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World Crude Oil Production and the Oil Price, August 2015

In this post I present some of my observations and thoughts about the developments in the oil price, supply and demand, exchange rates (relative to the US dollar), petroleum stocks and what near term factors are likely to influence the oil price.

  • The price of oil (and other commodities) appears to have been influenced by the central banks’ policies post the GFC of 2008 (Global Financial Crisis, primarily the Fed as the US dollar is the world’s major reserve currency) with low interest rates which allowed for growth in total global credit/debt.
  • As the Fed confirmed its end of QE3 (QE; Quantitative Easing) program by the fall of 2014, the oil price started to decline. This decline became amplified by an oversupply resulting from years of debt fueled high capital expenditures by the oil companies to develop supplies of costlier oil for the market to meet expectations of growth in consumption.
  • With the end of QE3 the US dollar rapidly appreciated versus most other major currencies, which offset some of the decline in the oil price in most economies (oil is priced in US dollar), the exceptions being the US and China (which has its currency pegged to the US dollar).
  • Demand and consumption of oil (actual data so far only for the US) responded to the price collapse by some growth. However the world’s growth has not been sufficient to close the gap between supplies and consumption, thus sustaining a downward pressure on the oil price.
  • The oil price collapse motivated oil companies with low variable costs (OPEX) to compensate some of the loss of cash flow by increasing their production (volumes), thus creating a dynamic where growing supplies went looking for demand.
  • The oil price collapse and a period with a favorable contango spread incentivized a strong build in stocks and as stocks remain at elevated levels, it may take some time before stocks return to “normal” levels.

Figure 1: The chart above shows the developments in the oil price [Brent spot, black line. The red line is the smoothed one year moving average] and the time of central banks’ announcements/deployments of available monetary tools to support the global financial markets which the economy relies heavily upon. The financial system is virtual and thus highly responsive. NOTE: The chart suggests some causation between FED policies and movements to the oil price. The US dollar is the world’s major reserve currency and most currencies are joined to it at the hip.

Figure 1: The chart above shows the developments in the oil price [Brent spot, black line. The red line is the smoothed one year moving average] and the time of central banks’ announcements/deployments of available monetary tools to support the global financial markets which the economy relies heavily upon. The financial system is virtual and thus highly responsive.
NOTE: The chart suggests some causation between FED policies and movements to the oil price. The US dollar is the world’s major reserve currency and most currencies are joined to it at the hip.

The big unknown is how demand will develop. A global economy struggling with too much debt while running out of quality collateral will at some point experience the drags from growth in the services of the growing total debt. Continued growth in global credit/debt will increasingly be directed towards the services of the growing total amount of debt (kicking the can down the road as the economic productivity from additional credit/debt diminishes).

  • As growth in global credit/debt slows, comes to halt or deleveraging sets in, this will affect demand and prices, also for oil.

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