Wall Street's games about to hit gas prices
After enjoying months of cheaper fuel, Americans will soon experience more pain at the pump because of oil speculation and market manipulation.
There have been a lot of "funny" things happening in the market over the past two months. I chalk it up to a combination of end-of-year seasonality and a desire by the powers that be to keep the market together long enough to exit ahead of the fall. Something similar happened in 2008 before the most acute phase of the bear market got started.
Wall Street has apparently been using large-cap energy stocks Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) to hold the Dow Jones industrial Average aloft, ostensibly to keep retail investors placated so the heavy hitters can create the little upward flurries they need to exit their position. (This has to do with the fact the Dow is a price-weighted index that can be pushed around by the most expensive stocks.)
It cannot last. And the games are about to hit vulnerable consumers at the gas pump and threaten the economy at a time of danger.
Sound crazy? Well, consider this: Chevron is trading at all-time highs, and the number of bears responding to the AAII survey has dropped to its second-lowest level in six years. Yet measures of internal market strength, such as the percentage of NYSE stocks above their 50-Day moving averages, remain well off their highs and are arguably in bear market territory.
The buoyancy of crude oil -- despite the recent strength of the U.S. dollar, the collapse of other industrial commodities like copper, and the decaying economic outlook in Europe and Asia -- has been instrumental in this enabled by a recent pullback in the U.S. dollar (which is ending now) as well as Iranian saber rattling.
You see, the U.S. economy is supposedly "decoupling" from a weakening Asia and Europe. Stocks and crude have been floating higher as economic data, based mainly on sentiment surveys, has been surprising to the upside. Yet the real, hard activity-based economic data haven't really moved. Again, this is behavior that was last seen the middle of 2008 before the market fell apart.
Here's the thing: This decoupling is being driven by two temporary tailwinds.
The first is a drawdown of the savings rate from 5% to 3.5% as consumers, tired of denying themselves, splurged this holiday shopping season. The bills will come due. And with wages stagnant and the economy shedding high-quality high-wage jobs for low-quality, low-wage retail, temp, and accommodation positions, it will be hard to repay them.
That, according to Gluskin Sheff economist David Rosenberg, translated into a $150 billion boost to consumer spending power at an annual rate in inflation-adjusted terms.
The second was the drop in crude oil prices from the highs reached last spring as the Arab Spring heated up and took down Gaddafi in Libya. Between May 2 (the commodity price peak created by the U.S. dollar spike after Osama Bin Laden taken out) and Aug. 9, crude oil lost 34%.
That primed the pump, so to speak, for a slower but sustained fall in gasoline prices. Between May 2 and the end of November, gasoline futures dropped a whopping 40%. That, according to Gluskin Sheff economist David Rosenberg, translated into a $80 billion boost to spending.
So the economy has been drugged by $230 billion in temporary support. No wonder it's decoupling.
This is ending now.
For one, crude oil bottomed in August and has been rising ever since. It built up a big head of steam in October and November as hedge fund types piled into one of the few trades that worked consistently well. As a result, crude oil started a decoupling of its own outpacing industrial metals, copper, and even gasoline prices because, well, those other assets just didn't look as attractive to speculators.
In fact, the performance gap between gasoline futures and crude oil reached levels not seen since the 2008 commodities bubble. Again, similarities with 2008.
So it was the best of both worlds. The speculators profited from higher oil prices, while consumers benefited from cheaper gasoline. Viva decoupling!
Naturally, petroleum refiners weren't about to tolerate a prolonged compression of their profit margins. And sure enough, as crude oil stagnates near its November highs gasoline prices are surging higher. As gas prices start rising at the pumps, and those holiday bills come due, high-flying consumer sentiment is going to get blown out of the sky just as hedge fund types feel pressure on their long crude positions. And that'll push the savings rate back up too as consumers respond to higher energy costs.
Suddenly, Wall Street's obsession with its latest plaything -- crude oil -- isn't be so benign anymore. The U.S. economy will "recouple" with the rest of the world as the recent swing in oil prices works its way through the energy supply chain like a cancer, pushing up gas prices. And the start of Q4 earnings season next week will remind everyone that corporate profits are set to fall for the first time since the recession ended two and a half years ago.
Consider yourself warned.
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Maybe, just maybe, the citizens of the USA should drive fewer low mileage, designer pickup trucks!Everyone says these type of things like there is a shortage in oil and there is a high demand and it is obvious both are false. We are using less and paying more, it is called BIG OIL PROFIT MARGIN. They are going to get theirs along with speculators to help them even more.
What was the largest export from the US in 2011? It was gasloine, diesel and jet fuel, combining for $88 billion in profits! That of course drained what should be huge reserves and we are going to be bent over again at the pumps. Why does this administration alow this to happen? He can take over GM and hand it back to the unions while screwing the original stockholders, so why can't he/they dictate that X amount of fuel be held in reserve? Or better yet, start drilling off shore again, and start extracting crude from the monstrous Bakken deposit under Montana/Alberta that would keep us independent from foreign oil for the next 2 or 300 hundred years?
Why do we continue to cater to OPEC and specifially the Saudis? We should be paying less than 2 bucks for fuel, but by this summer it will be at least 5! With these idiotic issues at hand this recession will never end, and we'll be in the same boat as the EU very soon. With nothing but lawyers in DC it is not suprsing, but that needs to change this year before it's too late for this nation to recover.
Our leadership is getting filthy rich off of the greed you are talking about...
Blah, Blah, Blah!! Take your charts and stick 'em where the sun don't shine, will ya'?
And people complain about the Occupiers. The whole damn country should be parked on the steps of Wall Street, not just a handful of people. That entire organization should be outlawed, except our outlaw politicians are in bed with them and laughing all the way to the bank.
Anyone that thinks the economy is getting better just because the retail markets did ok during the holidays isn't fully conscious.
So just because their MIGHT be problems in the Straight with Iran, the Speculators once again drive up the prices, all in the name of greed. Once again Wall Street has their way with the people, and you wonder why we need regulations???
Maybe, just maybe, the citizens of the USA should drive fewer low mileage, designer pickup trucks!
Libyan and Iraqi oil is growing in availability, as is US oil production. At the same time, global economies are trending downward... chemical production is decreasing...so how does all of this translate in to HIGHER oil prices?
Shoot the speculators. Drop an A-Bomb on Iran. Fire the market manipulators and end this BS once and for all. Oh wait a minute. The politicians don't pay for gas. They all have expense accounts so despite being multi millionaires they force us to pay for it. Let us not forget these folks continue to get richer and only because of insider trading knowledge. I hope they are all on a plane someday and it crashes. Talk about a cleansing that the free world would benefit by if this happened.
I got my fingers crossed. Harsh but I am sick and tired of all the BS these folks create.
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