Will Oil Continue Its Tumble?

Lior is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

The price of oil changed direction and tumbled during the week after it had increased during most of August and the first couple of weeks of September. What could have caused such a rapid shift in the oil market? Will this change in market sentiment bring oil prices down to the 80s? During September, the price of oil fell by 4.65%; United States Oil (NYSEMKT: USO), by 4.9%. The recent rise in U.S oil stockpiles by a higher than expected margin may have contributed to the decline in oil prices. The weaker than anticipated adverse effects of Hurricane Isaac on production, mainly in the Gulf of Mexico, may have also helped pull down oil prices. Finally, the recent announcement of the Federal Reserve to launch QE3 may have a modest effect on oil prices. Let’s further explore these issues. 

The recent tumble of oil prices has also affected several oil producers including Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE: CHK) and ExxonMobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM). During August and September, the linear correlation between Chesapeake and oil (daily percent changes) is 0.57, and between Exxon and oil it is 0.6. This means that nearly 33% of Chesapeake’s volatility and 37% of ExxonMobil’s volatility (under the assumptions of linearly relation and normality of data) could be explained by the changes in oil prices. The tumble of oil prices may have curbed the recent rise of these energy stocks. These energy companies are also strongly correlated with the S&P500 index (during September the linear correlations reached 0.46 and 0.84, respectively). Thus, the ongoing rally of the S&P500 may have prevented, to a certain extent, these energy companies from falling. Nonetheless if the price of oil will continue to decline it could affect the valuation, assuming we use DCF, of Chesapeake and Exxon.  So let’s see what has changed in the oil market:

One of the main financial events of last week was the announcement of the FOMC to launch QE3 in which it will purchase mortgage backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month. This is de facto a monetary injection that will expand the U.S.money base. This news may have contributed to the rally of oil prices last week. But will this stimulus continue to affect oil prices in the weeks to follow?  As presented in the chart below, despite the sharp rise in the U.S money base during 2009 and 2011 it didn’t seem to have a strong effect on the price of oil that was more affected by the changes in supply and demand, most notably the turmoil in the Middle East that pulled up the price of oil during 2011.


<img src="/media/images/user_12845/oil-and-us-money-base-2007-2012_2_large.jpg" />

Further, the linear correlation between the two shifted through the years:  between the years 2000 and 2008 the linear correlation was negative at -0.51, which means that as the money base expanded the price of oil tended to fall. Since there weren’t sharp rises in the U.S money base, this correlation didn’t concern oil traders. On the other hand ever since the Fed started to inject the U.S economy with money by implanting QE1 and QE2, the correlation between oil and the U.S money base became positive: between the years 2009 and 2012 the linear correlation between the two reached 0.1. This weak correlation, however suggests that if there is an effect of the changes in the U.S money base on oil prices, it is weak and doesn’t play a strong role in the factors affecting oil prices. This weak relation could also suggest that the QE1 and QE2 didn’t have a strong effect on the U.S economy and thus didn’t affect much its demand for oil.

Thus, even after the launch of QE3 by the Fed, I suspect it may have little effect on the price of oil and the true factor will continue to be the changes in demand and supply and projections about them.

Let’s examine the changes in the fundamentals including the U.S oil storage and production.


From the Supply side the U.S oil production rose by 0.1% (week over week) and was also 6.7% above the production level in 2011. Imports also rose by 4.8% (W-o-W). This mean the U.S supply slightly expanded. Alternatively, during last week, refinery inputs decreased by 0.9%. The recent shut down of oil refineries during the end of August at the Gulf of Mexico due to Hurricane Isaac didn’t seem to have much of an adverse effect on production.  Nonetheless, we are still in Hurricane Season so there is still uncertainty around the adverse effects Hurricanes or tropical storms could have on production.


Last week, the U.S. Petroleum and oil stockpiles rose by 11.4 million barrels; it reached 1,801.5 million barrels. This injection was much higher than many had projected. The current oil stockpiles are 27.5 million barrels above the levels were during the parallel week a year back. The linear correlation between the changes in stockpiles and oil prices is mid-strong and negative, which mean that if oil stockpiles will further increase, it could suggest that oil prices are likely to keep falling.

The recent developments in U.S oil market including the rise in production and storage may have contributed to the tumble of oil prices. These changes are likely to contain oil prices from rising precipitately, as they did during August and the first two weeks of September, in the near future. Nonetheless, the recent stimulus of the Fed and ongoing uncertainty around the production due to weather changes, and the tension in the Middle East are likely to keep oil prices high compared to recent years. So I guess the price of oil will remain in the low 90s in the near future.

This analysis on oil prices was first published on Trading NRG

For further reading:

Is Chesapeake walking towards the right path?

Big Swings for Oil; where will Oil Price Land?

liorc has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of ExxonMobil and has the following options: long JAN 2013 $16.00 calls on Chesapeake Energy, long JAN 2013 $25.00 calls on Chesapeake Energy, long JAN 2014 $20.00 calls on Chesapeake Energy, and long JAN 2014 $30.00 calls on Chesapeake Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.

Disclaimer: The author holds no positions in stocks mentioned and does not plan to initiate positions within 120 hours of the posting of this article. This article is to be used for educational, research and informational purposes only and does not constitute investment advice. There are no guarantees, expressed or implied, of future positive returns in regards to the subject matter contained herein. Understand the risks inherent in investing before making the decision to invest or consult an investment professional for more information. Reasonable due diligence has been performed in regards to the information in this article. However, the author expressly disclaims any liability for accidental omissions of information or errors in fact.

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