We live in a new world, and the Saudis are either the only or the first ones to understand that. Because they are so early to notice, and adapt, I would expect them to come out relatively well. But I would fear for many of the others. And that includes a real fear of pretty extreme reactions, and violence, in quite a few oil-producing nations that have kept a lid on their potential domestic unrest to date. It would also include a lot of ugliness in the US shale patch, with a great loss of jobs (something it will have in common with North Sea oil, among others), but perhaps even more with profound mayhem for many investors in US energy. And then we’re right back to your pension plans.
For all those who think the upcoming carnage to the shale industry will be "contained" we refer to the following research report from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. For the impatient ones, here is the punchline: "The $300–$400 billion overall annual economic gain from the oil & gas boom has been greater than the average annual GDP growth of $200–$300 billion in recent years—in other words, the economy would have continued in recession if it were not for the unplanned expansion of the oil & gas sector."
No respite for the American oil patch and its investors.
Fast forward to today when we are about to learn that Newton's third law of Keynesian economics states that every boom, has an equal and opposite bust. Which brings us to Texas, the one state that more than any other, has benefited over the past 5 years from the Shale miracle. And now with crude sinking by the day, it is time to unwind all those gains, and give back all those jobs. Did we mention: highly compensated, very well-paying jobs, not the restaurant, clerical, waiter, retail, part-time minimum-wage jobs the "recovery" has been flooded with. Here is JPM's Michael Feroli explaining why Houston suddenly has a very big problem.
Has too much bearish sentiment been priced in too fast in the price of oil?
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has come full circle in Denton, Texas after a controversial ban on the practice entered into effect on Tuesday. Denton is one of several cities located on top of the massive Barnett shale formation, regarded as the birthplace of modern fracking. The ban, while incomplete, gives strength to what is a growing anti-fracking movement in the United States.
Perhaps those sub-$50 Bakken prices tell us pretty much where global prices are ahead. And then we’ll take it from there. With 1.8 million barrels “that nobody needs” added to the shale industries growth intentions, where can prices go but down, unless someone starts a big war somewhere? Yesterday’s news that US new oil and gas well permits were off 40% last month may signal where the future of shale is really located. But oil is a field that knows a lot of inertia, long term contracts, future contracts, so changes come with a time lag. It’s also a field increasingly inhabited by desperate producers and government leaders, who wake up screaming in the middle of the night from dreaming about their heads impaled on stakes along desert roads.
Houston, we have a problem-er. With a third of S&P 500 capital expenditure due from the imploding energy sector (and with over 20% of the high-yield market dominated by these names), paying attention to any inflection point in the US oil-producers is critical as they have been gung-ho "unequivocally good" expanders even as oil prices began to fall. So, when Reuters reports a drop of almost 40 percent in new well permits issued across the United States in November, even The Fed's Stan Fischer might start to question his lower oil prices are "a phenomenon that’s making everybody better off," may warrant a rethink. New permits, which indicate what drilling rigs will be doing 60-90 days in the future, showed steep declines for the first time this year across the top three U.S. onshore fields: the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford in Texas and North Dakota's Bakken shale.
It was recently reported in the news that Walmart is engaged in a(nother) “food drive” to help feed the needy. Isn’t that nice? Well, it would be, if it weren’t for the fact that the “needy” in these food-drives are its own employees. “Let’s succeed by donating to associates in need,” says the sign in an Oklahoma Walmart.
History may not repeat but it rhymes so loud sometimes that Einstein would be rolling in his repetitively insane grave. As Bloomberg notes, the last time that U.S. oil drillers got caught up in a price war orchestrated by Saudi Arabia, it ended badly for the Americans. "1986 was the big price collapse and the industry did not see it coming,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research who has covered the oil sector for 37 years, "it put a lot of them out of business. You just don’t forget it. It’s part of the cultural memory." Think it can't happen again? Think again... consider how levered US Shale drillers are and just what Saudi has to gain from keeping their foot on the US neck... In 1986, the U.S. industry collapsed, triggering almost a quarter-century of production declines, and the Saudis regained their leading role in the world’s oil market.
If you could stay home and watch television, play video games and hang out with your friends all day at government expense, would you do it? Of course most Americans that collect money from the government each month are not abusing the system. Many truly are incapable of taking care of themselves, and others are just receiving government benefits (such as Social Security) that they feel that they have earned by a lifetime of hard work. But with each passing year the number of Americans jumping on board “the safety net” continues to grow rapidly, and a lot of these people should be able to take care of themselves. What would our forefathers say about us today? The following are 21 facts that prove that dependence on the government is out of control in America…
What is it with us? Don’t we want to understand? Japan announced on Monday that its economy is in hopeless trouble and back in recession (as if it was ever out). And what do we see? ‘Experts’ and reporters clamoring for more stimulus. But if Japan has shown us anything over the past years, and you’re free to pick any number between 2 and 20 years, it’s that the QE-based kind of stimulus doesn’t work. Not for the real economy, that is.
While it is unclear if moments ago the Mississippian Lime Play under south Kansas was the first major shale quake to hit Kansas, or this was simply the first yet to be named shale company going Chapter 11, but moments ago the USGS reported that a 4.8 quake located 30 miles SSW of Wichita as well as a various other smaller quakes in north Oklahoma,shook the two states.
If you require more evidence that the United States is a dysfunctional society, observe American elections. Election season is slander season. Each party’s attack teams focus on misrepresenting, defaming, and ridiculing the opposing party’s candidates. Attack ads have replaced debates and any discussion of what the issues are, or should be, and how candidates perceive the public’s interest. Each attack team tells lies designed to enrage various voters about the other team’s candidate. Whoever is elected is indebted not to voters but to the special interests that provided the campaign money.
When work is punished and grift is not, is it any surprise that, as The Washington Times reports, nearly 60,000 triple dipping Veterans picked up $3.5 billion in benefits (collecting their military retirement pay; and disability benefits from both the Veterans Administration and Social Security too). The arrangement is legal, but since everyone else is abusing the system, from crony banks to deadbeat dads to squatting slummers, it was only a matter of time before even veterans decided to dip, then dip again and dip some more. Sen. Tom Coburn, noted it was "hard to understand," but perhaps the hardest thing to understand is why it took veterans so long to realize we live in a world without consequences.