The Steroid Problem
By Phil Flynn
I think it is high time that I address the steroid issue. It has been a topic of conversation this week and I think it's time we face the issue and get it all out in the open. It is clear that anyone who is a fan of the game and has watched it for a long time realized that the performances we have seen and these incredible displays of strength have been due to juicing. This is obvious to even the causal observer. No, I don’t want to believe it either, but for the good of the game, I think it's time that that we admit the truth of what many of us secretly and dimly suspected. The truth is, players are juicing. That’s right, popping, injecting, or buzzing up. Whatever you call it. It is the only way to explain performances that are beyond the realm of what can be humanly expected.
What, baseball? Who cares about baseball! I am talking about the oil market. I mean, look at what this market has done over the last month and a half. After soaring to over $100 a barrel, this market broke to near 85, then after a little recovery, slammed back down to 86 in a wave of economic pessimism. Then low and behold, in just a few short trading sessions, oil rallied close to 96 dollars a barrel. That kind of a move used to take years and now it is happening in days. I mean, come on! That is more amazing then anything Roger Clemens has ever done. A major shift in market psychology in an instant put the bulls in control. Maybe the funds are juicing or maybe it’s the traders, but this kind of comeback reeks of some type of performance enhancing supplement.
I mean, what in the world has changed so dramatically from last Thursday when we were in the 86-dollar handle?
Well in hindsight, technically, the market failed to take out a major trend line on Thursday and put in a market-reversal. That trend line was tested because of some weak economic data worldwide. Let me speak in loose technical terms that most with a rudimentary knowledge of technical analysis can understand. If you look at a daily crude chart, it looked as if the market was trying to put in a head and shoulders top. When we bounced on Thursday, the proceeding explosive move was either a test and further formation of the right shoulder or a "W" like bottom that points us back towards new all time highs.
On Thursday it seemed that most people believed that if we were not in a recession we would soon be in one. That prediction might have somewhat changed with later data that seemed a bit less gloomy. One that comes to mind was the release of the better than expected US retail sales number and yesterdays trade deficit number.
Yet, yesterday, with big Ben Bernanke still promising to aggressively cut interest rates and sluggish economic growth at a time when some are feeling a bit more optimistic about the economic outlook, once again put commodities on a buying spree. I will remind you that in 2007, the event that caused the bulk of the move in oil was not a hurricane, war or famine, but the move by Ben Bernanke to surprise the market with a 50 basis point rate cut back in October. You can point to that day, as the day oil made its historic move.
Or can the move in oil be about something more mundane like the unusually cold weather. Yesterday, the larger than expected withdraw in natural gas supply helped feed into the bullish feeding frenzy. Storage in gas that was supposed to be so large that it might never be used but supply is falling way behind year ago levels and is closing in on the five-year average. What we are finding is that storage is not as large as we think it is when we go through periods of strong demand.
The geo-political situation has also favored these juiced-up bulls. The ongoing saga with Exxon Mobil and Venezuela threatening to cut off oil supply to the US was fodder for the bulls to keep on trekking higher. Yesterday, Exxon Mobil won another round in court, raising fears and bullish hopes that Venezuela will cut off oil supply.
The larger issue of course, is the big picture peak oil stuff. Does a recession really matter if we are running out of oil? With all the bullish fundamentals that have driven oil for the last 5 years, we only added roughly 10 dollars to the highs for oil a year. That was in the backdrop of a growing and expanding economy. Now we add 30 into a slowing economy! The only thing that can explain it is either we are seeing the peak oil production along with the sudden realization by the masses that we are running out of oil or more likely; it’s the bulls on steroids! Or maybe, just maybe, this is a last desperate attempt to take out a $100 a barrel before we crash into the sixties!
Phil Flynn is Vice President, Energy Analyst and General Market Analyst with Alaron Trading Corporation. Phil is one of the world's leading energy market analysts, providing individual investors, professional traders and institutions with up-to-the-minute investment and risk management insight into global petroleum, gasoline and energy markets. Phil's market commentary, fundamental and technical analysis, and long-term forecasts are sought by industry executives, investors and media worldwide.