Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"
As even Reuters observes this morning when discussing the ongoing crude rout, "the market slide has triggered conspiracy theories, ranging from the Saudis seeking to curb the U.S. oil boom, to Riyadh looking to undermine Iran and Russia for their support of Syria." It appears said theories will continue raging for a long time, because as Saudi Arabia's oil minister who has been extensively in the news in the past couple (that means "two" as per Janet Yellen) of month explained, the biggest OPEC oil producer said on Sunday it would not cut output to prop up oil markets even if non-OPEC nations did so, in one of the toughest signals yet that the world's top petroleum exporter plans to ride out the market's biggest slump in years, and that the price of crude is not going up any time soon.
For the past 150 years, crude oil prices have varied between around $10 per barrel and around $120 per barrel. For many decades, oil prices were relatively "stable" but a funny thing happened in the early 70s and everything changed - whether coincidental or causative the linkages between the oil crisis and Nixon's Gold-Standard-busting of Bretton Woods are clear in the chart below. Goldman expects continued high oil price volatility with risks skewed to the downside as the market searches for a new equilibrium... and a period of macroeconomic adjustment to structurally lower oil prices. Is oil adjusting to a new 'gold-standard-esque' normal?
Every year, David Collum writes a detailed "Year in Review" synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year's is no exception. "I have not seen a year in which so many risks - some truly existential - piled up so quickly. Each risk has its own, often unknown, probability of morphing into a destructive force. It feels like we’re in the final throes of a geopolitical Game of Tetris as financial and political authorities race to place the pieces correctly. But the acceleration is palpable. The proximate trigger for pain and ultimately a collapse can be small, as anyone who’s ever stepped barefoot on a Lego knows..."
The 40%-plus drop in oil prices over the past 6 months has garnered a lot of attention recently, most of it focused on the economic stimulus lower oil prices should provide the global economy, the impact on currency and fixed-income markets, and the increase in economic pain suffered by exporters such as Iran and Russia. However, based on historical data, the potential increase in geopolitical tail risk that lower oil prices may represent is an overlooked consequence that, while low probability, would have an outsize impact on the global economy.
With all eyes firmly distracted in Cuba (or Sony or Russia or Ukraine), we thought a brief reminder worthwhile...
"...so many still maintain that America is the greatest nation in the world. They swear that America represents all that is good; freedom, democracy, merit based capitalism and the rights of the individual. That is true America does represent such things. However, it is fraudulent to consider our current nation America. America was a concept that promoted all that is good. And so it would seem that the nation in which they find themselves cannot be America. Their nation today represents the will of the political class at all costs, period. Their sole motivation is themselves. Very different from America. And so perhaps a renaming on the nation is required, at least until or if the people decide to take it back and reintroduce the world to the concept that is America for as discussed below you cannot destroy a concept and so there is hope to bring her back. But until then we need a name for this geographic region and its new societal system... It seems"Neoconica" is most fitting."
Skirmishes in the South China Sea lead to full-scale naval confrontation. Israel bombs Iran, setting off an escalation of violence across the Middle East. Nigeria crumbles as oil prices fall and radicals gain strength. Bloomberg News asked foreign policy analysts, military experts, economists and investors to identify the possible worst-case scenarios, based on current global conflicts, that concern them most heading into 2015.
Russia is trying to provoke the West once again...
- Ruble Sinks to 80 a Dollar Defying Surprise Russia Rate Increase (BBG)
- Oil slumps near $59 for first time since 2009 on oversupply (Reuters)
- Oil sinks, Russian moves fail to quell nerves (Reuters)
- Fed Seen Looking Past Low Inflation to Drop ‘Considerable Time (BBG)
- Students Among Dead as Pakistan Gunmen Kill 126 at Army School (BBG)
- Repsol to buy Talisman Energy for $13 billion (Reuters)
- Indonesia’s Rupiah Erases Decline After Central Bank Intervenes (BBG)
- Anti-Islam Rally Grows as Immigrant Backlash Hits Europe (BBG)
- Saudi Arabia is playing chicken with its oil (Reuters)
In 1985, the Saudis chose volume over price to defend their market share against new production from the North Sea, as well as cheating/discounting from other OPEC members in a period of weak demand. The Saudis had warned the world of their intentions, but many thought “it was merely an elaborate warning designed to scare other OPEC countries and restore discipline.” The parallels with today’s market structure are hard to miss, and the Saudi’s essential playbook remains the same...
Slowing the rebalancing and creating further downside risk is a very strong consensus view that this pull back is temporary and that oil prices will quickly rebound as they did in 2009. According to a recent Bloomberg survey, the median WTI forecast for 2016 is $86/bbl (even we forecast it going back to $80/bbl). All of these forecasts are based upon now outdated cost data that is shifting as fast as the price. It is precisely this strong view for a rebound in prices and the behavior it creates, that not only suggests that oil prices can go lower for longer, but also that the new normal is far lower than we thought just one month ago. Instead of optimizing against a lower price environment, many oil producers are trying to position themselves for the rebound in prices
One of the very strange non-sequiturs in today's Syndey hostage siege, now approaching its 15th hour, is that the gunman who prepared for a long standoff with authorities somehow forgot to pack the ISIS flag and as reported earlier, has been said to demand it from the outside world. Strange to say the least. But the bigger question remains: who is he? Now, courtesy of a report in Australia's The Age we know. The man who continues to hold more than a dozen people hostage, placing Sydney's CBD into lockdown is no stranger to the NSW police or the judiciary. Self-described cleric, Man Haron Monis, 50, first came to attention of police when he penned poisonous letters to the family of dead Australian soldiers seven years ago. Last year he was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and mother of two.
In space, no one can hear you scream... unless you happen to be Venezuela's (soon to be former) leader Nicolas Maduro, who has been doing a lot of screaming this morning following news that UAE's Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said OPEC will stand by its decision not to cut crude output "even if oil prices fall as low as $40 a barrel" and will wait at least three months before considering an emergency meeting.
Oil is not just something that is refined into fuel--it is capital, collateral, debt and risk. In other words, it is intrinsically financial. Simply put, the sharp drop in oil revenues has knocked over a line of financial dominoes whose end is not yet in sight.