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Oil, Interest Rates and Debt

At first glance it is hard to see how oil, interest rates and debt are connected. Two of them are human constructs while oil (fossil sunlight), a gift from Mother Nature, took tens of millions of years to process. Oil is an endowment extracted from a confined underground stock and is now the most dense and versatile energy source known to man.

Figure 1: Chart that shows the development of [extraction] cost of oil and interest rates (US 10 Year Treasuries) has developed since 2000 and a likely trajectory for oil extraction costs.

Figure 1: Chart that shows the development of [extraction] cost of oil and interest rates (US 10 Year Treasuries) has developed since 2000 and a likely trajectory for oil extraction costs.

Both lines are SIGNALS, and most likely plan their future based on only one of them.

The 10 Year Treasury (or similar) rate is the reference used for amongst other things to set interest rate for mortgages. Most now, aware of it or not, base their future plans on the expectations to developments of the 10 Year Treasury.

What is now playing out in the oil market may be described as below;

Low interest rates [stimulates debt growth] => Pulls demand forward => Oversupply => Deflation

How will the interest rate develop in the future?

This is important as the present huge global debt overhang weighs heavily in the consumers’ balance sheets and their affordability for costlier oil. It is also important for oil companies’ long term planning to bring costlier oil to the market.

A lasting, low rate makes higher debt loads manageable. Interest rates works both sides of the demand/supply equation.

A higher interest rate will have serious implications for highly leveraged consumers and oil companies.

The dynamics may be described as below:

Higher interest rate => lowers demand => downward pressure on price [deflation] => makes it harder for [highly leveraged] consumers/oil companies to service their debt overhang => lowers investments to develop costlier supplies

At some point in time the present oil supply overhang will come to an end. This will become reflected in a higher price.

The timing of these events creates uncertainties and the agile and financial strong oil companies will sweat out a lasting low oil price.

Few are aware of that the costs of accessing our real capital (like oil) that runs our economies are rapidly increasing.

What is different this time is that the oil price may remain lower for longer than the estimated full cycle break even costs for new developments.

The suggested path for costs is believed in the near term to come down as oil service companies have reduced their prices to shoulder the burden from the recent price collapse. Over time, the capacities of the service companies will become aligned with the demand for their services and products. At some point, as the oil price recovers and investments pick up, the market mechanisms will bring the prices from the service companies up as the service companies also need to make a profit to stay in business.

In figures 4 and 5 are shown how the combination of lower interest rates and a lasting, high oil price encouraged the oil companies to rapidly take on more debt to develop costlier oil on the expectations that consumers had remaining ability to take on more debt/credit to pay for this, thus allowing the oil companies to retire their debts.

The oil companies’ behavior in the recent decade is reminiscent of group think. Few expected the oil price to collapse, though the oil industry itself repeatedly point out the cyclical nature of the oil price.

The aggregate of developments (primarily driven by an amazing growth in the extraction of light tight oil [LTO]) gradually resulted in a supply overhang that made the oil price collapse.

The costs of extracting real capital, like oil, has been rapidly increasing, yet we are making decisions for the future as if it were decreasing, based on the price of capital (money). This is a short term phenomenon that will last until supply and demand become balanced.

The present situation with an apparent oil glut and low prices is a temporary false signal.

This may also be the case with the low interest rates.

The near future will reveal how the competition for available funds to service a still growing huge global debt overhang fare towards the need to fund developments of costlier oil.

Can an increasingly leveraged global economy handle both higher oil prices and interest rates and still remain on its growth trajectory?

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The Oil Price and EMEs growth in Credit and Petroleum Consumption since 2000

In this post I present a closer look at the credit growth for 6 Emerging Market Economies (EME) together with the developments in their and the net oil exporters petroleum consumption for the period 2000 to 2014.

The 6 EMEs are; Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

  • Where did the lion’s share of growth in global petroleum consumption end up since 2000?
  • What was the likely mechanism/vehicle that allowed for this?

This post is an update and expansion to my post “Changes in Total Global Credit Affect The Oil Price”

  • The credit growth for the EMEs was strong in absolute and relative terms (also as a percentage of GDP) since 2009. As from 2013 the EMEs credit growth slowed (decelerated).
  • The EMEs credit growth gained momentum as the big central banks lowered interest rates and started Quantitative Easings (QE), refer also figures 02 and 04.
  • As the EMEs enter debt saturation (little room left on their balance sheets {little remaining quality collateral} to take on more credit/debt) expect this to affect their consumption and their potential to pay for higher priced oil.
  • Potential for continued [global] credit growth will for some time become one of the vital factors that define the sustainable ceiling for the oil price.
  • Demand is what one can pay for. In other words, demand is monetary in nature. Credit acts as money and adds to aggregate demand.
    Credit growth also made it possible to bid up and pay for higher priced oil during the recent years.
  • If the oil price, for whatever combination of reasons, moves to a sustainable higher level, it should be expected that those who are left with limited/no access to more credit will reduce their consumption/demand for oil.

Figure 01: The stacked areas in the chart show the growth in petroleum consumption for the 6 EMEs and the net oil exporters from 2000 to 2014 [2000 has been used as a baseline]. Total growth for the 6 EMEs are shown by the black dotted line. The red dashed line shows the change in total global petroleum consumption since 2000. [These are shown versus the right axis]. The development in the oil price is shown by yellow circles connected by a grey line versus the left axis.

Figure 01: The stacked areas in the chart show the growth in petroleum consumption for the 6 EMEs and the net oil exporters from 2000 to 2014 [2000 has been used as a baseline]. Total growth for the 6 EMEs are shown by the black dotted line.
The red dashed line shows the change in total global petroleum consumption since 2000. [These are shown versus the right axis].
The development in the oil price is shown by yellow circles connected by a grey line versus the left axis.

The chart above shows several interesting developments.

  • The strong growth in petroleum consumption from the 6 EMEs and net oil exporters since 2000.
  • Early in the previous decade the OECD countries also grew their petroleum consumption as a response to central banks’ lowered interest rates that allowed for further credit expansion [kicking the can until there is no more road left].
  • A shift occurred post the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008.
    The 6 EMEs and net exporters outbid OECD (and others) for a portion of their petroleum consumption.
    (This is shown by the growth in global petroleum consumption [the red dotted line] which since 2008 did not fully meet growth in consumption from the 6 EMEs and net oil exporters.
    The 6 EMEs and the net oil exporters increased their total petroleum consumption with 17.1 Mb/d (from 26.7 Mb/d in 2000 to 43.7 Mb/d in 2014), while global consumption grew by 15.2 Mb/d to 92.1 Mb/d.
  • OECD reduced its petroleum consumption from 48.0 Mb/d (2008) to 45.1 Mb/d (2014).
    OECD countries slowed and/or reversed credit expansion (deleveraged [default is one way to deleverage]) and introduced austerity measures in a bid to manage their credit overhang.
  • The net oil exporters (countries/regions) that saw noticeable growth in their petroleum consumption in the period are; Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan and the regions Middle East and Africa. There are other small net oil exporters like Denmark, Trinidad&Tobago which had small changes to their petroleum consumption.
  • Indonesia became a net petroleum importer as of 2003 and Malaysia as of 2011.

The net oil exporters spent some of the increased revenues from higher priced oil for social programs to improve living standards and as leverage for increased investments to sustain and/or grow oil supplies (which require energy!) for what looked like a sustained growth in demand/consumption that would support a lasting high oil price.

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Written by Rune Likvern

Saturday, 5 September, 2015 at 19:01

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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Are We In The Midst Of An Epic Battle Between Interest Rates And The Oil Price?

What follows are the continuance of my research, discussions, observations and thoughts around the nexus of debts, interest rates and the oil price.
I now believe these relations are poorly understood and with total global debt levels at all time highs (and growing), years of low interest rates, which are kept low (by concerted efforts by central banks) while the oil price in recent months has collapsed may hide a SIGNAL that struggles with attention from too much noise.

  • A collapsing oil price while interest rates remain low is likely the proverbial canary.

Global Crude Oil Supplies, The Oil Price And Interest Rates

Figure 1: The green area [left hand axis] in the chart above shows the world’s development of crude oil and condensates supplies between 1980 and 2013. The pink line shows the development in the interest rate (yield) for US 10 Year Treasuries [right hand axis]. The price of oil (Brent), black line nominal, yellow line inflation adjusted in $2013 [both right hand axis]. NOTE: The oil price has been divided by 10 to accommodate it on the same scale as the interest rate [right hand axis]. The US 10 Year Treasury (US10T) interest rate has been in decline and is presently around 2.0%.

Figure 1: The green area [left hand axis] in the chart above shows the world’s development of crude oil and condensates supplies between 1980 and 2013.
The pink line shows the development in the interest rate (yield) for US 10 Year Treasuries [right hand axis].
The price of oil (Brent), black line nominal, yellow line inflation adjusted in $2013 [both right hand axis].
NOTE: The oil price has been divided by 10 to accommodate it on the same scale as the interest rate [right hand axis].
The US 10 Year Treasury (US10T) interest rate has been in decline and is presently around 2.0%.

Cause and effects amongst the oil price and interest rates are of course subject to (some informed and gripping) discussions.

  • The price of oil appears to have been the leading indicator.
  • Any (small) increase to the interest rate now will likely affect demand for oil and thus its price, thus further slowing investments for new supplies.

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Growth in Global Total Debt sustained a High Oil Price and delayed the Bakken “Red Queen”

The saying is that hindsight (always) provides 20/20 vision.

In this post I present a retrospective look at my prediction from 2012 published on The Oil Drum (The “Red Queen” series) where I predicted that Light Tight Oil (LTO) extraction from Bakken in North Dakota would not move much above 0.7 Mb/d.

  • Profitable drilling in Bakken for LTO extraction has been, is and will continue to be dependent on an oil price above a certain threshold, now about $68/Bbl at the wellhead (or around $80/Bbl [WTI]) on a point forward basis.
    (The profitability threshold depends on the individual well’s productivity and companies’ return requirements.)
  • Complete analysis of developments to LTO extraction should encompass the resilience of the oil companies’ balance sheets and their return requirements.

Figure 01: The chart above shows development in Light Tight Oil (LTO) extraction from January 2009 and as of August 2014 in Bakken North Dakota [green area, right hand scale]. The top black line is the price of Western Texas Intermediate (WTI), red middle line the Bakken LTO price (sweet) as published by the Director for NDIC and bottom orange line the spread between WTI and Bakken LTO wellhead all left hand scale. The spread between WTI and Bakken wellhead has widened in the recent months.

Figure 01: The chart above shows development in Light Tight Oil (LTO) extraction from January 2009 and as of August 2014 in Bakken North Dakota [green area, right hand scale]. The top black line is the price of Western Texas Intermediate (WTI), red middle line the Bakken LTO price (sweet) as published by the Director for NDIC and bottom orange line the spread between WTI and Bakken LTO wellhead all left hand scale. The spread between WTI and Bakken wellhead has widened in the recent months.

What makes extraction from source rock in Bakken attractive (as in profitable) is/was the high oil price and cheap debt (low interest rates). The Bakken formation has been known for decades and fracking is not a new technology, though it has seen and is likely to see lots of improvements.

LTO extraction in Bakken (and in other plays like Eagle Ford) happened due to a higher oil price as it involves the deployment of expensive technologies which again is at the mercy of:

  • Consumers affordability, that is their ability to continue to pay for more expensive oil
  • Changes in global total debt levels (credit expansion), like the recent years rapid credit expansion in emerging economies, primarily China.
  • Central banks’ policies, like the recent years’ expansions of their balance sheets and low interest rate policies
    • Credit/debt is a vehicle for consumers to pay (create demand) for a product/service
    • Credit/debt is also used by companies to generate supplies to meet changes to demand
    • What companies in reality do is to use expectations of future cash flows (from consumers’ abilities to take on more debt) as collateral to themselves go deeper into debt.
    • Credit/debt, thus works both sides of the supply/demand equation
  • How OPEC shapes their policies as responses to declines in the oil price
    Will OPEC establish and defend a price floor for the oil price?

I have recently and repeatedly pointed out;

  • Any forecasts of oil (and gas) demand/supplies and oil price trajectories are NOT very helpful if they do not incorporate forecasts for changes to total global credit/debt, interest rates and developments to consumers’/societies’ affordability.

Oil is a global commodity which price is determined in the global marketplace.

Added liquidity and low interest rates provided by the world’s dominant central bank, the Fed, has also played some role in the developments in LTO extraction from the Bakken formation in North America.

As numerous people repeatedly have said; “Never bet against the Fed!” to which I will add “…and China’s determination to expand credit”.

Let me be clear, I do not believe that the Fed’s policies have been aimed at supporting developments in Bakken (or other petroleum developments) this is in my opinion unintended consequences.

In Bakken two factors helped grow and sustain a high number of well additions (well manufacturing);

  • A high(er) oil price
  • Growing use of cheap external funding (primarily debt)

In the summer of 2012 I found it hard to comprehend what would sustain the oil price above $80/Bbl (WTI).

The mechanisms that supported the high oil price was well understood, what lacked was documentation from authoritative sources about the scale of the continued accommodative policies from major central banks’ (balance sheet expansions [QE] and low interest rate policies) and as important; global total credit expansion, which in recent years was driven by China and other emerging economies.

I have described more about this in my post World Crude Oil Production and the Oil Price.

 

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World Crude Oil Production and the Oil Price

In April 2012 I published this post about World Crude Oil Production and the Oil Price (in Norwegian) which was an attempt to describe the developments in the sources of crude oils (including condensates), tranches of total life cycle costs (that is [CAPEX {inclusive returns} + OPEX] per barrel  of oil) and something about the drivers for the formation of the oil price.

Rereading the post and as time passed, I learnt more and therefore thought it appropriate to revisit and update the post as it in my opinion contains some topics from what I have observed, learned and discussed that have been given poor attention and appears poorly understood.

I will continue to pound the message that oil prices are also subject to the reality of;

  • “Demand is what the consumers can pay for!”

Figure 1: The chart above shows the developments in the oil price [Brent spot] and the time of central banks’ announcements/deployments of available tools to support the global financial markets which the economy heavily relies upon. The financial system is virtual and thus highly responsive. The chart suggests causation between FED policies and movements to the oil price.

Figure 1: The chart above shows the developments in the oil price [Brent spot] and the time of central banks’ announcements/deployments of available tools to support the global financial markets which the economy heavily relies upon. The financial system is virtual and thus highly responsive.
The chart suggests causation between FED policies and movements to the oil price.

The four big central banks, BoE, BoJ, ECB and the Fed expanded their balance sheets with $6 – 7 Trillion following the Lehman collapse in the fall of 2008. These liquidity injections are about to end.

Since 2008 most of the advanced economies’ credit expansions originated from the central banks, the lenders of last resort. Central banks are collateral constrained.

The consensus about the oil price collapse during the recent weeks is attributed to waning global demand and growth in  supplies.

All eyes are now on OPEC.

  • Any forecasts of oil (and gas) demand/supplies and oil price trajectories are NOT very helpful if they do not incorporate forecasts for changes to total global credit/debt, interest rates and developments to consumers’/societies’ affordability.

For more than a decade, I have carefully studied the forecasts (and been involved in numerous fruitful [private] discussions) from authoritative sources like the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) including the annual outlooks from several of the major oil companies and I did NOT find that any of these takes into consideration changes to global credit/debt [growth/deleveraging], levels of total global credit/debt and interest rates.

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The Crude Oil Price and Changes to Total Global Private Credit/Debt

This is another installment of my work in progress about credit, interest rates and the oil price. Though many of the mechanisms for some time (as in several years and in some circles) have been well understood, nothing beats having the cover of data/reports from authoritative sources.

In this post I present the observations and results from the research of the developments in some selected OECD countries and emerging economies (non OECD) in their petroleum consumption together with the relative developments in their total non financial debt since 1999.

This may put into context how emerging economies were able to grow their petroleum consumption as the oil price grew and remained high. Likewise provide some insights into some of the mechanisms at work that caused a decline in petroleum consumption for the selected OECD countries.

The selected countries presented and the world had the following changes in their total petroleum consumption between 2005 and 2013 based upon data from BP Statistical Review 2014:

OECD countries:  – 4.04 Mb/d (decline)

Emerging economies: 8.39 Mb/d (growth)

Growth in world petroleum consumption: 6.94 Mb/d

The numbers illustrate that the emerging economies’ total growth in petroleum consumption was greater than the world’s from 2005 to 2013. These emerging economies effectively bid out OECD for a portion of its consumption to meet its own growing demand.

·         How was this accomplished?

·         Were the emerging economies about to decouple from the advanced economies?

·         What caused petroleum consumption for the OECD countries to decline?

I set out to explore what could be the likely causes by looking into the relative changes in total non financial debt of these countries armed with data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS, in Basel, Switzerland) placed together with the changes in their petroleum consumption as from the end of 1999 with data from BP Statistical Review 2014.

It turns out that changes in petroleum consumption for these countries closely follow relative changes to total private non financial debts. Then add changes in sovereign/public debt.

Demand is not what one wants, but what one can pay for.

And expectations for demand drives investments for supplies.

Credit is a vehicle which allows for demand to be pulled forward in time and to some extent negates any price growth and allows for investments to meet expected demand changes.

Credit works both sides of the demand and supply equation.

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