Measured by historical standards, the price of oil has been extremely volatile in recent years. From over $114 per barrel in the summer of 2014 it collapsed more than 75% in only 18 months’ time. Then it tripled to $86/bbl in October 2018, only to drop by 40% to $52/bbl two months later. The question is, why is the oil price so very volatile? Is the market foreshadowing greater disruptions in the future? A closer look into oil supply and demand fundamentals suggests that a great crisis could be in the making – possibly with alarming repercussions.
The looming oil shortage
In 2012 a report produced by the UK Ministry of Defence predicted that oil prices would rise significantly out to 2040, and by “significantly,” they meant to $500 per barrel. From today’s perspective, this may seem farfetched. However, we should not dismiss UKMOD’s warning lightly. This could turn out to be the most important development facing humanity for decades to come. Continue reading
Asset price inflation might signal debasement of the currency and acceleration of commodity price inflation
This time it may well be different… For several years now, numerous high-profile commentators and analysts have been forecasting an imminent stock market correction, or indeed a crash, evoking the events of 1929, 1987, 2000 or 2008. Of course, many are now predicting it is sure to happen in 2018. If not, perhaps in 2019 or maybe 2020? Who knows… But so far, not many analysts – if any, apart from yours truly – have considered the possibility that this rally might extend even higher from today’s dizzying heights. In an October 2016 post I suggested that this is exactly what was ahead. Continue reading
Nature has … some sort of arithmetical-geometrical coordinate system, because nature has all kinds of models. What we experience of nature is in models, and all of nature’s models are so beautiful. – R. Buckminster Fuller
Nature’s survival strategies that bear the most similarities to activities of market speculators are those of predators. To live, predators must hunt and this activity includes elements of speculation. Like trading, predation requires knowledge, skills, judgment and decision-making. It also entails risk and uncertainty. A predator can’t be sure where her next meal is coming from. Each hunt is an investment of resources; it involves the risk of injury and loss of energy expended in failed hunts, which tend to be more frequent than successful ones. To survive and procreate, predators must consistently generate a positive return on this investment. Too much of a losing streak could turn out to be fatal. In his book, “The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator-Prey Relations” George B. Schaller painstakingly documented the details of hundreds of hunts by large cats in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. We have all seen wildlife television programs showing lions and cheetahs hunting, but Schaller’s work offers a much richer account of the life of predatory cats including their hunting behavior.
The anatomy of a hunt Continue reading
Over at OilPrice.com Nick Cunningham wrote that Saudi Arabia might finally reveal one of its closest kept secrets as they prepare to sell some 5% of its oil monopoly, Saudi Aramco, to the public. The Saudis and their Wall Street bankers expect Aramco to be valued at $2 to $3 trillion, which would generate north of $100 billion for the Saudis and massive underwriting fees for Wall Street Banks.
Since both the Saudis and Wall Street hope for the highest possible valuation for Aramco, we should not expect that they’ll “unveil” anything less than the rosiest plausible figure for their oil reserves. Continue reading
“Economists can’t forecast for a toffee… They have missed every recession in the last four decades. And it isn’t just growth that economists can’t forecast; it’s also inflation, bond yields, unemployment, stock market price targets and pretty much everything else.” – James Montier
Forecasting commodity prices and economic indicators is demonstrably an exercise in futility. Our markets and economies are complex systems and as such, their future unfolding is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty. Concretely, let’s take a look at how the leading economic analysts did at predicting oil prices, GDP growth, unemployment and stock market indices. Continue reading
In Berkshire Hathaway annual report (1985), Warren Buffett wrote the following:
When a management with reputation for brilliance tackles a business with reputation for poor fundamental economics, it is the reputation of the business that stays intact. 
My wife and I recently spent some time in Egypt. For a few days we sailed up the Nile from Luxor to Aswan on a cruise ship that counted nearly 70 crew members serving the total of five guests. The manager of the vessel was Mr. Khaled, an impeccably polite and always well dressed man in his 40s who, in spite of running a nearly empty ship managed to keep the crew’s morale high and ran the ship’s operations admirably well. Unfortunately, even if Mr. Khaled were the world’s best cruise ship manager, this particular situation was a good illustration of what Warren Buffet was talking about in his 1985 annual report. Continue reading
Over the last century or so, science has made immense progress in understanding natural phenomena like the weather and social phenomena like markets and economics. Unfortunately, we still fall well short of being able to successfully predict their behaviour. In spite of the mindboggling leaps in knowledge and computing horsepower, systematically successful prediction continues to elude us. This is largely due to the difficulty in modelling complex systems in sufficient detail. An aspect of this problem, called “sensitive dependence on initial conditions” might well be altogether insurmountable. Continue reading
Last week we learned that U.S. federal debt passed the $19.5 trillion, adding $1.36 trillion during this fiscal year. Just last month, it added $151.5 billion. By now we have all gone a bit tone-deaf with all the billions and trillions tossed about in the news, so let’s put this into a bit of perspective. In August, the U.S. government added $475 per man, woman and child, or $1,206 per household living in the U.S. We are talking one month’s time here! The annual clip is $5,700 per man woman and child!! This is very far from sustainable, but it’s quite a bit worse actually. Continue reading
On 24th September 2015, David Stein (M Sc., CFA, President and CEO of Aberdeen International) wrote a compelling article analyzing the expected effect of last year’s VolksWagen emissions scandal on palladium and platinum markets that should be of great interest to commodity traders and industry. Continue reading