It is at least well-understood that there are seasons in history, but they seem to have a mysterious, implacable dynamism that mere humans can only hope to ride like great waves, hoping to not get crushed. In the background of the present disturbances are not only the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, but the imminent collapse of the machinery that boosted up the greater Islamic economy of our time: the oil engine. These are the stresses that are boiling over into the West these days. The long war underway is a race to the bottom where the human project has to re-set the terms of a life above savagery.
Despite Saudi prince bin Talal's explanations of the imbalances between supply and demand being the prime driver of lower oil prices, we thought a look at just where that over-supply is coming from might provide some context into the 'shale oil war'. As the following chart shows, since the start of 2014, rig counts in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and UAE have surged (just as they did in the mid-2000s). As of this week, US rig counts are now at 14 month lows as it appears clear that the core OPEC producers are intent on drowning the shale oil industry in excess supply.
If We Want to Stop Terrorism, Maybe We Should Stop Supporting @&!%#! Terrorists?
There is compelling evidence that 2015 will see a global slump in economic activity. This being the case, financial and systemic risks will increase as evidence of the slump accumulates. It can be expected to undermine global equities, property and finally bond markets, which are currently all priced for economic stability. Even though these markets are increasingly controlled by central bank intervention, it is dangerous to assume this will continue to be the case as financial and systemic risks accumulate. Precious metals are ultimately free from price management by the state. Furthermore, they are the only asset class notably under-priced today, given the enormous increase in the quantity of fiat money since the Lehman crisis. In short, 2015 is shaping up to be very bad for fiat currencies and very good for gold and silver.
Despite calls for a bottom all the way down from $90, $85, $80, $75, $70, $65, $60, $55, and then $50... crude oil prices (both Brent and WTI) are now below that crucial level (and as Kyle bass notes, even very wealthy nations like Saudi Arabia and Norway are going to have to tap into their sovereign wealth funds to support their annual budgets this year or next). WTI is trading with a $46 handle once again (at fresh cycle lows), and Brent is trading oince again at fresh cycle lows with a $48 handle. Just as worrying away from the apparently OPEC-over-supplied (and nothing to do with demand) oil complex, copper prices just broke below $6000/mt for the first time in 5 years (which 'over-supplier' will get the blame for that? Or is it really about demand after all, just as Saudi Prince bin Talal warned). And don't mention Iron ore, Steel, Aluminum... which all hit new cycle lows...
If you, like the BIS, are sick and tired of central bankers, and in this case the ECB's endless jawboning and now daily QE threats, determining the level of stocks, well then today is a good day as any to take your blood pressure medication. Because first it was ECB Governing Council member Ignazio Visco who told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that the risk of deflation in the euro zone should not be underestimated and urged the bank to buy government debt, and then, yet another regurgitated story, came from CNBC whose "sources" reported that the ECB QE would be based on contributions from national central banks and paid in capital. And while otherwise the cross-correlation trades would have at least pushed the crude complex modestly higher, today it was Goldman's energy analyst Jeffrey Currie finally throwing up all over oil, with a report in which he said that "because shale can rebound quickly once capital investments return, we now believe WTI needs to trade near $40/bbl for most of 1H15 to keep capital sidelined."
Speaking to his favorite money-honey, billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal told Maria Bartiromo that the negative impact of a 50% decline in oil has been wide and deep. As USA Today reports, the prince of the Saudi royal family said that while he disagrees with the government on most aspects, he agreed with their decision on keeping production where it is, adding that "if supply stays where it is, and demand remains weak, you better believe it is gonna go down more. I'm sure we're never going to see $100 anymore... oil above $100 is artificial. It's not correct." On the theory that the US and the Saudis have agreed to keep prices low to pressure Russia, the prince exclaimed, that is "baloney and rubbish," adding that, "Saudi Arabia and Russia are in bed together here... both being hurt simultaneously."
If Americans were honest with themselves they would acknowledge that the Republic is no more. We now live in a police state. If we do not recognize and resist this development, freedom and prosperity for all Americans will continue to deteriorate. All liberties in America today are under siege. Reality is now setting in for America and for that matter for most of the world. We should not be discouraged. Enlightenment is not nearly as difficult to achieve as it was before the breakthrough with Internet communications occurred. I smell progress.
Assume the news for next week has not already been written, What should investors, or those monitoring the international political economy be watching? Here is my list.
"This is why Putin is Public Enemy Number 1. It’s because he’s blocking the US pivot to Asia, strengthening anti-Washington coalitions, sabotaging US foreign policy objectives in the Middle East, creating institutions that rival the IMF and World Bank, transacting massive energy deals with critical US allies, increasing membership in an integrated, single-market Eurasian Economic Union, and attacking the structural foundation upon which the entire US empire rests, the dollar." Up to now, of course, Russia, Iran and Venezuela have taken the biggest hit from low oil prices; but what the Obama administration should be worried about is the second-order effects that will eventually show up...
Be afraid, be very afraid. While French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Friday "The nation is relieved tonight," after the two standoffs concluded, as CNN reports, the French government's work is not over. French law enforcement officers have been told to erase their social media presence and to carry their weapons at all times because terror sleeper cells have been activated over the last 24 hours in the country, according to a French police source. Investigations continue into which terrorist group was ultimately responsible and, not be outdone in the fearmongery, The US State Department has issued a Worldwide Caution warning travelers, of the "continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world." Thank goodness we have the governments to protect us.
Having topped the charts for beheadings in 2014, and enforced gender segregation, US ally Saudi Arabia has decided that free-speech is 'practically' punishable by death. During a week when 'free speech' is being defended by every Western nation desparate to condemn the terrorist acts against France's satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, it is therefore quite stunning that, as The BBC reports, Raif Badawi - a Saudi Arabian blogger - was sentenced to 1,000 lashes (carried out over 50 weekly floggings), and 10 years in jail for insulting Islam. With 'friends' like this, who needs enemies?
For those hoping that the recent brief dip in Brent crude below $50 - most notably Venezuela's intrepid socialist leader Nicolas Maduro whose numbered days get shorter with every day Brent closes red, and countless bondholders of junk- debt capitalized shale companies - would mean that Saudi Arabia's vendetta against OPEC would finally be put on hiatus, we have bad news: the vendetta just wen nuclear because as Reuters reports, there is "no chance of OPEC output cut."
The price of crude has collapsed by 50% in a few months (and 40% since the end of QE3), which can only mean one thing: the Wall Street penguin brigade is out in full force with its spate of energy sector downgrades, none of which is more bombastic than that of Citigroup's Robert Morris who in 118 pages just crucified the entire energy space, lowering his target price for every single company in his coverage universe, and declaring that "Goldilocks has left the building."
History literally appears to be repeating. The mainstream media and our politicians are promising Americans that everything is going to be okay somehow, and that seems to be good enough for most people. But the signs that another massive financial crisis is on the horizon are everywhere.