Interest rates have been held at emergency lows in the UK and US for around five years. The US is expected to move first, with rates starting to rise from the current 0-0.25pc around the middle of the year. Investors have already starting buying dollars in anticipation of a strengthening US currency, with the pound falling 10pc against the dollar since July to hit 1.538 on Friday. UK interest rate rises are expected by the end of the year.
Bull market third longest on record The UK stock market is in its 70th month of a bull market, which began in March 2009. There are only two other occasions in history when the market has risen for longer. One is the period leading up to the great crash in 1929 and the other before the bursting of the dotcom bubble in the early 2000s. UK markets have been a beneficiary of the huge balance sheet expansion in the US. US monetary base, a measure of notes and coins in circulation plus reserves held at the central bank, has more than quadrupled from around $800m to more than $4 trillion since 2008. The stock market has been a direct beneficiary of this money and will struggle now that QE3 has ended.
Professional investors are already making for the exit. The Bloomberg smart money flow index tracks the market movements at the end of the trading day on the Dow Jones, when professional investors tend to make their move. The index showed heavy buying activity from 2009 onwards as professional investors followed central banks' money into the markets, achieving record gains during the past five years. That trend was reversed from the beginning of 2014 and the smart money is now making for the exit, as the S&P 500 carries on rising to new record highs.
The structure of global capital markets is such that the $68 trillion equity market is riskier and sits on top of a credit market worth more than $100 trillion. As yields have fallen in the credit markets, the excess profits have flowed up to equity, in turn lifting stock markets to record highs. The reversal of that trend, one of increased risk and rising credit yields will reduce returns to equity and send shockwaves through stock markets. The warning signs are not all flashing red just yet but investors would do well to head these indicators that suggest caution and prepare their portfolio before the crowd flocks to the exit.
The mechanism of the oscillation is a natural occurrence, like the tides, which is anticipated to occur at the summit of a resource-depletion curve, such as at peak oil. Other mechanisms might include a direct role for human agency. Perhaps there are behind-the-scene players who have the means and persistence to rhythmically seesaw oil price over extended periods of time.
The simplest prognosis would be to anticipate that a fifth spike should occur sometime in 2017-2018. History teaches about the fall-out from surges in oil price variance – instability in various economic indices might be expected to occur in the next 6 to 12 months. When oil markets go crazy, in an upward or downward direction, bad things happen to the economy. The trajectories of changes that accompany volatility spikes, shown in the top chart, indicate that sudden drops may be worse augurs than abrupt upticks in oil price.
The simplest explanation for the slump in oil prices is it falls in line with an established multi-year pattern that is being driven by supply and demand. The oil crash of 2014 was the most recent manifestation of a tidal ebb and flow in oil price volatility that has occurred every three years or so since at least the mid 2000s.
If one accepts that we are seeing the fourth confirmatory spike in a long-term pattern of oil price volatility, what is causing it and what can be expected next?
per barrel. If the price of oil stays below $80, America's biggest financial institutions will have to beg – once again – the Fed (and the taxpayer) for help.
In addition to those companies that drill for oil and those that finance them, there is a large industrial sector supplying tools, chemicals and equipment to the oil industry and the value of shares in those companies will tank as oil production winds down. Major index component companies, such as GE and Halliburton will see a loss of business and an inability to cover investments and loans in their oil industry divisions. These financial shortfalls will affect dividend payments or force them to sell otherwise profitable divisions to cover their losses. When the value of index component companies falls, all index-linked investment funds fall into losses. Managers of these funds usually sell off profitable assets to meet their obligations. A sudden shortfall of cash caused by an unexpected fall in the oil price could then trigger a sell off on Wall Street in which case the price of all shares would drop under an urgent rush to sell.
Should energy loans start to default, we may be looking at a snowballing effect in the order of the 2008 banking crisis with a caveat: low oil prices do help reduce the cost of transportation and services and may be a blessing in disguise for the economy. However this plays out, our FFT analysis illustrates that volatility is on the cards. Fasten your seatbelts for a bumpy ride, and keep an eye open for opportunities
The mechanism by which a fall in the price of oil could trigger a collapse in the stock market lies in the financial devices used to fund oil exploration and exploitation throughout the world, and particularly in the United States. Modern oil exploration is financed through a range of methods including issuance of shares to increase capital, and raising debt through bonds and bank loans.
A shale oil well operating through hydraulic fracturing can cost $9 million to get into production. When oil was hovering close to $100 per barrel, banks were more than willing to finance billions of dollars worth of oil exploration projects. As far as banks were concerned these loans were backed by tangible assets and considered low-risk. It was (almost) like printing money. A price of $80 per barrel was seen as a floor in the profitability of shale oil. This took an average break-even price of $70 per barrel, plus a $10 margin for financing costs.
Today with oil under $50, many producers lose $20 for every barrel produced and will likely default on these loans, as outlined in last month's Falling Oil Price Slows US Fracking article. This loss will be passed to the banks that made the loans, as it happened with the housing sector in 2008.
A telltale sign of this is the recent 20% fall of high yield corporate bonds since this summer which follow very closely the fall in crude oil prices. Many investors are afraid of defaults in the high-yield market due to over-lending to the energy sector and are indiscriminately selling off "junk bonds." The downside of this corporate bond selloff across the board is that less favorable financing options will be available for other sectors, which in turn will spread the slowdown to the rest of the economy.
Simple mathematics reduces a credit-worthy company to bankruptcy – for example a company with a market capitalization of $50 million owing $9 million suddenly becomes a bad risk when its total value dives to $10 million thanks to the sudden switch from profit to loss caused by the fall in the price of oil. A loss of profitability causes a loss of share value – pension funds and investment houses have seen billions wiped off the value of their investments in a matter of a few months. The knock on effect of loss of value then permeates to the banking and insurance sectors, causing the value of stock in those companies to fall.
Not all shale oil exploitation was financed by loans and bonds. Derivatives have played a part, too and many of the main players in the fracking business have their prices set in futures contracts all the way into 2016. The holders of these obligations to buy will be in serious trouble if the oil price does not turn around by mid-2015 when many of these contracts fall due. The major Wall Street banks hold a total of $3.9 trillion worth of commodities contract, the bulk of which are based on oil and were written when oil seemed to be destined to remain above $80 pe
In an analysis published in 2009, Therramus pointed out that Black Monday fell into a broader pattern in which nearly every stock market crash and recession of the preceding 50 years had occurred shortly after a large and abrupt change in the price of oil. In the case of the 1987 Dow crash, it was foreshadowed by a tumble in oil price that ensued in the wake of disputes within OPEC -which had come to a head in the previous year.
there is always a bigger picture... Remember anosm, The greater the obstacle the more glory in overcoming it. just ignore them and post whatever your opinion is or what articles you feel are relevant to the sector...
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