly growing emerging economies that the world counts on their voices, and their resources, to find global solutions to global problems.
Growth, trade, development, and climate change: 2015 will be a rendezvous of important multilateral initiatives. We cannot afford to see them fail. Let us make the right choices.”
Why remove U.S. veto power? Because BRICS nations like China are about to be given far more inclusion in the IMF’s multilateralist order. In fact, 2015 is the year in which the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights conference is set to commence, with initial discussions in May, and international meetings in October. I believe U.S. veto power will probably be removed by May, making the way clear (creating the rationale) for the marginalization of the U.S. dollar in favor of the SDR basket currency system, soon to be boosted by China’s induction.
In 2015 what we really have is a sprint towards currency and market devaluation across the spectrum. India, Japan, Russia, Europe, parts of South America, have all been debased monetarily. The U.S. has as well, most Americans just don’t know it yet. The value of this for globalists is far reaching. They have at a basic level created an atmosphere of lowered economic expectations – a global reduction in living standards which will at bottom lead to third world status for everyone. The elites hope that this will be enough to condition the public to support centralized financial control as the only option for survival.
It is hard to say what kind of Black Swans and false flags will be conjured in the meantime, but I highly doubt the shift towards the SDR will take place without considerable geopolitical turmoil. The public will require some sizable scapegoats for the kind of pain they will feel as the banks attempt to place the global economy in a totalitarian choke hold. While certain institutions may be held up as sacrificial lambs (including possibly the Federal Reserve itself), the concept of banker governance will be promoted as the best and only solution, despite the undeniable reality that the world would be a far better place if such men and their structures of influence were to be wiped off the face of the planet entirely.
by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,
The gravy train is over for oil workers. All over North America, people that felt very secure about their jobs just a few weeks ago are now getting pink slips. There are even some people that I know personally that this has happened to. The economy is really starting to bleed oil patch jobs, and as long as the price of oil stays down at this level the job losses are going to continue. But this is what happens when a “boom” turns into a “bust”.
Since 2003, drilling and extraction jobs in the United States have doubled. And these jobs typically pay very well. It is not uncommon for oil patch workers to make well over $100,000 a year, and these are precisely the types of jobs that we cannot afford to be losing. The middle class is struggling mightily as it is. And just like we witnessed in 2008, oil industry layoffs usually come before a downturn in employment for the overall economy. So if you think that it is tough to find a good job in America right now, you definitely will not like what comes next.
At one time, I encouraged those that were desperate for employment to check out states like North Dakota and Texas that were experiencing an oil boom. Unfortunately, the tremendous expansion that we witnessed is now reversing…
In states like North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas, which have reaped the benefits of a domestic oil boom, the retrenchment is beginning.
“Drilling budgets are being slashed across the board,” said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents more than 500 companies working in the state’s Bakken oil patch.
Smaller budgets and less extraction activity means less jobs.
Often, the loss of a job in this industry can come without any warning whatsoever. Just check out the following example from a recent Bloomberg article…
The first thing oilfield geophysicist Emmanuel Osakwe noticed when he arrived back at work before 8 a.m. last month after a short vacation was all the darkened offices.
By that time of morning, the West Houston building of his oilfield services company was usually bustling with workers. A couple hours later, after a surprise call from Human Resources, Osakwe was adding to the emptiness: one of thousands of energy industry workers getting their pink slips as crude prices have plunged to less than $50 a barrel.
These jobs are not easy to replace. If oil industry veterans go down to the local Wal-Mart to get jobs, they will end up making only a very small fraction of what they once did. Every one of these jobs that gets lost is really going to hurt.
And at this point, the job losses in the oil industry are threatening to become an avalanche. The following are 12 signs that the economy is really starting to bleed oil patch jobs…
#1 It is being projected that the U.S. oil rig count will decline by 15 percent in the first quarter of 2015 alone. And when there are less rigs operating, less workers are needed so people get fired.
#3 Oilfield services provider Baker Hughes has announced that it plans to lay off 7,000 workers.
#4 Schlumberger, a big player in the energy industry, has announced plans to get rid of 9,000 workers.
#5 Suncor Energy is eliminating 1,000 workers from their oil projects up in Canada.
#6 Halliburton’s energy industry operations have slowed down dramatically, so they gave pink slips to 1,000 workers last month.
#7 Diamondback Energy just slashed their capital expenditure budget 40 percent to just $450 million.
#8 Elevation Resources plans to cut their capital expenditure budget from $227 million to $100 million.
#9 Concho Resources says that it plans to reduce the number of rigs that it is operating from 35 to 25.
#10 Tullow Oil has reduced their exploration budget from approximately a billion dollars to about 200 million dollars.
#11 Henry Resources President Danny Campbell has announced that his company is reducing activity “by up to 40 percent“.
#12 The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is projecting that 140,000 jobs related to the energy industry will be lost in the state of Texas alone during 2015.
And of course it isn’t just workers that are going to suffer.
Some states are extremely dependent on oil revenues. Just take the state of Alaska for instance. According to one recent news report, 90 percent of the budget of Alaska comes from oil revenue…
But oil is also a revenue source in more than two dozen states, especially for about a third of them. In Alaska, where up to 90 percent of the budget is funded by oil, new Gov. Bill Walker has ordered agency heads to start identifying spending cuts.
Sadly, it looks like oil is not going to rebound any time soon.
China, the biggest user of oil in the world, just reported that economic growth expanded at the slowest pace in 24 years. And concerns about oversupply drove the price of U.S. crude down another couple of dollars on Monday…
Oil declined about 5 percent on Tuesday after the International Monetary Fund cut its 2015 global economic forecast on lower fuel demand and key producer Iran hinted prices could drop to $25 a barrel without supportive OPEC action.
U.S. crude, also known as West Texas Intermediate or WTI, settled 4.7 percent lower at $46.39 a barrel, near its intraday bottom of $46.23.
There is only one other time in history when we have seen an oil price crash of this magnitude.
That was in 2008, just before the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression.
by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,
Given the potential for financial losses triggered by oil’s price collapse to cascade into the financial sector at large, the Fed may well be forced to intervene either directly or indirectly.
An email dialog with correspondent Mark G. last month alerted me to the key role the Federal Reserve plays in the price of oil– either helping to maintain the current low prices (by enabling financing of new production) or pushing down supply and production (by making financing of new production more difficult).
Capital–cash or credit–is as important as the actual hydrocarbons in producing fuels and natural gas.Without fresh capital or financing, the oil/gas will remain in the ground.
The Fed flooded the global economy with credit borrowed in U.S. dollars during its quantitative easing programs. Need to borrow billions of dollars to finance new oil production? No problem when the Fed was emitting trillions of dollars into the global financial system.
Now that the Fed has ended its QE money-printing program, the dollars have dried up. The other source of dollars–U.S. trade deficit–has also contracted as the trade deficit has declined.
This decline in the availability of U.S. dollars has placed global borrowers with dollar-denominated debt in a vice as the scarcity of dollars meets the pressing need to refinance debt that’s coming due and needs to be rolled over.
Strong demand and reduced supply lead to much higher prices for dollars–which is exactly what the world is seeing.
Domestic oil producers have a source for financing: the Fed. As I have speculated before, the Fed may not be a passive observer of the domestic oil patch’s financial travails. Given the potential for financial losses triggered by oil’s price collapse to cascade into the financial sector at large, the Fed may well be forced to intervene either indirectly through proxies or directly.
As I explained in Will the Fed Intervene in the Oil Market? (December 23, 2014), the Fed has a variety of intervention options, from buying oil futures contracts to buying at-risk oil-based bonds to enabling proxies to roll over oil-based debt.
Compare the staggering cost to oil exporters in lost income to the modest cost of the Fed financing domestic oil-based debt. If the domestic oil industry needs $100 billion in debt to be buried in a balance sheet somewhere or rolled over, the Fed can arrange this size of financing without raising an eyebrow. Compared to a balance sheet of $4+ trillion and the Fed’s essentially unlimited credit spigot, what’s $100 billion more in aid to the domestic oil/gas industry?
The oil exporters who are losing tens of billions of dollars in cumulative revenue do not have any equivalent Sugar Daddy. Their declines in income will have to be matched by declines in spending, declines that will cascade through the oil exporters’ economies with devastating impact.
If you want to deploy the oil weapon, make sure you have a central bank that can intervene at will, in whatever size is necessary, to reduce the impact on your own economy, while maximizing the financial pain inflicted on the targets of the oil weapon.
by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog,
Boy, did the ‘experts’ and ‘analysts’ drop the ball on this one, or what’s the story. Only yesterday, Goldman’s highly paid analysts admitted they’ve been dead wrong from months, that their prediction that OPEC would cut production will not happen, and that therefore oil may go as low as $40. Anyone have any idea what that miss has cost Goldman’s clients? And now of course other ‘experts’ – prone to herd behavior – ‘adjust’ their expectations as well.
They all have consistently underestimated three things: the drop in global oil demand, the impact QE had on commodity prices, and the ‘power’ OPEC has. Everyone kept on talking, over the past 3 months, as oil went from $75 – couldn’t go lower than that, could it? – to today’s $46, about how OPEC and the Saudis were going to have to cut output or else, but they never understood the position OPEC countries are in. Which is that they don’t have anything near the power they had in 1973 or 1986, but that completely escaped all analysts and experts and media. Everyone still thinks China is growing at a 7%+ clip, but the only numbers that sort of thing is based on come from .. China. As for QE, need I say anymore, or anything at all?
So Goldman says oil will drop to $40, but Goldman was spectacularly wrong until now, so why believe them this time around? As oil prices plunged from $75 in mid November all the way to $45 today (about a 40% drop, more like 55% from June 2014′s $102), their analysts kept saying OPEC and the Saudis would cut output. Didn’t happen. As I said several times since last fall, OPEC saw the new reality before anyone else. But why did it still take 2 months+ for the ‘experts’ and ‘analysts’ to catch up? I would almost wonder how many of these smart guys bet against their clients in the meantime.
I’m going to try and adhere to a chronological order here, or both you and I will get lost. On November 22 2014, when WTI oil was at about $75, I wrote:
What is clear is that even at $75, angst is setting in, if not yet panic. If China demand falls substantially in 2015, and prices move south of $70, $60 etc., that panic will be there. In US shale, in Venezuela, in Russia, and all across producing nations. Even if OPEC on November 27 decides on an output cut, there’s no guarantee members will stick to it. Let alone non-members. And sure, yes, eventually production will sink so much that prices stop falling. But with all major economies in the doldrums, it may not hit a bottom until $40 or even lower.
Oil was last- and briefly – at $40 exactly 6 years ago, but today is a very different situation. All the stimulus, all $50 trillion or so globally, has been thrown into the fire, and look at where we are. There’s nothing left, and there won’t be another $50 trillion. Sure, stock markets set records. But who cares with oil at $40? Calling for more QE, from Japan and/or Europe or even grandma Yellen, is either entirely useless or will work only to prop up stock markets for a very short time. Diminishing returns. The one word that comes to mind here is bloodbath. Well, unless China miraculously recovers. But who believes in that?
5 days later, on November 27, with WTI still around $75, I followed up with:
Tracy Alloway at FT mentions major banks and their energy-related losses:
“Banks including Barclays and Wells Fargo are facing potentially heavy losses on an $850 million loan made to two oil and gas companies, in a sign of how the dramatic slide in the price of oil is beginning to reverberate through the wider economy. [..] if Barclays and Wells attempted to syndicate the $850m loan now, it could go for as little as 60 cents on the dollar.”
That’s just one loan. At 60 cents on the dollar, a $340 million loss. Who knows how many similar, and bigger, loans are out there? Put together, these stories slowly seeping out of the juncture of energy and finance gives the good and willing listener an inkling of an idea of the losses being incurred throughout the global economy, and by the large financiers. There’s a bloodbath brewing in the shadows. Countries can see their revenues cut by a third and move on, perhaps with new leaders, but many companies can’t lose that much income and keep on going, certainly not when they’re heavily leveraged.
The Saudi’s refuse to cut output and say: let America cut. But American oil producers can’t cut even if they would want to, it would blow their debt laden enterprises out of the water, and out of existence. Besides, that energy independence thing plays a big role of course. But with prices continuing to fall, much of that industry will go belly up because credit gets withdrawn.
That was then. Today, oil is at $46, not $75. Also today, Michael A. Gayed, CFA, hedge funder and chief investment strategist and co-portfolio manager at Pension Partners, LLC, draws the exact same conclusion, over 7 weeks and a 40%-odd drop in prices later:
It seems like every day some pundit is on air arguing that falling oil is a net long-term positive for the U.S. economy. The cheaper energy gets, the more consumers have to spend elsewhere, serving as a tax cut for the average American. There is a lot of logic to that, assuming that oil’s price movement is not indicative of a major breakdown in economic and growth expectations. What’s not to love about cheap oil? The problem with this argument, of course, is that it assumes follow through to end users. If oil gets cheaper but is not fully reflected in the price of goods, the consumer does not benefit, or at least only partially does and less so than one might otherwise think. I believe this is a nuance not fully understood by those making the bull argument. Falling oil may actually be a precursor to higher volatility as investors begin to question speed’s message.
How much did Michael’s clients lose in those 7+ weeks?
Something I also said in that same November 27 article was:
US shale is no longer about what’s feasible to drill today, it’s about what can still be financed tomorrow.
And whaddaya know, Bloomberg runs this headline 51 days and -40% further along:
U.S. shale drillers may tout how much oil they have in the ground or how cheaply they can get it out. For stock investors, what matters most is debt. The worst performers among U.S. oil producers in a Bloomberg index owe about 5.7 times more than they earn, before certain deductions, compared with 1.7 times for companies that have taken less of a hit. Operations, such as where the companies drill or how much oil versus gas they pump, matter less.
“With oil prices below $50 and approaching $40, we’re in survivor mode,” Steven Rees, who helps oversee about $1 trillion as global head of equity strategy at JPMorgan Private Bank, said via phone. “The companies with the higher degrees of leverage have underperformed, and you don’t want to own those because there’s a fair amount of uncertainty as to whether they can repay that debt.”
That’s the exact same thing I said way back when! Who trusts these guys with either their money or their news? When they could just read me and be 7 weeks+ ahead of the game? Not that I want to manage your money, don’t get me wrong, I’m just thinking these errors can add up to serious losses. And they wouldn’t have to. That’s why there’s TheAutomaticEarth.com.
A good one, which I posted December 12, with WTI at $67 (remember the gold old days, grandma?), was this one on what oil actually sells for out there, not what WTO and Brent standards say. An eye-opener.
Tom Kloza, founder and analyst at Oil Price Information Service, said the market could bottom for the winter in about 30 days, but then it will be up to whatever OPEC does. “It’s (oil) actually much weaker than the futures markets indicate. This is true for crude oil, and it’s true for gasoline. There’s a little bit of a desperation in the crude market,” said Kloza.”The Canadian crude, if you go into the oil sands, is in the $30s, and you talk about Western Canadian Select heavy crude upgrade that comes out of Canada, it’s at $41/$42 a barrel.”
“Bakken is probably about $54.” Kloza said there’s some talk that Venezuelan heavy crude is seeing prices $20 to $22 less than Brent, the international benchmark. Brent futures were at $63.20 per barrel late Thursday. “In the actual physical market, it’s fallen by even more than the futures market. That’s a telling sign, and it’s telling me that this isn’t over yet. This isn’t the bottoming process. The physical market turns before the futures,” he said.
Oil prices have come down close to another 20% since then, in just one month $67 to $46 right now. And it’s going to keep plunging, if only because Goldman belatedly woke up and said so today:
Goldman Sachs said U.S. oil prices need to trade near $40 a barrel in the first half of this year to curb shale investments as it gave up on OPEC cutting output to balance the market. The bank cut its forecasts for global benchmark crude prices, predicting inventories will increase over the first half of this year.. Excess storage and tanker capacity suggests the market can run a surplus far longer than it has in the past, said Goldman analysts including Jeffrey Currie in New York. The U.S. is pumping oil at the fastest pace in more than three decades, helped by a shale boom ..
“To keep all capital sidelined and curtail investment in shale until the market has re-balanced, we believe prices need to stay lower for longer,” Goldman said in the report. “The search for a new equilibrium in oil markets continues.” West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. marker crude, will trade at $41 a barrel and global benchmark Brent at $42 in three months, the bank said. It had previously forecast WTI at $70 and Brent at $80 for the first quarter. Goldman reduced its six and 12-month WTI predictions to $39 a barrel and $65, from $75 and $80, respectively ..
Well, after that 2-month blooper I described above, who would trust Goldman anymore, right, silly you is thinking. Don’t be mistaken, people listen to GS, no matter how wrong they are.
Meanwhile, the thumbscrews keep on tightening:
North Sea oil and gas companies are to be offered tax concessions by the Chancellor in an effort to avoid production and investment cutbacks and an exodus of explorers. George Osborne has drawn up a set of tax reform plans, following warnings that the industry’s future is at risk without substantial tax cuts. But the industry fears he will not go far enough. Oil & Gas UK, the industry body, is urging a tax cut of as much as 30% [..] “If we don’t get an immediate 10% cut, then that will be the death knell for the industry [..] Companies operating fields discovered before 1992 can end up with handing over80% of their profits to the Chancellor; post-1992 discoveries carry a 60% profits hit.
And hitting botttom lines:
A closer look at valuations and interviews with a dozen of smaller firms ahead of fourth quarter results from their bigger, listed rivals, shows there are reasons to be nervous. What small firms say is that the oil rout hit home faster and harder than most had expected. “Things have changed a lot quicker than I thought they would,” says Greg Doramus, sales manager at Orion Drilling in Texas, a small firm which leases 16 drilling rigs. He talks about falling rates, last-minute order cancellations and customers breaking leases. The conventional wisdom is that hedging and long-term contracts would ensure that most energy firms would only start feeling the full force of the downdraft this year.
The view from the oil fields from Texas to North Dakota is that the pain is already spreading. “We have been cut from the work,” says Adam Marriott, president of Fandango Logistics, a small oil trucking firm in Salt Lake City. He says shipments have fallen by half since June when oil was fetching more than $100 a barrel and his company had all the business it could handle. Bigger firms are also feeling the sting. Last week, a leading U.S. drilling contractor Helmerich & Payne reported that leasing rates for its high-tech rigs plunged 10% from the previous quarter, sending its shares 5% lower.
And, then, as yours truly predicted last fall, oil’s downward spiral spreads, and the entire – always nonsensical – narrative of a boost to the economy from falling oil prices vanishes into thin air. You could have known that, too, at least 2 months ago. Bloomberg:
While stock investors wait for the benefits of cheaper oil to seep into the economy, all they can see lately is downside. Forecasts for first-quarter profits in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index have fallen by 6.4 percentage points from three months ago, the biggest decrease since 2009, according to more than 6,000 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Reductions spread across nine of 10 industry groups and energy companies saw the biggest cut. Earnings pessimism is growing just as the best three-year rally since the technology boom pushed equity valuations to the highest level since 2010.
At the same time, volatility has surged in the American stock market as oil’s 55% drop since June to below $49 a barrel raises speculation that companies will cancel investment and credit markets and banks will suffer from debt defaults. [..] American companies are facing the weakest back-to-back quarterly earnings expansions since 2009 as energy wipes out more than half the growth and the benefit to retailers and shippers fails to catch up.
Oil producers are rocked by a combination of faltering demand and booming supplies from North American shale fields, with crude sinking to $48.36 a barrel from an average $98.61 in the first three months of 2014. Except for utilities, every other industry has seen reductions in estimates. Profit from energy producers such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron will plunge 35% this quarter, analysts estimated.
In October, analysts expected the industry to earn about the same as it did a year ago. “My initial thought was oil would take a dollar or two off the overall S&P 500 earnings but that obviously might be worse now,” Dan Greenhaus at BTIG said in a phone interview. “The whole thing has moved much more rapidly and farther than anyone thought. People were only taking into account consumer spending and there was a sense that falling energy is ubiquitously positive for the U.S., but I’m not convinced.”
Well, not than anyone thought. Not me, for one. Just than the ‘experts’ thought. But that’s exactly what I said at the time. And I must thank Bloomberg for vindicating me. Don’t worry, guys, I wouldn’t want to be part of your expert panel if my life depended on it. And it’s not about me wanting to toot my own horn either, tickling as it may be for a few seconds, but about the likes of TheAutomaticEarth.com, or ZeroHedge.com and WolfStreet.com and many others, getting the recognition we deserve. If you ask me, reading the finance blogosphere can save you a lot of money. That’s merely a simple conclusion to draw from the above.
And only now are people starting to figure out that the real economy may not have had any boon from lower oil prices either:
Aren’t declining gasoline prices supposed to be good news for the economy? They certainly are to households not employed in the energy industry, but it might not seem so from the one of the biggest economic indicators due for release this week. On Wednesday, the Commerce Department is set to report retail sales for December. It’s the most important month of the year for retailers, but economists polled by MarketWatch are expecting a flat reading, and quite a few say a monthly decline wouldn’t be a surprise. [..] After department stores saw a 1% monthly gain in November, the segment may reverse some of that advance in the final month of the year.
This whole idea of Americans running rampant in malls with the cash they saved from lower prices at the pump was always just something somebody smoked. And now we’ll get swamped soon with desperate attempts to make US holiday sales look good, but if I were you, I’d take an idled oiltanker’s worth of salt with all of those attempts.
Still, the Fed, in my view, is set to stick with its narrative of the US economy doing so well they just have to raise interest rates. It’s for the Wall Street banks, don’t you know. That narrative, in this case, is “Ignore transitory volatility in energy prices.” The Fed expects for sufficient mayhem to happen in emerging markets to lift the US, and for enough dollars to ‘come home’ to justify a rate hike that will shake the world economy on its foundations but will leave the US elites relatively unscathed and even provide them with more riches. And if anyone wants to get richer, it’s the rich. They simply think they have it figured out.
Financial markets have been shaken over the past several weeks by a misguided fear that deflation has imbedded itself not only into the European economy but the U.S. economy as well. Deflation is a serious problem for Europe, because the eurozone is plagued with bad debts and stagnant growth. Prices and wages in the peripheral nations (such as Greece and Spain) must fall still further in relation to Germany’s in order to restore their economies to competitiveness. But that’s not possible if prices and wages are falling in Germany (or even if they are only rising slowly).
In Europe, deflation will extend the economic crisis, but that’s not an issue in the United States, where households, businesses and banks have mostly completed the necessary adjustments to their balance sheets after the great debt boom of the prior decade. The plunge in oil prices will likely push the annual U.S. inflation rate below 1%, further from the Fed target of 2%. [..] Falling oil prices are a temporary phenomenon that shouldn’t alter anyone’s view about the underlying rate of inflation.
On Wednesday, the newly released minutes of the Fed’s latest meeting in December revealed that most members of the FOMC are ready to raise rates this summer even if inflation continues to fall, as long as there’s a reasonable expectation that inflation will eventually drift back to 2%. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke got a lot of flak in the spring of 2011 when oil prices were rising and annual inflation rates climbed to near 4%, double the Fed’s target.
Bernanke’s critics wanted him to raise interest rates immediately to fight the inflation, but he insisted that the spike was “transitory” and that the Fed wouldn’t respond. Bernanke was right then: Inflation rates drifted lower, just as he predicted. Now the situation is reversed: Oil prices are falling, and critics of the Fed say it should hold off on raising interest rates. The Fed’s policy in both cases is the same: Ignore transitory volatility in energy prices.
There are all these press-op announcements all the time by Fed officials that I think can only be read as setting up a fake discussion between pro and con rate hike, that are meant just for public consumption. The Fed serves it member banks, not the American people, don’t let’s forget that. No matter what happens, they can always issue a majority opinion that oil prices or real estate prices, or anything, are only ‘transitory’, and so their policies should ignore them. US economic numbers look great on the surface, it’s only when you start digging that they don’t.
I see far too much complacency out there when it comes to interest rates, in the same manner that I’ve seen it concerning oil prices. We live in a new world, not a continuation of the old one. That old world died with Fed QE. Just check the price of oil. There have been tectonic shifts since over, let’s say, the holidays, and I wouldn’t wait for the ‘experts’ to catch up with live events. Being 7 weeks or two months late is a lot of time. And they will be late, again. It’s inherent in what they do. And what they represent.
by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog
There are many things I don’t understand these days, and some are undoubtedly due to the limits of my brain power. But at the same time some are not. I’m the kind of person who can no longer believe that anyone would get excited over a 5% American GDP growth number. Not even with any other details thrown in, just simply a print like that. It’s so completely out of left field and out of proportion that you would think by now at least a few more people understand what’s really going on.
And Tyler Durden breaks it down well enough in Here Is The Reason For The “Surge” In Q3 GDP (delayed health-care spending stats make up for 2/3 of the 5%), but still. I would have hoped that more Americans had clued in to the nonsense that has been behind such numbers for many years now. The US has been buying whatever growth politicians can squeeze out of the data and their manipulation, for many years. The entire world has.
The 5% stat is portrayed as being due to increased consumer spending. But most of that is health-care related. And economies don’t grow because people increase spending on not being sick and/or miserable. That’s just an accounting trick. The economy doesn’t get better if we all drive our cars into a tree, even if GDP numbers would say otherwise.
All the MSM headlines about consumer confidence and comfort and all that, it doesn’t square with the 43 million US citizens condemned to living on food stamps. I remember Halloween spending (I know, that’s Q4) was down an atrocious -11%, but the Q3 GDP print was +5%? Why would anyone volunteer to believe that? Do they all feel so bad any sliver of ‘good news’ helps? Are we really that desperate?
We already saw the other day that Texas is ramming its way right into a recession, and North Dakota is not far behind (training to be a driller is not great career choice going forward), and T. Boone Pickens of all people confirmed today at CNBC what we already knew: the number of oil rigs in the US is about to do a Wile E. cliff act. And oil prices fall because global demand is down, as much as because supply is up. A crucial point that few seem to grasp; the Saudis do though. Good for US GDP, you say?
What I see more than anything in the 5% print is a set-up for a Fed rate hike, through a variation on the completion backward principle, i.e. have the message fit the purpose, set up a narrative that makes it make total sense for Yellen to hike that rate. And Wall Street banks (that’s not just the American ones) will be ready to reap the rewards of the ensuing chaos.
And I also don’t understand why nobody seems to understand what Saudi Arabia and OPEC have consistently been saying for ever now. They’re not going to cut their oil production. Not going to happen. The Saudis, probably more than anyone, are the guys who know what demand is really like out there (they see it and track it on a daily basis), and that’s why they’ll let oil drop as far as it will go. There’s no other way out anymore, no use calling a bottom anywhere.
In the two largest markets, US demand is down through far less miles driven for a number of years now, while domestic supply is way up; at the same time, real Chinese demand is way below what anybody projects, and oil is just one of many industries that have set their – corporate – strategies to fit expected China growth numbers that never materialized. Just you watch what other – industrial – commodities fields are going to do and show in 2015. Or simply look at prices for iron ore, copper etc. today.
In an unusually frank interview, Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, tore up OPEC’s traditional strategy of keeping prices high by limiting oil output and replaced it with a new policy of defending the cartel’s market share at all costs. “It is not in the interest of OPEC producers to cut their production, whatever the price is,” he told the Middle East Economic Survey. “Whether it goes down to $20, $40, $50, $60, it is irrelevant.” He said the world may never see $100 a barrel oil again.
The comments, from a man who is often described as the most influential figure in the energy industry, marked the first time that Mr Naimi has explained the strategy shift in detail. They represent a “fundamental change” in OPEC policy that is more far-reaching than any seen since the 1970s, said Jamie Webster, oil analyst at IHS Energy. “We have entered a scary time for the oil market and for the next several years we are going to be dealing with a lot of volatility,” he said. “Just about everything will be touched by this.”
Saudi Arabia is desperate alright, but not nearly as much as most other producers: they have seen this coming, they’ve been tracking it hour by hour, and then made their move. And they have some room to move yet. Many other producers don’t. Not inside OPEC, and certainly not outside of it. Russia should be relatively okay, they’re smart enough to see these things coming too, and adapt accordingly. Many other nations don’t and haven’t, perhaps simply because they have no room left. Anatole Kaletsky makes quite a bit of sense at Reuters:
… the global oil market will move toward normal competitive conditions in which prices are set by the marginal production costs, rather than Saudi or OPEC monopoly power. This may seem like a far-fetched scenario, but it is more or less how the oil market worked for two decades from 1986 to 2004.
Whichever outcome finally puts a floor under prices, we can be confident that the process will take a long time to unfold. It is inconceivable that just a few months of falling prices will be enough time for the Saudis to either break the Iranian-Russian axis or reverse the growth of shale oil production in the United States. It is equally inconceivable that the oil market could quickly transition from OPEC domination to a normal competitive one.
The many bullish oil investors who still expect prices to rebound quickly to their pre-slump trading range are likely to be disappointed. The best that oil bulls can hope for is that a new, and substantially lower, trading range may be established as the multi-year battles over Middle East dominance and oil-market share play out. The key question is whether the present price of around $55 will prove closer to the floor or the ceiling of this new range. [..]
… the demarcation line between the monopolistic and competitive regimes at a little below $50 a barrel seems a reasonable estimate of where one boundary of the new long-term trading range might end up. But will $50 be a floor or a ceiling for the oil price in the years ahead?
There are several reasons to expect a new trading range as low as $20 to $50, as in the period from 1986 to 2004. Technological and environmental pressures are reducing long-term oil demand and threatening to turn much of the high-cost oil outside the Middle East into a “stranded asset” similar to the earth’s vast unwanted coal reserves. [..]
The U.S. shale revolution is perhaps the strongest argument for a return to competitive pricing instead of the OPEC-dominated monopoly regimes of 1974-85 and 2005-14. Although shale oil is relatively costly, production can be turned on and off much more easily – and cheaply – than from conventional oilfields. This means that shale prospectors should now be the “swing producers” in global oil markets instead of the Saudis.
In a truly competitive market, the Saudis and other low-cost producers would always be pumping at maximum output, while shale shuts off when demand is weak and ramps up when demand is strong. This competitive logic suggests that marginal costs of U.S. shale oil, generally estimated at $40 to $50, should in the future be a ceiling for global oil prices, not a floor.
As Kaletsky also suggests, there is the option of a return to an OPEC monopoly and much higher prices, but I personally don’t see that. It would need to mean a return to prolific global economic growth numbers, and I simply can’t see where that would come from.
Meanwhile, there’s the issue of ‘anti-Putin’ sanctions hurting western companies, with an asset swap between Gazprom and German chemical giant BASF that went south, and a failed deal between Morgan Stanley and Rosneft as just two examples, and that leads me to think pressure to lift or ease these sanctions will rise considerably in 2015. Why Angela Merkel is so set on punishing her (former?) friend Putin, I don’t know, but I can’t see how she can ignore domestic corporate pressure to wind down much longer. Russia is part of the global economic system, and excluding it – on flimsy charges to boot – is damaging for Germany and the rest of Europe.
Finally, still on the topic of oil and gas, Wolf Richter provides another excellent analysis and breakdown of US shale.
It’s showing up everywhere. Take Samson Resources. As is typical in that space, there is a Wall Street angle to it. One of the largest closely-held exploration and production companies, Samson was acquired for $7.2 billion in 2011 by private-equity firms KKR, Itochu Corp., Crestview Partners, and NGP Energy Capital Management. They ponied up $4.1 billion. For the rest of the acquisition costs, they loaded up the company with $3.6 billion in new debt. In addition to the interest expense on this debt, Samson is paying “management fees” to these PE firms, starting at $20 million per year and increasing by 5% every year.
KKR is famous for leading the largest LBO in history in 2007 at the cusp of the Financial Crisis. The buyout of a Texas utility, now called Energy Future Holdings Corp., was a bet that NG prices would rise forevermore, thus giving the coal-focused utility a leg up. But NG prices soon collapsed. And in April 2014, the company filed for bankruptcy. Now KKR is stuck with Samson. Being focused on NG, the company is another bet that NG prices would rise forevermore. But in 2011, they went on to collapse further. In 2014 through September, the company lost $471 million, the Wall Street Journal reported, bringing the total loss since acquisition to over $3 billion. This is what happens when the cost of production exceeds the price of NG for years.
Samson has used up almost all of its available credit. In order to stay afloat a while longer, it is selling off a good part of its oil-and-gas fields in Oklahoma, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado. It’s shedding workers. Production will decline with the asset sales – the reverse of what investors in its bonds had been promised. Samson’s junk bonds have been eviscerated. In early August, the $2.25 billion of 9.75% bonds due in 2020 still traded at 103.5 cents on the dollar. By December 1, they were down to 56 cents on the dollar. Now they trade for 43.5 cents on the dollar. They’d plunged 58% in four months.
The collapse of oil and gas prices hasn’t rubbed off on the enthusiasm that PE firms portray in order to attract new money from pension funds and the like. “We see this as a real opportunity,” explained KKR co-founder Henry Kravis at a conference in November. KKR, Apollo Global Management, Carlyle, Warburg Pincus, Blackstone and many other PE firms traipsed all over the oil patch, buying or investing in E&P companies, stripping out whatever equity was in them, and loading them up with piles of what was not long ago very cheap junk bonds and even more toxic leveraged loans.This is how Wall Street fired up the fracking boom.
PE firms gathered over $100 billion in their energy funds since 2011. The nine publicly traded E&P companies that represent the largest holdings have cost PE firms at least $12.7 billion, the Wall Street Journal figured. This doesn’t include their losses on the smaller holdings. Nor does it include losses from companies like Samson that are not publicly traded. And it doesn’t include losses pocketed by bondholders and leveraged loan holders or all the millions of stockholders out there.
Undeterred, Blackstone is raising its second energy-focused fund; it has a $4.5 billion target, Bloomberg reported. The plunge in oil and gas prices “has not created a lot of difficulties for us,” CEO Schwarzman explained at a conference on December 10. KKR’s Kravis said at the same conference that he welcomed the collapse as an opportunity. Carlyle co-CEO Rubenstein expected the next 5 to 10 years to be “one of the greatest times” to invest in the oil patch.
The problem? “If you have an asset you already own, it’s probably going to go down in value,” Rubenstein admitted. But if you’ve got money to invest, in Carlyle’s case about $7 billion, “it’s a great time to buy.” They all agree: opportunities will be bountiful for those folks who refused to believe the hype about fracking over the past few years and who haven’t sunk their money into energy companies. Or those who got out in time.
We live in a new world, and the Saudis are either the only or the first ones to understand that. Because they are so early to notice, and adapt, I would expect them to come out relatively well. But I would fear for many of the others. And that includes a real fear of pretty extreme reactions, and violence, in quite a few oil-producing nations that have kept a lid on their potential domestic unrest to date. It would also include a lot of ugliness in the US shale patch, with a great loss of jobs (something it will have in common with North Sea oil, among others), but perhaps even more with profound mayhem for many investors in US energy. And then we’re right back to your pension plans.
For years, we’ve been warning here at PeakProsperity.com that the economics of the US ‘shale revolution’ were suspect. Namely, that they’ve only been made possible by the new era of ‘expensive’ oil (an average oil price of between $80-$100 per barrel). We’ve argued that many players in the shale industry simply wouldn’t be able to operate profitably at lower prices.
Well, with oil prices now suddenly sub-$60 per barrel, we’re about to find out.
Using the traditional corporate income statement, it is difficult to determine if shale drilling companies make money. There are a lot of moving parts, some deliberate obfuscation at some companies, and the massive decline rates make analysis difficult – since so much of reported profitability depends on assumptions made regarding depreciation and depletion.
So, can shale oil be profitable? If so, at what price? And under what conditions?
I try to deconstruct all this: here