Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Soros give four reasons for high oil

Soros' testimony (#2 is the most intriguing one):
First, the increasing cost of discovering and developing new reserves and the accelerating depletion of existing oil fields as they age. This goes under the rather misleading name of "peak oil".

Second, there is what may be described as a backward-sloping supply curve. As the price of oil rises, oil-producing countries have less incentive to convert their oil reserves underground, which are expected to appreciate in value, into dollar reserves above ground, which are losing their value. In addition, the high price of oil has allowed political regimes, which are inefficient and hostile to the West, to maintain themselves in power, notably Iran, Venezuela and Russia. Oil production in these countries is declining.

Third, the countries with the fastest growing demand, notably the major oil producers, and China and other Asian exporters, keep domestic energy prices artificially low by providing subsidies. Therefore rising prices do not reduce demand as they would under normal conditions.

Fourth, both trend-following speculation and institutional commodity index buying reinforce the upward pressure on prices. Commodities have become an asset class for institutional investors and they are increasing allocations to that asset class by following an index buying strategy. Recently, spot prices have risen far above the marginal cost of production and far-out, forward contracts have risen much faster than spot prices. Price charts have taken on a parabolic shape which is characteristic of bubbles in the making.