Why the US is Really Releasing Oil Reserves
The loss of Libyan sweet crude, and the scarcity of other sources, seems to be the most logical answer.
With any kind of reasonable economic growth, the demand for oil will continue to increase. China is well beyond the "chicken in every pot" stage, now it's "a car in every garage." They want to be like America, except they are now at the stage we were back in the 1950's. Any global economic growth will drive oil consumption in Asia. Political unrest in the Middle East that halts the delivery of crude oil beyond the stoppage on Libya has significant potential to spike oil well above the recent peak.
The downside of owning oil is what happened yesterday. Political games can occur, but the IEA shot a reasonable amount of powder yesterday. The US Treasury can issue massive amounts of debt and the Fed can print paper to buy it, but they can't print oil.
The oil futures market has asymmetric risk. The commodity futures markets got started by farmers and food manufacturers hedging each others' risks. Farmers would sell the current year production to lock in a profit, and the food processor would buy to lock in costs. The oil futures market is different. If you are a speculator and think that crude oil is priced too high, you can sell a futures contract against it. Since you are not producing oil, you have nothing to produce against a Middle East disaster that spikes oil to $200 or worse. You could wake up the next morning and have the markets limit up against you for days.
The events of yesterday make me more comfortable that owning US oil assets in the ground is a safe way to sleep at night. Horizontal drilling in the Bakken shale in North Dakota is producing a new domestic boom. My favorites are Continental Resources (CLR) and Whiting Petroleum (WLL).
Politicians play political games by definition. Actions like what we saw yesterday may give you chance to pick up domestic assets at a sale price. The Saudi bluff has been called. If they fold and Peak Oil happens, you'll be riding scooters a few years from now. Think about hedging yourself, unless you like the open air...
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