Oil & Gas: The Next Investment Wave
The goal of The Next Investment Wave is to help you identify potential investing trends early. If we were to use a baseball analogy, the meat of most investment moves is found near the bottom of the second inning or the top of the third inning. Our research over the past 6 months has caused us to believe that the next investment wave that investors may be able to lean into to create their next round of wealth may be found in the realm of commodities and basic materials.
With any long-term thesis, there needs to be both fundamental and technical factors present in order to fuel potential growth. In this issue of The Next Investment Wave, we will explore why investors looking for a secular growth trend may want to keep fossil fuels and other commodities on their radar.
Short Term vs. Long Term
Oil prices have plunged by approximately 40% from their 2022 highs, causing doubt among many investors in the oil market bull thesis.
The recent crude price decline reflects a tug-of-war underway between bullish structural factors and bearish temporary factors, causing us to ask, is this a buying opportunity within a longer-term structural bull market or the beginning of significantly lower oil prices led by reduction of demand as a result of a looming recession?
In the short term (1 week to 2 months), the tea leaves that many oil traders watch, like oil inventories, refining margins, and whether oil prices are in contango or backwardation do appear to give the impression that oil prices in Q1 of 2023 will be flat or possibly down slightly.
Strong sentiment, increasing demand, geopolitics, and most importantly, supply-side issues that will take many years to fix.
Sentiment – Wall Street is Bullish
Many Oil market analysts believe oil prices are going higher. For example, Jeff Currie, the global head of commodities for Goldman Sachs, has a $110 forecast for Brent Crude in 2023, while rival investment bank Morgan Stanley agrees, expecting Brent to top the $110 level by the middle of 2023.
These analysts note several catalysts as dynamics in demand, supply, and geopolitical circumstances arise.
Morgan Stanley probably summed up the demand dynamics best by stating, “We remain constructive on Oil prices driven by recovering demand from China reopening and aviation recovering amidst constrained supply due to low levels of investment, a risk to Russian supply, the end of SPR releases and slow down of U.S. Shale.”
Being one that has traveled quite a bit the past few months, I can personally attest to the recovery in aviation as each and every airport I have been through has been very busy.
While the airports and roads seem just as busy as they were prior to the Pandemic, it also seems China could be the biggest catalyst in 2023, as highlighted by the Wall Street Journal “The pent-up demand from China is going to be enormous,” according to comments by Energy Aspects director of research Amrita Sen. Continuing with “China could swing demand by at least a million barrels a day, and that could easily make the difference between an Oil forecast of $95 to $105 versus $120 to $130.”
“Prior to the pandemic, China was the world’s third-largest consumer of liquified natural gas, second-largest oil consumer, and largest electricity consumer. Resumed manufacturing activity and overall energy use in China could help offset fears of recession-driven demand destruction”
While demand seems poised to increase through 2023 (assuming there are no or low recession effects), it is the supply dynamics that seem to be part of the thesis that may cause a longer secular bull market in fossil fuel prices.
Due to poor energy policies of the past, there have been supply-side issues building for many years, and those issues don’t look to be changing anytime soon. We see a future in which oil supply is constrained for years, necessitating higher prices and lower demand than would be possible during the oil market of the past decade, when supply was abundant. The bull case for oil rests on the constrained supply outlook, which will be evident in a supply deficit that surfaces whenever prices are low and the quantity of oil demanded by consumers ticks above the level of available supply.
Most oil companies plan to keep a relatively firm lid on output and investment spending for new production. For example, Chevron plans to boost its capital budget by 25% next year to $17 billion; most of that increase is due to inflation and a ramp in lower-carbon investment spending. Likewise, ExxonMobil plans to boost capital spending to $23 billion from $22 billion. However, it expects its production will remain flat on a per-day basis.
Without a major demand disruption due to a large recession, demand seems poised to rise amid continued tight supplies.
The geopolitics of Oil has always been a hotbed of debate and speculation, and now it seems that many past issues are approaching an inflection point over the next 5-7 years.
In our opinion, one of the cornerstones of Oil influence is the Saudis, so let’s start the geopolitical discussion there. For decades Saudi Kings maintained political balance by doling out vital power positions to separate, carefully chosen successors. Positions such as Defense Minister, the Interior Ministry, and the head of the National Guard. Today, Mohammed Bin Salman controls all three positions. Foreign policy, defense matters, oil and economic decisions, and social changes are now all in the hands of one man. The 2017 coup and rise of prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) was significant in that MBS was backed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), a fund comprised of trillions of dollars supplied by globalists Carlyle Group (Bush Family), Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, and Blackrock. MBS gained the favor of the globalists for one big reason. He openly supported their “Vision for 2030”, a plan for the dismantling of “fossil fuel” based energy and the implementation of carbon controls. In exchange for their cooperation, the Saudis are given access to ESG-like funding as well as access to AI advancements.
Also note, over the past few years, relationships between Saudi, Russia, and China have grown very close. Arms deals and energy deals are becoming the mainstay of trade, and this has also led to a quiet distancing of the Saudis using U.S. dollars to trade oil. Recently, the dominoes seemed to have been set with Saudi Arabia announcing at Davos that they are now willing to trade Oil in alternative currencies to the dollar.
Not to mention from an age perspective, the current Saudi regime is at an age they could be viewing the next few years as their last hoorah to make as much money as they can from traditional energy sources before the world evolves and incorporates more and more energy alternatives.
The importance of the Saudi announcement and willingness to trade oil in alternative currencies to The Dollar, along with the continued strengthening alliance between East vs West, can not be overstated; this is the beginning of a global shift in reserve currencies similar to when The British Sterling imploded many decades ago which resulted in the rise of The Dollar to take its place as the “global petro currency.”
The consequences of this could be very devastating to the US economy. The ability to defer inflation by exporting it overseas is a superpower only the US enjoys. Currently, the Fed can print money perpetually if it wants to in order to fund the government or prop up US markets, as long as foreign central banks and corporate banks are willing to absorb dollars as a tool for global trade. If the dollar is no longer the primary international trade mechanism, the trillions upon trillions of dollars the Fed has created from thin air over the years will all come flooding back to the US through various avenues, and hyperinflation (or hyperstagflation) could be the result.
The effects of the dollar decline may not be immediately felt or become obvious for another year or two. What will happen is consistent inflation on top of the high prices we are already dealing with. Meaning the Federal Reserve will continue to hold interest rates higher, and prices will barely budge, or they may climb in spite of monetary tightening.
All the while, the mainstream media and government economists will say they have “no idea” why inflation is so persistent and that “nobody could have seen this coming.”
While this can sound dire and cause you to reach for a bottle of ludlum to numb the pain, there are and will be significant investment opportunities for those that are savvy enough to see the changes that are taking place in front of us.
If you are curious to know how your portfolio can Catch The Next Investment Wave in Energy and Currencies, click here to start a conversation.