We all know it; in winter it is about the heating, in summer about the quality of the fan, in addition, we need to make sure that apart from food, and drinks that we have the proper attire. We have known this for almost a lifetime. So even as this is known in the US, President Trump decided to have a conversation with Saudi Arabia to increase production to keep prices down. It seems really nice that Saudi Arabia came forward, yet they had no practical reason to do that did they? Not in an age of bullet points, business cases and maximised profit.
Oil is a commodity, and in the professional world of business, you have to go for the buy low, sell high equation if you want to be in business. So I was surprised to the extent that Saudi Arabia was facilitating towards America.
Yet this is seemingly coming to a halt when Bloomberg treats us to: ‘Putin Says Russia and Saudi Arabia to Extend OPEC+ Oil Pact‘. In itself the title does not give the US the warning that they need to read, the text does however give us: “OPEC, which pumps four-in-ten barrels produced worldwide, will convene in Vienna on Dec. 6 to discuss output cuts after oil prices in November suffered the largest monthly drop since the global financial crisis in 2008” the article also gives us “an advisory group to OPEC told ministers the market is oversupplied, with a need to cut about 1.3 million barrels a day from October levels“, apart from Bloomberg, there were several others showing the news, adding their own political flavour towards facilitation and that will be discussed soon enough. The shape here is not merely that there is oil in the Al Saud family, it is the fact that they are (as any good business does) trying to maximise what they have. People seem to forget that. It might seem a buyers’ market, but that is merely the presentation, once production stops for 12% or more that balance will change really quickly. Let those who want it somewhere else, go somewhere else. The direct impact is that it merely drives prices faster. Even as there is an oversupply, the entire setting seems to be focussed on getting past this winter, the players are in error not to focus on the next winter, for that part will be impacted and it will be a large impact.
As the conversation between Russia and Saudi Arabia continues, whether or not it is some OPEC+ setting, the setting that is evolving is one that I mentioned in ‘Two issues in play‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/11/20/two-issues-in-play/). The day after we saw Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) giving the statement that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was “unstable and unreliable”. So as we were treated to ‘Putin says Russia, Saudis agree to renew OPEC production cuts‘ mere moments ago. How much reserve is there? How long until the prices are raised, optionally just before Christmas as a speculative Ebenezer Scrooge bonus to your household?
The entire matter was just waiting for an opportunity to happen, as we see this unfold over the next few days, we will see additional parts too. The best example that anyone who served knows is that there are three people you do not mess with. The first is your Supply officer, the second is the payroll officer and the last one is the cook. These three are sacred and you leave them alone. So why push the person who is a supply officer, that impacts your payroll officer (as you end up with a fair amount less) and that in turn unbalances what the cook gives you as you cannot afford a full meal. As the price of food goes up, as we see clear data from several sources (Washington Post and HILDA) that larger groups of workers have been on stalling incomes for years now, have I made a clear enough point? When the total income is the same and food prices go up, what would you surrender to the currents of loss, once you realise that fuel prices will be on the rise as well?
In anticipated opposition, don’t give me that ‘ethics regarding Jamal Khashoggi‘ routine, because the bulk of the US senate and US congress have not made any noise regarding all those journalists (well over 240, with over 140 wanted) in Turkish prisons, several of them for life. Not much noise is there? The fact that Turkey isn’t getting slammed for being an ally of Iran is still a mystery, yet there might be some European need there, especially around some ‘nuclear accord’.
Even as I anticipate some reaction in all this, we must also heed the opposition in this. Here I call for Oilprice dot com. Martin Tillier gives us (at https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Oil-Output-Cuts-May-Be-Coming-But-Dont-Bet-on-It.html): “Crude oil has been in freefall, with both Brent and WTI having lost around a third since hitting highs in early October. There are some demand related worries involved as trade wars threaten to slow global growth, but the biggest reasons for the drop are supply related. A couple of months ago, those highs were achieved in anticipation of a disruption to global supply as the Trump administration’s abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal with Iran and the resulting sanctions took effect. Since then though, a few things have become clear. Firstly, U.S. production has been stepped up by more than imagined. In addition, the Saudis increased their output to help offset the expected loss from Iran but, most importantly in that context, that loss doesn’t look likely to materialize“, he goes on giving us the tough talk part and he is right. Whether we see it as political windbags or perhaps merely a storm in a cup of tea, the impact is not merely some good needed, it is a larger issue that goes beyond supply and demand. Just like the predicted shortage of concrete for the building of Neom city. Those who saw it have been upping their ability for production. Several have doubled it and there is a chance that the UAE will have its own large concrete facility soon enough. As Saudi Arabia could decide to cut production, it could in addition merely seek to seel part of it elsewhere. The end result is the same, yet that trajectory will be much slower. For the current administration it is about getting past this winter, with the next winter being a larger impact on the elections, so it will also impact the cost of living all over the US.
CNBC gives support here (at https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/28/expect-a-saudi-first-policy-on-oil-production-cuts-regardless-of-trumps-demands-analysts-say.html). It is early days and what we anticipate or expect does not usually happen, yet with “Analysts believe that despite Washington’s geopolitical leverage over the kingdom, after its staunch defense of the Saudi monarchy amid accusations over its alleged role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Riyadh will still pursue its own economic interests rather than abide by the wishes of President Trump. The pivotal question hanging over oil markets remains that of production cutbacks. Who will tighten their taps, and by how much?” This is the game for now and even as it is all set in common sense, the one part we cannot anticipate is ‘by how much?‘, I predicted a rough 12% a week before this article came out and so far, the fact that it is still likely to happen before the end of the year, optionally before before Christmas, it does remain to be a the speculative part for now. I expect Russia to try and get a consensus with Saudi Arabia to go well over 12%, optionally closer to 20%. It is essential for Russia, it will be good to the super wealthy oil friends that President Putin has and it will also bring joy to the coffers of the Saudi Monarchy. The question is who can pick up that slack and how fast. The US has its own facilities in it, yet could they keep up? Leave it to the US to piss off 3 of the top 5 producers, which leaves Iraq and they do not have the working infrastructure, moreover, volatility is still their middle name for now, as well as the fact that they merely produce 16% of the other three that the US insulted (more than once I might add).
So will oil prices go up? If the US is set on its current policy, the issue of oil prices is a given certainty, the fact that they will go up before winters end seems more and more likely, yet by how much is not to be anticipated. In this Saudi Arabia, merely needs to have a ‘technical glitch’ and the pumps go down twice for 2-3 days, and the damage is done. At that point, Saudi Arabia merely has to drop production for 15%-20% until the technical matter is ‘resolved’ and all the US can do is pray for Saudi Arabia to accept the assistance of their engineers. Although as Saudi engineers go, their knowledge might be (vastly) superior in all this, they have had plenty of time to get ahead of the curve for some time now.
Should this happen, what will the US do? Throw a tantrum; throw a curveball? I am eager to find out, because the entire journalist part is still a matter for discussion. You all seem to know Jamal Khashoggi. Yet how many of you know Mehmet Topaloğlu, killed by the Turkish police, as was Metin Göktepe. Then we see Önder Babat, Serena Shim, Rohat Aktaş and Yaşar Parlak. The Turkish authorities have shown less than 0.5% effort here when comparing it to Jamal Khashoggi and the silence from the US in these deaths (a few of many) have been deafening, we can ignore the European Union in all this as they seemingly do not care. So when I made the claim that Jamal Khashoggi is merely a convenient puppet to hit Saudi Arabia with, I knew what I was talking about. When we see that inaction is the natural state, the entire Jamal Khashoggi was a game of political players, emotions used to drive an audience, an audience giving Google search currently well over 72 million hits when we see for that JK journalist. Try that with one of the other murdered or imprisoned journalists in Turkey, they are not even a blip on the radar. It is my speculative thought that Neom and the future drive by Saudi Arabia scared the US as it did several European players. It is the first time in history that a Middle Eastern nation has the ability to put the US and EU to shame with their lack of technological progress. They claim to have it, yet Saudi Arabia is making a move towards ‘showing to have it‘, changing the game for both the US and Europe.
This is where we see the difference. China and Russia see this as an opportunity, whilst Europe and the US are seeing it as an inconvenience. In Europe it seems that only Salini Impregilo is taking the charge of that future, having scored already well over half a billion in contracts, the rest of the players are either under the surface or not there at all. Is that not odd either? When we see close to a trillion dollars in opportunities in Saudi Arabia, the noise should be deafening but it is not.
How does that matter?
Well, if oil fuels the coffers, the daily input is more than enough to warrant actions, yet I see not activity anywhere, not to the degree it should have. In all this, within a day I found a way to revolutionise information using 5G (designing a new device in the process), and there we see opportunity, a pilot the size of a city that could have global repercussions and no one is there. I cannot be the only player in town, my ego would never be that delusional, yet there is not activity at all. It makes sense that it is not out in the open, yet some people would have to file for concepts, optionally for patents and I see the light of at least 4 of them right there, yet there is no visible action, and believe me, as a Master of Intellectual property law, I do know where to look.
Karma kicks greed’s ass
We have all seen the news when it comes to Huawei and the list of those banning them is growing, there too we see that China has a vested interest in making a local company a true success and there we see the options too. So when we consider the Verizon offer: “As part of a 10-year agreement, Verizon will expand its wireless small cell infrastructure to build out its existing 4G LTE network and prepare for 5G deployment, with streamlined permitting from the City of Boston. TV licensing will also be amended to support an expansion of Verizon’s Fios TV service to more neighborhoods“, it came in 2016. So consider the actual wording ‘as part of a 10-year agreement‘ and ‘prepare for 5G deployment‘, by the letter, it implies that Boston will optionally not have 5G before 2026, in this it could optionally have been in the foundations of Neom by 2021 (depending on then the first buildings are completed). It would be a kick in the nuts for the US to have something operational after Saudi Arabia, does it not?
Karma bites like Piranha if need be.
This all impacts the oil price, because the Saudi Crown Prince is driven to get Neom right, it also impacts the coffers so whatever is done regarding the oil, would optionally not be allowed to endanger Neom. I cannot prove that, yet I am decently certain that this is the case. We can see this as an opportunity, that as the US seeks options, it can make other offers to offset the optional ‘loss’ to Saudi Arabia. If enabling can be done in money or goods, offering goods is still an optional path to take for the US, yet they too need to realise that the overly visible acts of playing the ‘Khashoggi blues’ whilst not making any noise on the ‘Turkey newspaper shuffle’ is going to be a debate soon enough, especially as there is enough evidence that Turkey has been facilitating for Iran.
In the end
In the end it is about the oil prices and I expect them to go up regardless of what happens, yet there is leverage to a small extent, the amount of price increase is one that could be under negotiation. The question is, will we see proper actions by the US and Europe to limit the price increase and the impact on their citizens? I expect to see an answer to that part within the next two weeks.
Have a fun Monday!