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قدیمی 11-09-2008, 10:54 PM   #1
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پیش فرض How U.S. policy made oil go up. Then down

BRIAN MILNER
November 1, 2008
Anyone who still makes the claim that October holds nothing on September when it comes to the cruel treatment of investors obviously doesn't go anywhere near the commodities game.

Nothing escaped devastation this October, triggered by forced selling, fading economies and the global flight to safety. Not metals, not grains, not gold, not sugar and definitely not oil. Copper posted its largest monthly decline in more than two decades. Wheat tumbled more than in any previous month for the past 22 years. For gold, you'd have to wander back to 1983 to find a similar nosedive.
Only live cattle and hog futures held up reasonably well, falling a mere 10 per cent. But neither had been star performers before the October rout.
Oil, though, stood in a dismal class of its own. By the time exhausted traders packed it in for the month, the price had plunged more than 32 per cent. It was the biggest-ever monthly drop. Since peaking just above $147 (U.S.) a barrel in July, light sweet crude has fallen down a drill hole, closing yesterday at $67.81.

Oil's immediate future looks so gloomy, at least from an investor's standpoint, that raging bull T. Boone Pickens is packing in his energy hedge fund. That's probably a wise decision, considering that the fund has racked up $2-billion in losses and is down 60 per cent so far this year.
Mr. Pickens and plenty of other like-minded investors became convinced that oil had nowhere to go but up, even after it passed the $100 threshold. They trotted out all kinds of charts to make their case that demand was so strong, we would never see cheap energy prices again. Peak oil and overwhelming Chinese demand became their twin mantras. Some analysts, ever eager to get in front of a trend, even started talking up $200 oil.
Too bad they weren't paying attention to a veteran energy economist named Philip Verleger Jr., who insists oil never should have gone much above $70 a barrel; that it did so only because of "a perfect storm" of U.S. policy mistakes, European economic developments and currency shifts; and that it could well end up back in the low $20s before the global economy gets back on its feet.
"I think it will go a good deal lower, particularly next spring [when oil markets are traditionally weakest]," Mr. Verleger said in an interview. "If this thing follows a natural cycle, I think we'll see something as low as $20 to $25."
Mr. Verleger, who recently set up shop as a professor of strategy at the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business, has been an adviser to U.S. presidents, as well as big energy producers and consumers. He has testified before Congress, debated with oil hawks and openly challenged their assumptions, which he says are based on a poor understanding of oil economics.
Forget about speculators or even peak oil, which won't affect prices for decades. The reason oil prices shot so high, in a nutshell, has to do with a boneheaded U.S. decision in August, 2007, to put much more light sweet crude in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
This occurred just as European demand for the stuff, which is used to make low-sulphur diesel, was soaring thanks to truck traffic to the new Eastern European members of the EU. Currency issues also came into play, forcing up the dollar price of crude.
So put the surge down to lousy U.S. policy (since reversed) and a combination of market and currency issues.
When anything goes up or down for a sustained period, even smart investors often come to think that there's only one truth in the market.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20081101.RTAKINGSTOCK01/TPStory/Business
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