FRACTIONAL FLOW

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Archive for April 2015

The Contango Spread Supports The Oil Price And Results In Strong Stock Building

As analysts and pundits keep staring into their crystal balls searching for clues to future moves in the oil price, it may be more helpful to look at some actual developments that may explain the recent strong US stock builds, developments in US total petroleum consumption and what this now may presage about future oil price movements.

In this post I present a closer look at the recent growth in US total petroleum demands split into:

  • Development in US total petroleum consumption (inclusive some selected products)
  • Rate of stock build of US commercial crude oil stocks

Then a look at developments in crude oil supplies from OPEC where several of the big oil producers in the Middle East have had strong growth in the number of oil rigs since early 2014. Recent media reports about increases in oil supplies from the biggest Middle East oil producer.

Figure 01: The chart above shows developments in the oil price (Brent spot), blue line and left hand scale [The oil price has been multiplied by 4 to fit the scaling on the left hand scale]. The thick black line shows the weekly EIA reported total inventory of US commercial crude oil stocks, left hand scale. The thin gray line plotted versus the right hand scale shows the daily changes to crude oil inventories from weekly EIA data. The thick red line plotted versus the right hand scale is a trailing 28 days moving average of changes to the crude oil inventories. Stock draw downs adds to supplies and may moderate price growth for some time. Figure 02 has zoomed in on the recent developments.

Figure 01: The chart above shows developments in the oil price (Brent spot), blue line and left hand scale [The oil price has been multiplied by 4 to fit the scaling on the left hand scale]. The thick black line shows the weekly EIA reported total inventory of US commercial crude oil stocks, left hand scale.
The thin gray line plotted versus the right hand scale shows the daily changes to crude oil inventories from weekly EIA data.
The thick red line plotted versus the right hand scale is a trailing 28 days moving average of changes to the crude oil inventories.
Stock draw downs adds to supplies and may moderate price growth for some time.
Figure 02 has zoomed in on the recent developments.

In Q1 2014 the average daily US stock build was 0.29 Mb/d and during Q1 2015 the average US daily stock build was 1.10 Mb/d.

Demand for US stock build was up 0.8 Mb/d year over year. This stronger stock build temporarily adds to (global) demand and supports the oil price.

What drives this strong stock build is the price spread between contracts for prompt/front month deliveries versus contracts for later deliveries when the futures curve is in what is referred to as contango, refer also figure 3.

The recent strong builds in US crude oil storage may give away some clues about underlying developments in consumption.

Demand = Consumption + Stock changes = Supplies

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The Oil Price, Total Global Debt And Interest Rates

In several posts I have presented my exploration of any relations between total global debt, interest rates and the oil price.

Sometimes I am left with the impression that when societies’ are looking for a scapegoat for its ills, their reactions bring forth memories from a scene of the movie “Casablanca”, where Captain Renault confronted with solving a crime commands his men; “Round up the usual suspects!”.

For many years one of these “usual suspects” has been and will continue to be: The Oil Price.

However, looking at time series of developments in total global debt and interest rates makes me wonder if not more light should have been directed towards developments in total global debt and interest rates to obtain profound understandings of the fundamental forces that drives the oil price through its ebbs and flows.

In the post “It is the Debt, Stupid” from December 2011 (in Norwegian and refer figure 6) I illustrated how much a 1% increase in the interest rate for public debt in some countries equated to as an increase in the oil price (this was admittedly a simplistic and static comparison, and the exercise was intended to draw attention to the level of debts which made many economies more sensitive to interest hikes than to oil price increases).

Starting in 2014 there has been a steady flow of reports, worth studying, that focused on the growth in total global debt levels, like the 84th BIS Annual Report 2013/2014 and VOX CEPR (CEPR; The Centre for Economic Policy Research) with its “Deleveraging, What Deleveraging?”, The 16th Geneva Report on the World Economy.

In February 2015 McKinsey published “Debt and (not much) deleveraging” which also presents some deep insights into developments of debt by sector for some countries.

Figure 1: Chart above has been lifted from page 1 of the Executive summary of the McKinsey report “Debt and (not much) deleveraging” made public in February 2015.

Figure 1: Chart above has been lifted from page 1 of the Executive summary of the McKinsey report “Debt and (not much) deleveraging” made public in February 2015.

The chart above contains plenty of information about total global debt levels, debt and developments to the growth rate of debt by sector and not least, how total global debt has grown faster than Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The short version is that post the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008, which was triggered by too much debt, the global economy was brought back on its trajectory by the use of more debt stimulated by low interest rates.

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