Be very careful what you wish for…


Source of picture: The Nymex

To continue the same theme of earlier this week, I agree with my fellow blogger Paul Hodges when he warns that OPEC’s price target for $75-80/bbl could nip the nascent economic recovery in the bud.

As he quite rightly argues, inventory building ahead of further crude rises in 2007-08 occurred despite evidence of slowing end-use demand for chemicals.

A recent Lex piece in the Financial Times calculated that crude prices averaged around $100/bbl last year. With the world consuming a total of $88m bb/day this therefore cost the world economy $3.200bn.

When the article was written earlier this month, prices were averaging around $50/bbl which would for the whole of 2009 represent a saving of $1,600bn.

This is more than the total of all the government bailouts – $1,600bn – and the bailouts are one-offs rather than the constant savings resulting from cheaper crude.

This year’s crude bill looks likely to be more expensive that had seem the case in early May, though, as a result of oil around $60/bbl, assuming it stays around this level (one hell of a big assumption but hey, why not, the rest of the media has become adept at turning a short-term trends into a long term outlook).

As the excellent Schork daily oil and gas report points out, oil and gas inventories remain at record highs.

But traders are ignoring the underlying long term trend in favour of putting a positive spin on recent relatively minor reductions in stock levels.

As the report points out, it’s all about market psychology:

What started out as a bear market rally in equities
back in March is now in the process of morphing
into a full fledged rally. Sidelined money,
disgruntled and dismayed that it has missed the
bull’s party of the last two months, is now
reluctantly piling back into the market. Some of
this money is finding its way onto the NYMEX.
The Street has convinced itself the recession is
over. Two months ago traders were buying
because they wanted to “participate” in the
equities rally before the bear market resumed.
Today these same traders are spinning a dubious
fundamental case because dour economic
headlines, which the market receives nearly daily,
are less bad. Thus, the crude oil bulls have
hitched their wagon to the equities. And, they are
going to continue to do so until it stops working
for them.

I remain convinced this is just about market psychology and the economic news is going to get worse before it gets better – so prepare for a lot more volatilty in energy pricing.

A sharp dip in crude would help inject some more much-needed cash into the world economy.

But – again as Paul Hodges points out – if crude does reach the OPEC target of $75-80/bbl this will at least encourage some of the investment necessary to lessen the supply crunch when the economic recovery has conclusively arrived.

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