Category Archives: Oil
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.
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.