Crude oil, the one to watch – fnarena electricity production in china

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There are probably as many similarities with the situation in 2008 as there are differences back then with global energy markets today, but one key characteristic hasn’t changed: energy producers are one of the best performing sectors on the stock exchange and many an enthusiastic market follower is looking upwards for more investment gain potential.

If so, the answer may not lay with Saudi Arabia and OPEC, but more likely with Venezuela, or Iran (Trump permitting), while the US shale industry sorts out its infrastructure bottlenecks. Equally important, if we do get to see further upside in global oil prices, at what point does this start to weigh upon market sentiment?

One historic correlation the world temporarily forgot about back in 2008 (despite me reminding everyone who cared to listen), is that higher priced oil does come with consequences for everyone outside the oil industry. Even mining companies experience a spike in their bills for diesel to keep those big Tonka trucks on the road and moving dirt.

One popular saying is that higher priced oil is effectively a higher tax on the broader economy with both households and businesses forced to pay up. No wonder thus, a significant rise in the price of energy is what has caused economic recessions in the past, including in 2008 (even though that correlation is seldom highlighted).

Usually, the rule of thumb is that the price doubles in less than a year, after which an economic recession becomes the logical consequence. As with interest rates and bond yields; gradual rises are OK, rapid spikes not because they don’t leave enough time for the world to prepare and to adapt.

So what’s the situation right now? If we focus on the US$30/bbl bottom reached in February 2016, the price of oil has now more than doubled in around two years. But one has to take into account that for most of the period crude oil futures have been trading inside the US$50-60/bbl zone, so while today’s US$70+ prices represent an extra burden for the global economy, it’s not quite the same as the price rallying all the way to US$147/bbl ten years ago.

If we do get back above US$90/bbl and the market sets its sight upon three digits again, that will be the time to really start worrying. In the meantime, I have spotted the first few economists who now believe the brakes are on for global economic growth, because the twelve months gain is about 40% and one has to admit, the odds still seem in favour of higher oil prices.

The implication here is twofold: on one hand there could be a lot more outperformance on the horizon for Woodside Petroleum ((WPL)), Origin Energy ((ORG)), Oil Search ((OSH)), Beach Energy ((BPT)), and the likes; on a secondary level it also functions as the proverbial canary telling us this cycle might be in its final innings.

On Monday, oil price forecasters at Commonwealth Bank significantly raised their price estimates for the next 24 months, arguing problems and supply restraints in Venezuela and elsewhere are likely to keep an upward bias on global oil prices while demand in the short term will exert inelasticity. The latter means demand won’t be negatively impacted in the short term.

Also, with Saudi Arabia‘s focus on IPO-ing 5% of the world’s largest oil producer, Aramco, the forecasters believe the Kingdom of Saud will be more focused on its own shorter term interest, than on further out impact for the rest of the world. Better buckle up!