Archive for June, 2008
Monday, June 30th, 2008
July 1, 2008 – (courtesy of Bespoke Investment Group) If any one tries to tell you differently, all you need to do is show them the chart below. As last week’s trading illustrates, every time oil went up, stocks went down, and every time oil pulled back, the market gained steam.
Monday, June 30th, 2008
July 2, 2008 – Courtesy of BMG Inc. – The Gold:Oil Ratio gives us a curious chart. What is to be made of this comparison between two commodities? Some will argue that gold is a currency, and that this chart shows an inverse price for oil in real money, gold. With oil at all–time highs and gold just off of its own high price, the two are showing the effects of inflation as they increase in price with every new US dollar printed. The relationship between the two are seen in this chart, and interesting points are noted.
Hurricane Katrina gave us an oil price spike in August 2005, which shows up as a sharp bottom in the chart. Gold’s run to over $1000 earlier this year shows up as a top, followed by a sharp decline in the ratio as oil prices ran up to $140 per barrel while gold retreated to the $900 area. This seesaw movement of this ratio’s chart may only be indicating the ebb and flow of these two markets. But we can take something from the long-term average of this ratio of 15: If oil is the “right price” and the average of 15 is applied, the price of gold would be headed towards $2025. If gold is at the right price, then oil would be headed to $60. Believe either of those calculations at your own peril. The ratio spends time above the long-term average of 15 typically during a bull market in equities. The average for this decade is around 10.
With this value, the ratio suggests gold would be $1350 or oil $90; perhaps these are more reasonable short-term targets as suggested by this ratio.
Tags: Barisheff, BMG Inc., Chart, Commodities, Currency, date, Dollar, energy, Gold, inflation, Markets, oil, oil price spike, Oil Prices, then oil, US Dollar, usd, Value
Posted in Commodities, Energy & Natural Resources, Gold, Markets, Oil and Gas | Comments Off
Thursday, June 26th, 2008
June 26, 2008 – Andrew Ross Sorkin, of the New York Times, writes about how prophetic Tom Wolfe’s declaration was on the day of the Blackstone debut: “We may be witnessing the end of capitalism as we know it.”
When you get to the end of an era, marking the timeline with watershed events is always therapeutic. Here are some excerpts from Sorkin’s NYTimes article:
… Mr. Wolfe must be in attendance — was that the Blackstone Group, the big private equity firm, was minutes away from going public, the largest initial public offering in the United States since 2002. (At the time, he told The New York Observer that a friend was giving him a tour.)
Just then, a CNBC reporter pulled Mr. Wolfe aside to ask him what he made of all the hubbub. Mr. Wolfe paused for a moment to contemplate his answer.
And then, with a wry smile, he delivered a prophetic declaration: “We may be witnessing the end of capitalism as we know it.”
One year later …
Blackstone’s stock has gone nowhere but down since it went public, dropping nearly 50 percent from its high the day it started trading. But that’s the least of it.
The once mighty Wall Street investment banks have been brought to their knees, sending out pink slips to more than 83,000 employees worldwide, racking up billions of dollars in losses as a results of their foolish forays into subprime mortgages. Bear Stearns all but went out of business before being “saved.” Some hedge funds have gone belly up.
Those lords of private equity, many of which were preparing to follow Blackstone into the public markets, have been put on semipermanent hiatus. (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company refuses to withdraw its I.P.O filing, almost a year after submitting it, with no immediate hope in sight.) Their deal-making has all but stopped.
As Mr. Wolfe nicely put it, “It sounds like even the firms that aren’t in trouble are in trouble.”
And, what of credit …
And yet, there has been a perverse, and misguided, optimism that somehow the situation will improve in the second half of 2008. How? Sure, the big banks may take fewer write-downs — but there is no way of knowing that. The news a few days ago that the big bond insurers were being downgraded will create new havoc — and losses — for holders of toxic subprime debt. Indeed, the bigger issue is what kind of business is going to generate any return for its investors. When you can’t lend or trade — and you can’t invest with the leverage that juiced returns to support seven- and eight-figure bonuses — how exactly are you going to make money?
“It has always interested me that the word ‘credit’ comes from the word ‘credere,’ which means ‘to believe,’ ” Mr. Wolfe said. “It only works if people believe in it.” He’s right, of course: one reason the credit markets have tanked is that people don’t believe anymore.
Tags: Andrew Ross Sorkin, Banks, Bear Stearns, Blackstone, Blackstone Group, capitalism, CNBC reporter, Credit, Credit Market, Credit Markets, Dealbook, Dollar, Excerpts, Financials, Hedge Fund, Hedge Funds, Investment Banks, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company, Markets, Mortgage, New York Times, REW, risk, SMI, The New York Observer, the New York Times, Tom Wolfe, Trading, United States, Wall Street, Water
Posted in Bonds, Credit Markets, Markets | Comments Off
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
T. Boone Pickens, the legendary corporate raider and oilman believes that water is the new oil. A recent BusinessWeek article discusses his investment and and his convictions on the water supply opportunity and his company, Mesa Water’s plans. This is an interesting story, microcosmic of the critical issue and opportunity in water that is bubbling up globally.
Here are a couple of excerpts:
Into this environment comes Pickens, who made a good living for a long time extracting oil and gas and now, at 80, believes the era of fossil fuel is over. So far he has spent $100 million and eight years on his project and still has not found any city in Texas willing to buy his water. But like many others, Pickens believes there’s a fortune to be made in slaking the thirst of a rapidly growing population. If he pumps as much as he can, he could sell about $165 million worth of water to Dallas each year. “The idea that water can be sold for private gain is still considered unconscionable by many,” says James M. Olson, one of America’s preeminent attorneys specializing in water- and land-use law. “But the scarcity of water and the extraordinary profits that can be made may overwhelm ordinary public sensibilities.”
“Water is a commodity,” he says. “Heck, isn’t it like oil? You have to come back to who owns the water. The groundwater is owned by the landowner. That’s it.” When it comes to potential buyers, Pickens cares about only one thing: how much they’re willing to pay. “Do I care what Dallas does with the water? Hell no.”
Read the full article:
Tags: America, Businessweek, Commodity, Dallas, Excerpts, James M. Olson, land-use law, Markets, Mesa Water, oil, Oil and Gas, pickens, Scarcity, SMI, Susan Berfield, Texas, usd, Water, water supply
Posted in Energy & Natural Resources, Markets, Oil and Gas | Comments Off
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
Stephen Briese, a highly regarded commodities trading expert, independent commodities analyst, author of The Commitments of Traders Bible (2008), editor of http://www.commitmentsoftraders.org/, and an advisor for JovInvestment Management’s Horizons Global Contrarian Fund, says, for example, that large investors are sitting (naked) on roughly 200-days worth of crude oil, and the CFTC (Commodities Futures Trading Commission) knows it.
GreenLightAdvisor.com interviewed Stephen Briese, and here is an excerpt. You may hear the entire interview by clicking the link below.
“I follow the Commitment of Traders reports and what we see there is that the producers and users who are hedging in the market, the ‘negative feedback traders’ – the higher prices go, the more they sell [of the commodities], and they were selling at record levels last September, indicating that they were fully hedged.” Briese says. “Now those hedged traders have continued to sell all the way up, and historically they have defended their markets by doing that, but I think that all of the price increases since September have been speculative.”
Under CFTC rules however, large investors who are not handling the commodities are not entitled to an exemption allowing them to trade in the commodities. Commodity Index Funds, such as the popular S&P GSCI (S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index) have gotten such exemptions, allowing investors to pile in this way.
Briese says the unwinding of these positions could have dire consequences for investors, large and small.
LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW: [MP3] Stephen Briese, CommitmentofTraders.org, June 19, 2008, 9 min. 18 sec.
About the Commitment of Traders reports:
The Commitments of Traders (COT) report is a very useful tool to use when trading commodities, yet most traders don’t know how to properly use this gem of weekly information. Steve Briese is considered an expert in this field of study and he gives the readers of The Commitments of Traders Bible a logical understanding of how the professionals move the commodity markets and how you can take advantage of those opportunities.
Tags: advisor, author, Briese, CME, commitmentsoftraders.org, Commodities, Commodities Futures Trading Commission, Commodity, Commodity Index Funds, Commodity Indexes, COT, Crude Oil, editor, energy, Gold, independent commodities analyst, Information, interview, Investment Management, iShares GSCI, JovInvestment Management's Horizons Global Contrarian Fund, Markets, negative feedback traders, Nymex, oil, risk, S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity, S&P GSCI, Stephen Briese, Steve Briese, Trading
Posted in Commodities, Energy & Natural Resources, Gold, Markets, Oil and Gas | 1 Comment »
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
Tags: Australia, Bespoke Investment Group, Bolsa, Brazil, BRIC, BRICs, CAC 40, Canadian Market, Chart, China, DAX, Euro, France, FTSE, Germany, Hong Kong, HSI, IBEX, India, International, Italy, Japan, KLSE, KOSPI, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Markets, Mexico, MIB 30, Nikkei 225, OMX, risk, Russia, Russian Trading System, Sensex, Shanghai Composite, Singapore, SMI, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Straits Times, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Top 40, Trading, TWSE, UK
Posted in Markets | Comments Off
Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
President and CEO,
Bullion Management Group Inc.
This week we interview Mr. Nick Barisheff, President & CEO, Bullion Management Group, and discuss with him the importance of gold bullion. Mr. Barisheff founded Bullion Management Group Inc. in 1997, and is the portfolio manager of BMG BullionFund, Canada’s only open-ended fund investing purely in gold, silver, and platinum bullion.
For a PDF version, click here:[PDF] Interview with Nick Barisheff, BMG Inc. Here is the interview:
GreenLightAdvisor.com: What’s the most important thing people need to understand about gold?
Nick Barisheff: Many people think gold is a commodity like copper, zinc or pork bellies, but it has 3,000 years of history as money. It was money that no government created by edict. It was just adopted for usage by itself, and it was and still is the best form of money. Currently, we have a 37-year global experiment in paper money. All prior paper money experiments ended in hyperinflation, with the currencies becoming worthless. All previous hyperinflations were contained within a single country, but this time, because of the reserve status of the US dollar, it is likely to be global in nature.
Right now, the price of gold is rising while most currencies are losing purchasing power as well as their value against gold. Gold comes back into its monetary role when there’s a loss of confidence in the financial system or in paper money, and that’s when people are attracted to it.
Before 1971, the monetary system was governed by the Bretton Woods Agreement. Under that agreement, the US dollar was backed by gold, and other currencies were pegged to the dollar. Other countries could trade their US dollars for gold. Essentially, US gold indirectly backed all other currencies. Then things changed. As the US was getting into the Vietnam War and into President Johnson’s policy of guns and butter, US gold reserves started declining. Countries holding dollars were presenting their US dollars and asking for gold in return, and that led to US gold reserves dropping from a peak of 22,000 tonnes to 8,800 tonnes. On August 15, 1971, President Nixon “closed the gold window” and stopped the exchange of US dollars for gold. Closing the gold window was a euphemism, but basically the US declared bankruptcy. When you can’t meet your obligations when they are due, that’s what it is. So from that point in time, we’ve had 37 years where the entire world has been on a global fiat currency monetary system.
Since 1971, when the dollar was freed from the constraints imposed on a currency backed by gold, the US has experienced increasing federal government and current account deficits. The US is now borrowing $800 billion annually to fund its consumption of foreign-made goods and commodities, and the federal government is running a deficit of almost $350 billion. At some point, foreigners will become unwilling to continue funding US expenditures, forcing the Federal Reserve to expand the money supply at a faster pace. This will result in rising inflation, rising interest rates and a continuous decline in the US dollar.
GLA: We’ve had the fastest money supply growth in almost 40 years that’s resulting in increased inflation. Why would an investor want to go into T-bills, given that interest rates don’t even cover half of the stated inflation rate, which we know isn’t even the real inflation rate?
NB: For the first time in history, we have an unlimited ability, by all central banks, to print, however much money we want, so to speak. Apart from the US M3 money supply growing at about 20%, we also have India and China growing theirs at about the same rate. China is at 18%, India is at 20%, and Russia is at 45%. As China or India sell goods to the US, they take in US dollars and they print yuan or rupees against those US dollars. Japan’s a little different; there, individuals and corporations can take their US dollars and buy US assets themselves. In China you have to turn your US dollars in to the central bank.
In today’s inflationary environment, many who invest in fixed income investment do not appreciate that instead of being “safe” investments, they are in fact guaranteed losses of purchasing power when you take inflation and taxation into account. We have done some analysis into a systematic withdrawal from our Fund for those investors requiring income. Based on the fact that precious metals have a long track record of staying ahead of inflation, an investor would be far better off in precious metals in terms of maintaining principal after inflation and having more after-tax cash flow to spend.
GLA: What did you think of John Embry’s (Sprott Asset Management) recent article about the manipulation of the price of gold? His assertion was that the central banks are deliberately keeping gold below $1,000 per ounce.
NB: John and Eric Sprott have recently written an extensive report called Not Free, Not Fair. The report brings forth a great deal of evidence that the precious metals markets may be manipulated. While it may seem like there’s a conspiracy to suppress the gold price, I think it’s simpler than that. It’s a well know fact that it is the job of central banks to manage their country’s currency, that’s part of their mandate. Central banks understand that gold is a currency, but one that they can’t expand as easily as paper money. I don’t think there is any lack of understanding on the part of central bankers that gold is an alternative currency.
GLA: Isn’t gold considered to be just a commodity with no real monetary role anymore?
NB: I’d like to refer to an article by Tony Fell , and it’s particularly interesting, given that he was chairman of RBC Capital Markets at the time of writing. He talks about how gold has three attributes: it’s a commodity, a store of value and a currency. He says so many people now think of gold only as a commodity or jewellery, or as an archaic relic, that there’s a feeling of “who needs it anymore?” People don’t think of it as money.
However, the daily sales volume gives a conclusive indicator that gold is much more than an industrial commodity. The physical turnover of gold by members of the UK’s London Bullion Marketing Association is about *$25 billion per day. We’re talking about net turnover between the LBMA members. The volume is estimated at 7-10 times that amount.
It’s pretty clear that these are currency transactions. That’s why gold, silver and platinum trade on the currency desks of all the banks and brokerages, not the commodity desks.
What people need to know is that gold is a currency [like dollars or euros or yen]. Gold is not trading at these volumes as a commodity or as some archaic relic.
GLA: What are your thoughts on technical analysis, given that gold is a currency?
NB: Technical analysis works if you’re looking at widely distributed stocks like the S&P 500, for example, where there are many, many transactions that accurately reflect public sentiment. The price of gold, however, can be impacted by one country, or one very wealthy individual who wakes up one morning and decides to buy, and then you can throw the charts away. Or when a government decides to sell or a government intervenes. I’ve looked at technical analysis for gold in the past and tried to back-test with various techniques and found that they don’t work more often than they do. In the most recent case, there is no justification for the drop in gold price; it should have been rising because nothing has fundamentally changed. In fact, the fundamentals got worse and the gold price should have rallied. None of the problems went away; nothing was solved; the conditions are as bad as or worse than they were previously. So the drop in gold’s price has been a false decline.
GLA: So, it’s the value of paper currency that changes, not the value of gold [so to speak]?
NB: One of the attributes of gold as money is that you can’t simply create it at will, like paper money. It’s no one else’s promise of performance and it’s not someone else’s liability. It’s not going to zero, no matter what. And, whether we’re moving the measuring stick of inflation or deflation really doesn’t matter, because the way gold should be measured is in terms of purchasing power. It doesn’t matter if gold is priced at $1,000 in paper money per ounce or $2 in paper money per ounce, it will retain its purchasing power in either circumstance.
The first important step in the big picture of understanding gold is that it is a store of wealth with a 3,000 year history, and it’s money. Over the long term, it retains its purchasing power. That’s why they say that an ounce of gold will always buy a man’s suit.
Apart from that, the US dollar is down 85% in purchasing power since 1971. In 1971 you could buy a car with 100 ounces of gold; a car was about $3,500 and gold was $35 an ounce. With 1,000 ounces, or about $35,000, you could buy a house. Today, you could buy several cars or a luxury car with 100 ounces, and a mansion with 1,000 ounces. You could also buy more units of the Dow Jones Industrial Average with your ounce today than you could in 1971. So that ounce has preserved its purchasing power while currencies have lost over 80% of their value.
GLA: Apparently, in the last 40 or 50 years, there’s only been three years that there was net selling by gold investors, three years out of almost half a century. Is this true?
NB: People who hold bullion tend to hold it for a long time, as the core of their entire wealth. It’s not sold once you understand its basic characteristics, because you have to have a reason to sell it, you have to use it to buy something better. I tend to look at investment performance as to whether I end up with more gold ounces or less gold ounces rather than percentage returns; you get a different conclusion then. For example, if you had invested 44 ounces in the Dow in 2000, you would now get back only 14 ounces.
This current cycle is not a conventional bull market in precious metals; I think we’re in the midst of a change in the global monetary system. This is not going to be like a typical commodity cycle where we go up for four years and down for four years; I think we’re witnessing a transition into another monetary system, whatever form that may take. At the end of this period the US dollar will no longer be the world’s reserve currency.
GLA: What happens if the US dollar ceases to be the standard?
NB: What happened when the British pound ceased to be the standard? It just ceased to be the standard. Its decline in value is still ongoing. It’s happened to every empire throughout history: the British, the Roman, the Greek, the Spanish, the Persian, and the Chinese. Every single empire ended up debasing their currency in order to maintain the empire.
GLA: Is gold likely to increase further going forward or has it topped and investors have missed out?
Currently, we have a lot of noise in terms of the credit contraction, real estate bubble, record high debt at all levels, dangerous derivatives vulnerabilities and unsustainable US current account and trade deficits. These could still blow up into bigger problems at any time. However let’s hope they get resolved or at the very least postponed somehow.
But there are two factors that are not changeable in all of this.
First: The US has to print money on an accelerating basis. Has to – because of the underfunded Social Security and Medicare obligations – which at present are about $60 trillion. If you took all of the net earnings of US individuals and companies it would not be enough to pay that off. You can’t tax people enough and politically you cannot tell everybody, “Sorry, we can’t give you your Social Security – we don’t have the money. And no Medicare either.” So they have to keep printing money.
Second: The issue of Peak Oil – it used to be a debate as to when the production of oil would peak. Now it looks like that has already happened, in March 2006. As a result we have a situation where oil production is declining while demand is increasing, particularly from India and China. This will result in ever-increasing oil prices, and also increasing prices for almost every product and service.
As these two forces – increased money printing and peak oil – interact, the result is a declining dollar alongside constantly increasing oil prices. This leads to even greater oil price increases in an effort to offset the dollar decline. These two highly inflationary factors are working in tandem, and they can’t be changed.
Therefore, as oil rises and the dollar declines, commodities – and particularly precious metals – will continue to rise.
GLA: What’s the relationship between oil and gold?
NB: There’s not necessarily a great deal of correlation between the two in the short term. However, in the longer term, the correlation has been in the order of about 16 barrels of oil for every ounce of gold.
GLA: Has that been consistent long term and what is the outlook for precious metals?
NB: With only short-term fluctuations, this ratio has held up over the long term. At this point the price of gold is undervalued compared to the price of oil. Gold should be closer to $1,500 an ounce if you use this measure.
On top of this kind of inflationary issue eroding financial confidence, we’re at peak production in gold. When the price of gold was low, miners employed high-grading to get the most easily attainable gold out of the ground. As the price rises, miners resort to lower-grade mining, which has become worthwhile – but in some cases you have to sift through tonnes of ore for each ounce.
Platinum, for instance; it takes six months to get an ounce of platinum out of roughly 10,000 tonnes of ore. Right now, almost all the platinum produced originates in South Africa, and the mines are miles underground, and electricity intensive. Power shortages in South Africa are interfering with production and slowing things down. All these forces are coming together, slowing production and driving up prices.
With silver, most of the aboveground reserves have been depleted – most of the silver that is produced is consumed each and every year. Silver also has two demand drivers – monetary and industrial. The number of industrial applications are growing every year while the monetary demand has also been growing in the past few years. It is important to remember that “silver” means “money” in several languages.
GLA: Why is gold so important as an element of diversification for investors?
NB: Take a look at the cycle from 1968 to 1982 – during that time it took stocks the whole 14 years to break even. If you factor inflation into it, it actually took until 1995. So stocks didn’t look so good in the past cycle, and they are not looking very good now. The DJIA is well below its inflation-adjusted highs. Its performance is much worse when measured in gold ounces. The DJIA has declined from a high of 44 ounces of gold in 2000 to about 14 today, but if you look at a chart the Dow appears to be at new highs. It’s like taking the Zimbabwe stock market and saying, “Look how well Zimbabwean stocks have done; the market was up 8,000%.” But what if we adjust for the 100,000% inflation in that country? Not so good, is it?
BMG BullionFund is internally diversified. We buy physical gold, platinum, and silver in equal amounts. While some people like to focus on gold, they would miss out on the fact that silver and platinum have both outperformed gold since the beginning of this cycle in 2002.
GLA: What do you do about inflation?
NB: First, it is important to look at real inflation. What is real inflation? The real number is around 9%, not 3%. The calculations the government uses for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) are really meaningless as a true inflation indicator. The real definition of inflation is an increase in the money supply that leads to an increase in prices. Prices do not increase on their own unless you have a shortage; when you increase the money supply, what you’re really doing is debasing the currency, and as the purchasing power of the currency declines prices appear to be rising. So with the US money supply (M3) growing at 20%, Canada’s growing at 9%, and most other countries’ growing at around 15%, that’s going to result in rising prices and real inflation.
If you take real inflation into account, Wainwright Economics suggests that the appropriate bullion allocation for a bond investor’s portfolio is 18%, and for the equity investor’s portfolio 40%, and that’s just to break even with inflation. Although this may sound incredible, think of the 1970s. How much bullion was required just to break even in an equity portfolio? Bullion went up 2,300%, while equities were flat on a nominal basis. Inflation was 15%.
So without even getting wrapped up in a discussion about the complex subject of money, those two points are fairly straightforward. Ibbotson Associates confirmed that precious metals are the most negatively correlated asset class to the traditional financial assets, so it gives the biggest bang for the buck for the least amount of allocation. In the process you also achieve a more balanced, diversified portfolio. Advisors would do well to have an allocation to precious metals to protect their clients from under-diversification.
GLA: Do you think this pullback in gold is an opportunity to add to positions at this time?
NB: Yes as long as there hasn’t been a major change in the fundamentals that drive the price. When these pullbacks occur, you always get some technical interpretations, whether it’s conventional technical analysis or Elliot Wave, coming out with the idea that the bull market in precious metals is over and that it’s now going down forever and so on.
When these things happen, you have to ask if anything changed fundamentally to justify that decline. If nothing changed fundamentally, the only conclusion you can draw is that something’s wrong in the technical interpretations. In all likelihood the technical interpretation is wrong because there’s been an intervention by monetary authorities. Technical analysis only works when the markets are working freely.
GLA: Well, whatever it is they’re trying to do to knock the price down, once again, he who wins in the end is he who has the most ounces and the most shares. It’s got to have been a good year for you with gold prices up 10%, silver up close to 19% and platinum prices over 30%.
NB: Yes, it has. We have grown assets year-over-year by 80% this year alone, so it’s been a substantial increase, and performance-wise, we’re about 20% year-to-date.
GLA: Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with us.
*All amounts expressed in US dollars, unless otherwise noted.
For a PDF version, click here: [PDF] Interview with Nick Barisheff, BMG Inc.
Tags: Advisors, asset class, bank, Banks, Barisheff, BMG BullionFund, BMG Inc., Bullion, Bullion Management Group Inc., Canadian Market, Central Banks, chairman, Chart, China, Commodities, Commodity, Consumer Price, Consumption, Correlation, CPI, Credit, Currency, Derivatives, DJIA, Dollar, Dow 30, Earnings, Economics, electricity, electricity intensive, Elliot Wave, Eric Sprott, Euro, ever-increasing oil prices, Exclusive Interview Nick Barisheff, Fed, Federal Government, Federal Reserve, fiat, Fixed Income, Focus, Founder, going forward, Gold, Gold Bullion, greater oil price increases, Ibbotson Associates, India, Industrial Applications, inflation, interest rates, interview, Japan, John Embry, Johnson, London Bullion Marketing Association, lower-grade mining, Luxury Car, M3, Markets, Medicare, Metals, Mining, Money Printing, Nick Barisheff, Nixon, oil, Oil Prices, Oil Production, oil rises, Pdf, Peak Oil, physical gold, Platinum, Portfolio Manager, precious metals, president, President and CEO, President Ceo, Printing Money, Rbc, Rbc Capital Markets, Real Estate, Real Estate Bubble, risk, Russia, S&P 500, Silver, South Africa, Technical Analysis, The Big Picture, Tony Fell, Trading, Trillion, UK, UK’s London Bullion Marketing Association, United States, US Dollar, Us Federal Reserve, usd, Value, Yuan, Zimbabwe
Posted in Bonds, Canadian Market, Commodities, Credit Markets, Energy & Natural Resources, Gold, Markets, Oil and Gas, Outlook, Silver, US Stocks | 1 Comment »
Saturday, June 14th, 2008
Will higher prices for crude oil lead to lower prices? The debate rages on in these days of oil north of $135.
Rob Fraim ‘s recent report (Mid-Atlantic Securities, Inc.) is worth serious consideration as he has a good track record in this sphere, and secondly, his is a common-sense approach. It comes our way courtesy of Investment Postcards Blog, one of the finest on international investing.The paragraphs below are extracts from his excellent report.
I have for quite a lengthy period of time – going back several years – been bullish on energy markets and energy-related stocks. And fortunately this has been a decent call.
So now what? Last week a $10+ jump in the price of crude in one day. Visions of $200 oil dancing in their heads. Articles in the media about $15 gasoline, outcries about speculators driving up the price of oil, and the inevitable somewhat late-to-the-party recommendations to pile into the energy sector now.
Spoiler Alert: I’m going to suggest lightening up positions a bit in the energy sector. Sorry for ruining the suspense, but you’re busy, I’m wordy, and you were probably going to skip to the end anyway.
I’m not suggesting a complete exit – since I still believe that we will have reasonably high energy prices for the foreseeable future and that energy companies will be strong and profitable. However, I also believe that the oil market in particular has gotten a little goofy and frothy and that we are due for a meaningful pullback in crude – which is likely to impact the psychology and pricing for other energy markets as well. We all know how it is when the “hot money” gets out of a sector and how much volatility that can create.
Do I think that oil is going to $50? Not a chance? Not $50, not $60, not $80. But I do think that there is a better than average chance that we are going to revisit $100-ish and stabilize there for a while.
This being the case I am suggesting that reaping some profits and reducing energy positions a bit might be a wise move – at least on a trading basis. Keep a core holding for the long-term, but lighten up. Sell some stuff. Write some covered calls. Hedge a bit. Maintain the core but trade with part of your energy investments. Do something other than get whipsawed.
Why? A combination of fundamental, anecdotal, and emotional factors actually. (I might also throw in technical, psychological, sociological, zoological, anatomical, and astrological if I get really cranked up.)
Here are a few of the reasons why I am reaching this conclusion.
There are some indications that demand is actually beginning to fall – somewhat in the same way that it did in 1979 and 1980 when gas pump pain reduced gasoline use by 5% and 6% respectively.
Miles traveled in the US are down – off 4.3% in March. In the last week of May – with Memorial Day weekend – gas buying was down 3.9% from the previous year. Why the declines?
Consumers are adjusting their driving and consumption habits. There is a real switch toward smaller, more energy-efficient cars and away from trucks and SUVs. In May of this year 4-cylinder cars made up 45% of sales versus just 30% in 2005.
Anecdotally, transportation companies are adjusting as well. We had a conversation with a trucking company recently and they spoke of measures that they have put in place to reduce fuel consumption. They are using monitoring and tracking systems and technology to enforce the 55 mph limit on their drivers – instead of the “unofficial” 65 mph or so that was the norm before. They are very serious about this and have enacted real driver penalties for non-compliance. Different studies have shown different results, but roughly speaking the difference between 55 mph and 65 mph is about a 10% improvement in fuel economy.
A potentially strengthening US dollar can have a big effect. While we tend to focus on supply-and-demand metrics and speculative forces when talking about oil prices, the simple fact is that a lot of the rise in oil prices has been not about oil inflation, but rather dollar deflation. The greenback has been in a downward spiral for months – courtesy of the credit crisis, problems in the US economy, and the long series of interest rate cuts. Now that rates have likely bottomed and as the US economy comes out of panic/fear mode the odds favor somewhat of a rebound in the dollar.
Jeffrey Saut at Raymond James – a strategist for whom I have the utmost respect – has adopted a more bullish stance on the dollar after years of warning about dollar weakness. If he is right – as I suspect he is – dollar appreciation will bring down crude oil pricing – as the need is also lessened for oil producers to keep prices high on crude, which is their primary greenback denominated export.
Back to the supply and demand issues, we know that real (or perceived) energy consumption in the emerging economies in China and India has taken up all the supply “at the margin”. And it is those last few incremental percentage points of usage data that make the difference between tight markets (rising prices) and looser ones (stable to lower prices.) While the China and India growth stories are real – and will be a continuing factor – there are certain things that speak to a modest lessening of demand.
When government subsidies in many Asian nations disappear by year’s end, demand should slacken. And China, stockpiling supplies for the coming Olympics, will likely shift gears and cut back on its energy purchases by August according to some. Now, today’s report regarding potential demand from China speaks otherwise, but then again I could find another item that would again talk about demand leveling off. It’s always a tug of war of course, but I am getting the feeling that the picture is not nearly as one-sided as has been reported.
Furthermore a slackening economy here in the US should also take a little pressure off of the demand side of the equation.
While not the end-all of supply problems, there has been some modest production growth – largely from Russia. So all in all the supply and demand balance seems to be tipping back in a more favorable direction – at least for now – with some estimates and reports indicating that we have moved from a deficit of 900,000 barrels a day that had to be made up by dipping into reserves, to a global “cushion” of 600,000 barrels a day.
I also wonder at what point political ideologies and environmental concerns will crumble to voter dissatisfaction over painful energy prices – possibly opening up drilling in previously “off-limits” areas.
“There is no justification for the current rise in prices,” said Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi on June 9, 2008, calling for an energy summit between producing and consuming nations. Now to be sure, we can take anything from OPEC nations with a grain of salt, but ultimately it serves the interests of the oil producers for oil prices not to skyrocket too far – since this would encourage serious conservation measures and bring about further political pressure. While excess supply capacity is not huge, Saudi Arabia itself has about 2,000,000 barrels per day in potential production expansion capability.
So with all of that in mind, do I think that we’re going to return to the days of cheap energy and a huge energy price decline – as occurred after the 1980 spike? Hardly. It was easier to increase production back then since oil fields were less mature and exploited. Also there were a lot more energy inefficiencies (in cars, appliances, building materials and techniques) back then than there are now – areas that could be markedly improved easily enough.
No, not cheap energy – just maybe cheaper by a bit. It would not surprise me to see $100 to $105 oil by the end of the year. That probably equates to gasoline in the $3.50-ish area.
Of course the unknown and unknowable regarding crude oil is the geopolitical picture. What if Israel bombs Iran and the Straits of Hormuz are blocked? What about Nigeria? And Hugo Chavez down in Venezuela? And Iraq? Terrorists! Floods! Plagues! Locusts! Well, as we saw last Friday those types of concerns (absent the locusts) have been moving the energy markets. Did anything really happen on Friday – something other than rhetoric – that fundamentally impacted the picture? Not really. It was a speculation and fear-driven spike.
Now I’m not one of these folks who vilifies speculators and blames them for high prices. It’s a free market and speculators actually serve a purpose. But blame it or not, speculation does enter into the pricing picture as speculators vie with actual users of the commodity for a relatively limited pool of sellers. But like ’em or hate ’em, speculators give us our market timing opportunities – to buy when people are selling or sell when most are buying. It just seems to me that more than a little of today’s $136/barrel price tag on oil price has geopolitics/fear/speculation written on it.
Last week I wrote about the (in my view) somewhat silly finger-pointing and ranting about the role of speculators in having driven up the price or energy and noted that ultimately speculators aren’t bigger than the markets and that supply-and-demand always wins out. Speculative moves can last longer and go further than we expect – and no one, me especially, can hope to “top-tick” the market by selling at the very peak. That’s why my recommendation is not a 100% all-or-none exit from energy positions, but instead an attempt to be level-headed and proactive by taking advantage of speculative fever and “ringing the register” on portions of energy exposure.
Source: Rob Fraim,
Mid-Atlantic Securities, Inc, June 10, 2008.
Tags: Ali al-Naimi, Asia, Blog, China, Commodity, Consumption, Credit, Credit Crisis, Crude Oil, crude oil pricing, Dollar, driver, Economy, energy, Energy Consumption, Energy Efficient Cars, energy exposure, energy inefficiencies, Energy Investments, Energy Markets, energy positions, Energy Purchases, energy sector, energy summit, Focus, gas buying, gas pump pain, Grain, high energy prices, huge energy price decline, Hugo Chavez, India, inflation, International, Investment Postcards, Iraq, Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, jeffrey saut, Markets, Memorial Day, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic Securities Inc., naimi, Nigeria, oil, oil dancing, Oil Fields, oil inflation, Oil Market, Oil Minister, oil north, Oil Price, Oil Prices, Oil Producers, Olympics, Organization Of Petroleum Exporting Countries, painful energy prices, Raymond James, risk, Rob Fraim, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Oil Minister, Strategist, Stuff, Subsidies, Trading, transportation, United States, US Dollar, usd, Venezuela
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Monday, June 9th, 2008
Courtesy: Nick Barisheff, Bullion Management Group Inc.
The above chart demonstrates the relationship between the increase in money supply as measure by M3 and the loss of purchasing power of the US dollar. Using the official CPI the US dollar has lost about 82% of its value while the total money supply has climbed from about $800 billion in 1970 to $13 trillion today. The annual increases in total M3 are now more than the total money supply was in 1970. If you use the old formula for the calculation of the CPI, based on a fixed basket of goods and services, without hedonic adjustments or substitutions, the US dollar has lost about 95% of its purchasing power. For a detailed explanation of the changes that have been made to the methodology now used to calculate the CPI see http://www.shadowstats.com/article/56.
Sunday, June 8th, 2008
June 2, 2008 – Pimco’s Co-CEO and co-CIO, Mohamed el-Erian discusses his new book, When Markets Collide, with Barron’s, which puts today’s market accidents in a unique perspective. Both the Barron’s interview and his book are must reads. Here is an excerpt:
What are the biggest things people missed?
Under a “just-in-time” risk-management mindset, people waited for the turn before taking risk off the table. Hubris took over. People believed these new derivative products would allow you to reposition your portfolio after the turn as opposed to preemptively. But that wasn’t a possibility with credit products and subprime, and losses were huge. People misinterpreted what these instruments can do, and didn’t retool significantly.
Who’s the poster boy for this way of thinking?
The book quotes Chuck Prince, [the former CEO] at Citibank, on the front page of the Financial Times, words to the effect that when the music stops it will be messy, but as long as it’s playing he’s on the dance floor dancing. Within weeks the music stopped and people couldn’t get off the dance floor. In many of these sophisticated firms, the traders did things that neither the middle nor the back office could support, and the result was very big losses. It’s like pipes in your house that are very old. Every once in a while, one will rupture below and you have a very messy cleanup.
When Markets Collide: Investment Strategies for the Age of Global Economic Change, Mohamed el-Erian, co-CEO, Pimco
Tags: Barron's, Chuck Prince, Citigroup, co-CEO, Co-CEO and co-CIO, Credit, Economic Change, El-Erian, Financial Times, interview, Markets, PIMCO, risk, When Markets Collide
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