Thursday, March 13, 2008

Oil Price Bubble? Supply is up, demand is down, yet the price is soaring. Here's why.

From Reason Magazine:

Oil prices climbed to their highest level ever, reaching over $108 per barrel this week. And Americans are feeling this price spike at the pump, with gasoline averaging $3.22 per gallon. An analysis released by the investment firm Goldman Sachs suggested that oil prices might soar to $200 per barrel. Does this make sense?

Not really. Although U.S. crude oil inventories have fallen, gasoline inventories are at their highest since March, 1993, notes Tim Evans, an energy futures analyst at Citigroup's Futures Perspective. World oil production was up 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2008 over the same period in 2007 while world oil consumption rose by just 2 percent. In fact, world production is projected to be 3.3 percent higher in the second quarter and 4.1 percent higher in the third quarter than the same periods a year ago. On the other hand, world demand is projected to rise by just 1.6 percent over the next six months....

...So what will happen to oil prices over the next few years? No one is predicting $10 per barrel oil. However, once the current bubble bursts, both Evans and Lynch believe that the price of crude will settle at around $60 to $70 per barrel in the next couple of years. "It's very hard to pinpoint just how long a bubble can expand before it breaks. Getting the timing right is not an easy matter," says Evans. But he adds, "I think that this is the riskiest time to be long in crude oil since 1980."