FRACTIONAL FLOW

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The Price of Oil

Crude oil is the world’s biggest and most important traded commodity.

Figure 1: The chart shows the oil price (Brent) with some policies/decisions/events. The monetary and fiscal policies of the world’s largest economies, China [red text boxes] and the US [yellow text boxes] and supply events/policies [grey text boxes]. The red line shows the annual moving average of the oil price.

In some earlier articles, like this and this, I explored for relations between the oil price, the world’s credit creation and interest rates.

This is a continuation of my exploration of how the world’s credit creation affects the structural level of the oil price.

I found it now right to repeat one of my formulations from back in 2015:

  • 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 world credit/debt, interest rates and developments to consumers’/societies’ affordability.

As time passes more is learned and more data becomes available which in theory should help improve both the understandings and the sights.

This article presents results from applying statistical analysis (with data spanning more than 15 years) for any relations from developments in total credit/debt from the non financial sectors in 43 countries (in 2017 representing more than 90% of the worlds’s GDP) with data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) to changes in the oil price, refer also “Some assumptions, terms and acronyms used in the article” at the bottom.

Developments in total credit/debt is very much related to developments in interest rates, primarily the US Federal Reserve Bank’s (FRB) funds rate (as the US dollar is the world’s dominant reserve currency) which now is expected to be set higher, the London Inter Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR) and the US Treasuries 10 Years rate. A keen eye should also be kept on developments on the now flattening yield curve and exchange rate fluctuations.

It is also important to make good assessments about the abilities to the various balance sheets to take on and service more debt. This helps monitor developments in consumers’ affordability which forms the demand side of the equation.

  • The structural oil price is formulated from the interactions of fiscal and monetary policies and supply events/policies.
  • The oil price has shown and will continue to show wide fluctuations. It is the monetary and fiscal policies that give the dominant structural support for demand and thus the oil price (defines the price movements).
  • Suppliers have little control on demand, but could resort to supply policies to support a price floor.
    The price collapse in 2014 was a result of strong growth in supplies, primarily led by debt fueled US Light Tight Oil (LTO) extraction.
  • The strengthening of the US$ (oil is priced in US$) has now resulted in very high oil prices in local currencies, refer also table 1.
  • Broadly speaking, it now appears that the world’s non financial sector needs to add $8 – $10 Trillion annually in credit/debt to support growth in the oil price, refer also figure 8.
    Estimates based on data from the Institute of International Finance (IIF) and BIS show that in Q1 2018 the world’s total non financial debt was $188 Trillion with another $61 Trillion in the financial corporations, totaling $249 Trillion.
  • Since 2000 there has been 3 distinct credit/debt cycles for the 43 (refer also figure 7 and 8).
    The first ended in mid 2008 with the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) (duration about 7 years).
    The second ended with the collapse in the oil price in mid 2014 (duration about 5 years).
    The third started about mid 2015 and, as of writing, could be entering its fourth year.
  • The analysis found strongest correlation (above 0,72) between changes to the 43s total private and public credit/debt creation and changes in the oil price at a time lag of 3 months, refer also figure 10.
    • Why this matters? If the world’s credit/debt growth supports the oil price, a slowdown or reversal of the world’s credit/debt creation (deleveraging) should be expected to affect the oil (and energy) prices negatively.
      The results of the statistical analysis show there is an expected time lag of about 3 months from major changes in the world’s credit creation (leading indicator) to changes in the oil price. The correlations were strong with a time lag of 0 – 6 months from changes in the credit creation to changes in the oil price.
      The supply surplus starting in 2014, which collapsed the oil price, appears to be the driver for a period with lower credit creation, which suggest that the lowered oil price temporarily lowered the world’s demand for credit.
  • Changes in credit creation are the strong leading driver of changes in the oil price.
  • A simple illustration of the perspectives of the relations of the oil price, interest rate and total debt is now to look at how much the oil price has to grow to have similar effects on the world economy as an increase in the interest rate of 0,25% on the worlds’ total debt of about $250 Trillion, which continues to grow.
    An increase of the interest rate of 0,25 % adds $625 Billion to the world’s annual debt service costs. The world now consumes about 30 Gbo/a (crude oil and condensate) which means that an increase in the oil price of $20/bo has about similar effects on the world economy as an interest rate hike of 0,25%. Some major central banks, led by FRB, now plan for more interest hikes and Quantitative Tightening (QT) in the near future.
  • The above serves as a powerful illustration of the growing competition for how the consumers’ available funds will be prioritized between servicing growing debts or supporting a higher oil price.
    Historically, precedence was given to debt service and consumers reduced other (including oil) consumption.

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Written by Rune Likvern

Tuesday, 21 August, 2018 at 14:34

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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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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