FRACTIONAL FLOW

Posts Tagged ‘interest rates

Developments in Energy Consumption and Private and Public Debt per 2016

For some time I have explored the relations in developments for total debt [private and public], interest rates, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) energy consumption and thus also the oil price.

My theory has been that there are relations between changes to total debt and energy consumption and thus energy prices. Changes to total credit/debt should thus be reflected in energy consumption. Price formation is also influenced by several other factors and most prominently supply and demand balances.

To me, demand appears to be the one that is poorly understood and demand has been, is and will continue to be what one can pay for.

All transactions involving products and services require some amount of energy thus currency/money becomes a claim on energy.

During the last decades the world was in a gigantic experiment with debt expansion, most recently fueled by low interest policies which allowed to pull demand forward and for some time negate higher prices when demand ran ahead of supplies.

Debt expansions can go on until they cannot, as some economies already have experienced. In the recent decades, growth in total debt was higher than the growth in GDP (ref figure 1) and there is a strong relation between changes to total debt and GDP.

Figure 1: The chart above shows [stacked areas] developments in total private and public debt in Japan (black/grey), Euro area (yellow), US (blue) and China (red).
In the chart is also shown [stacked lines] developments on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the same 4 economies.
NOTE: All data are market value, US$.
The GDP (lines) have been stacked. The bottom line shows Japan, next is (Euro area + Japan) and the top line [China] also shows the total for the 4 presented economies.
Data on private and public debt from Bank for International Settlements (BIS).
Data on GDP from the World Bank [WB]. WB GDP data for 2016 were not publicly available as this was posted.
Note that total GDP for these 4 economies declined from 2014 to 2015.

In this post I also present a closer look at developments in energy consumption and total debts [private and public] for China, Italy, Japan, Spain, United Kingdom and USA.

As of 2016 these 6 countries had about 47% of the total global energy consumption and 42% of the total global petroleum consumption.

As the private sector debt growth slowed/reversed the public sector took over and it appears that public debt growth is not as potent to stimulate growth in energy consumption [and possibly GDP], but sustains or slows the decline in total energy consumption.

Part of the explanation for this may be that much  of the increased public deficit spending is directed towards social programs (more unemployment benefits etc.) which at best may sustain demand.

The 6 countries are presented in the sequence of how I perceive how far they are into the debt deleveraging cycle.

There are other forces at play here as well, as oil companies entered into a bet that high oil prices would be sustained by consumers continuing to have access to credit/debt, which would allow the oil companies in an orderly manner to retire their steep growth in debts required to develop the costlier oil. The debt fuelled growth in investments gradually created a situation where supplies ran ahead of demand, thus collapsing the oil price in 2014.

To me the sequence of events is:

Changes in credit/debt => Changes in energy consumption => Changes in GDP

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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, 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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