FRACTIONAL FLOW

Archive for the ‘Federal Reserve’ Category

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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