From the heady days of mid-2008 when it traded at nearly $150 a barrel, crude oil has had quite a rocky ride. After sliding down to the $30s and rallying back around $120, crude has settled in around the $90 to $110 range for the past two years.
Commodity traders and analysts have wondered why oil hasn’t gone higher. Geopolitical tensions abound across the world; the Middle East seemingly hasn’t been this unstable in years.
In fact, some believe the commodity could actually go lower. Blake Morrow posits that with North American production rising, vehicles becoming more efficient, and crude oil’s inability to rally with global equities, all signs point to a bearish future for oil.
- Investment banks, particularly Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan have not only left oil trading but have also abandoned the oil marketing business, which used to bring a steady supply of new players to the energy market.
- Individual oil traders (including Dicker himself) have disappeared as well. Dicker speculates around 3,000 traders have left the industry.
- Remaining funds are trend and algorithmic firms with long-term positions already established.
- The big alpha players remaining in the oil trading business are physical commodity, private firms like Glencore, Vitol, and Trifugura among others.
Dicker believes these changes have all but killed immediate speculative activity, which has been good for consumers in the short term, but will be bad for the prospects of cheaper oil in the long term. Without the liquidity provided by these players in the energy market, a crude oil ‘super-spike’ could be in the cards.
The demise of offshore oil drilling could also be a catalyst in Dicker’s mind, not to mention oil supplies going offline in places like Libya, and decreasing in countries like Iran and Iraq. This is leading to an upcoming oil supply crisis he says, and ultimately with liquidity not what it once was, and with the cost of oil now making it prohibitive to develop new sources, ultimately the fundamentals will have to matter again.
“When you have an oil price that’s hanging around $95, you won't see a $10 spike, you’ll see a $40 spike, because that’s what will be necessary to get these guys (oil exploration and production companies) ginned up” in order to produce more crude supply.
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