Oil illusions and/or delusions – pt 2

(Part 2)
What is interesting is that for years we heard the Mid East production level adjustments, such as OPEC’s or Saudis’, had little to do with the price we were paying for refined goods. When we complained in general about high oil prices, we were told their decisions and production had really no effect on overall prices. We are always reminded that supply and demand are driving those prices. It’s the hidden hand of the economy.

But now we have a situation where Saudis are actively flooding the market with their oil to drive oil prices down, which makes it hard for others to do business. So are they now admitting Saudis’ production control has an effect on prices? Yes, they are. Flashback to all those times we were told it was only consumer demand, no foul. We were imagining things. Remember, they said the free market was setting those prices. Which is it?

Apparently, someone woke them up and told them the power they have over oil prices. Who let that out of the bag? Do you think it took them all these years to realize it? And took our domestic fracking ability and development to show them? Anyway, now they know the dirty little secret and are using it against us to curb our ability to produce.

Here is a newer article examining the issue that Saudis are at war with our domestic production. He compares this reaction to the subprime bubble, and presumably meltdown, as the perfect analogy.

As soon as oil’s price headed in the undesired direction in this highly leveraged market, the dreams evaporated, just as they did in the highly leveraged housing market. The debt of the most indebted producers, now losing money, is worth less than face value. Their creditors will eventually recognize losses. As previously noted, the one wrinkle is that so many producers are governments. They have not, in most cases, explicitly backed their debt with oil revenues, but they had assumed those revenues and based their future spending plans on them. Call it “soft” debt. — Robert Gore; straightlinelogic

Long ago I figured if Saudis’ had real fear about Iran, they could put pressure on the market and oil prices, which Iran is dependent on. This would have the effect of sanctions. Maybe this is what they did, or maybe they are only reacting to us? If we listen to these economists, Saudis are responding namely to us.

I admit having a bias that I prefer to buy gas below 3.00 to paying about 4.00 per/gallon. (or at 2.00) At 4.00 per/gallon, the fracking is more profitable. So am I supposed to be happy knowing they are producing and growing, and just pay 4 dollars and shut up?

I realize how much high prices affect the whole economy. So that works in favor of my bias for lower prices. Am I to say: our economy is sputtering and people can’t afford the high costs… but at least we are producing more oil, thank goodness? I’m not there yet.

On the other hand, should I worry prices will decline so far the market will collapse to where no drilling is profitable? Well, I already heard one person put it this way: ‘you have to produce something before it is consumed.’ IOW, oil must be profitable to be produced, so we can consume it — in all its forms. If it is not, we will not have it available.

But in that case, prices would go up due to lacking supply, per supply and demand.

Here is an interesting article about the scoreboard

Biggest Winners and Losers of International Oil Price Crash

By Isaac Arnsdorf Dec 4, 2014 | Bloomberg

Oil prices around the world have fallen more than 38 percent since the year’s high in June.

Among the winners are airlines, which are saving on fuel and not reducing fares for customers. Bank of America Corp. predicts earnings will gain 73 percent in 2015.

Saudi Arabia flexed its muscle at November’s OPEC meeting by overruling other members, showing that it’s still the dominant producer. The desert kingdom needs oil at $83.60 a barrel to balance its budget, according to the International Monetary Fund, but it’s got $736 billion in reserves.

Apollo Global Management LLC, the New York buyout firm run by billionaire Leon Black, announced the sale of shale driller Athlon Energy Inc. on Sept. 29 — before oil dropped 29 percent.

More on Bloomberg

See the list of winners and losers. Saudis need 83.60 and currently it is below that, though they have substantial revenues.(they should) Iran needs 117. And we know that OPEC members cheat on quotas anyway. They probably want to sell what they can even at a lower price. But I don’t see articles about the negative effects to them.

I know it’s a complex issue. Yes, lower prices are hurting the producers, like fracking and development. It is in Saudis interest that we decrease our production.I understand the price declines are undermining fracking. Hey, there’s an angle for the enviro-gurus. They should favor lower prices. Though judging market effects as either good or bad is tougher. And motives can be almost as hard.

[My past article]

RightRing | Bullright

Oil illusions and/or delusions

(Part 1 of 2)
I posted a piece on the current oil price decline. I could be wrong on my interpretation. Now that I think more about it, I just don’t know.

There are many different angles and factors in the issue. I decided to list some of the variables in an attempt to put the pieces on the table to get a full view, not to prove one view or another. I just thought it would be interesting to see the components.

Basically there is a view catching wide reporting that the decline in prices have hurt the domestic oil industry, and in particular Texas. Some reports describe it as a Saudi war on Texas. The narrative is that Saudis are flooding the market with oil with the intent to hurt our production, namely shale and fracking businesses, which are more cost intensive than cheaper Saudi oil.

A lot of people believe that and follow that line of reasoning. I’m not so sure. I wrote the previous piece off the cuff in reaction to a couple reports I saw getting widely spread. A few days later and I see more reports from economists with the same perspective. It has me wondering am I the lone person who questions that? Did I miss something or am I making a mistake, as sometimes happens? Am I too quick to jump to conclusions or is my bias getting in the way? There can be different opinions.

By nature some reports are kind of hard to understand and complicated anyway. But then I am no economist, and many of these people are degreed academics. I generally have some healthy skepticism and especially when I see piling on a theme. In the end, maybe there is no correct view, and maybe it cannot be seen in just one way.

Supply and demand. This is the talking point that we have heard most in the last 6 or so years. They claim it is market forces driving the high consumer prices we have seen, and actually come to accept as the new normal. This explanation is so institutionalized that we had countless investigations on higher oil prices only to be told it is just supply and demand. Those investigations don’t reveal any gimmickry, so we’re told, and no market manipulation. In fact, reports are no one can manipulate the industry. The very idea would be absurd.

There are investors and traders and hedge funds, oh my. We hear they are the ones to blame for prices. They call them speculators. They bid the prices up to higher levels. There is an awful lot of trading going on.

Cheap oil flooding the market. In the latest analysis the Saudis are leveraging their low cost oil by flooding the market in an attempt to lower costs, making higher cost production less profitable, if at all. This will stop the investment in these processes and stop the industry in its tracks. This is the point of the current reports.

Consumer demand. We will buy something at a marketable price. But in theory the higher the price is the less you will buy, or the less you want to buy it. As prices moderate or come down, you sell more of it. So even in a down economy people will buy just what is necessary, sometimes taking from other expenses. Especially at rising, or higher prices, other goods are affected because they have less money to spend. So people cut back in discretionary spending or luxury areas to offset the higher prices at the pump. Plus they cut use of the product in any ways they can. But other areas of the economy have to be affected because a bigger chunk of the money is going to a particular necessity. For instance less for clothes, food, and less disposable income.

Subsidized economies. Some countries subsidize certain areas of the economy. Many oil rich countries have lower consumer prices due to government subsidies. Some governments own or control the resources and depend on those resources for revenue to fund their government.They make budgets and decisions based on price projections.

Taxes. the money paid to gov’t on refined goods. Higher prices bring higher taxes.

OPEC, a group of oil rich nations allying to make adjustments en masse on production etc.They meet frequently to discuss their issues and concerns. (That I compare them to the Genovese crime family is neither here nor there — they are what they are) They can move or function as a bloc. They have a union concept working for them.

Oil companies, international or domestic, that produce and explore for resources. (Or if you are a card carrying leftist, the bad guys) Private companies in this country making decisions based on a bottom line profit margin, which employ many people. They are involved in production, transportation, refining, storage etc.

Government, involved in regulating, making regulation, protecting resources and assets. Also dispenses permits and approvals, and has oversight capability. It also collects revenues on the business models, as well as on consumer goods, such as refined products.

Retail businesses: Stores that sell finished goods directly to the public consumers.

Fracking and shale oil newer and higher cost drilling operations.

Cost – benefit analysis study of the benefits derived from the cost of materials and production, and projections or decisions based on those factors.

Industry and bulk users corporations and industry that use a particular commodity as basic in their business models. Airlines, freight, energy companies.

Speculators or investors and put hedge funds in this bracket. People or companies investing in oil based on its price fluctuation or performance over a period of time. People buying futures as in any other market, who hope to make a profit. (Such as Hilary’s pork belly futures)

Now, the idea is not to make some grand conclusion by these factors. Just say these are some relevant tangents in the overall picture.

RightRing | Bullright