Once again the WTI crude oil market is testing the psychological $100 level. After mounting a huge rally over the last two months that took price from down near $75/bbl to over $100/bbl, crude prices retreated as fears surfaced concerning the ongoing crisis in Europe. While tensions with Iran have kept prices from tanking, it is a given that crude oil was not exempt from risk aversion trades and fears of an overall global financial slowdown.
However, as traders have begun anticipating action by the Central Banks to deal with this crisis, crude has floated back up again. Today's spiking of the punch bowl by the Fed and its cohorts at 5 other Central Banks, has driven crude back above the $100 level.
I find this quite fascinating because this is exactly the same thing that forced the Fed to eventually try to backpedal on its QE efforts earlier this year and pull the plug back in June when QE2 was due to expire. Bernanke and company realized that the cost of providing this liquidity binge was a weaker Dollar and surging energy prices. Only when the pain at the gas pump became large enough to elicit howls of complaints from voting constituents did we see Congressional leaders start complaining about the Fed. Prior to rising energy prices and soaring food prices, most of these leaders were silent enough especially as the same liquidity bursts kicked the price of US equities higher. After all there is nothing that most politicians love better than to see the DOW going up while they are in office.
What we are going to be carefully monitoring is how crude oil prices move in the days and weeks ahead. Any moves by the Central Banks to keep the liquidity crisis from becoming a full-blown solvency crisis are going to drive crude oil, along with the rest of the commodity complex, higher. What happens if crude then moves back above $115 barrel and looks like it is going to mount an upside breakout? Will rising energy prices undercut any so-called "growth" in those economies being targetted by these Central Banks?
Once again, we are back to what was said way back when the Fed first started up its QE program - they cannot selectively move equity prices higher and improve the economy WITHOUT also getting a sharp rise in commodities, including food and energy. Hedge fund money flows are not selective - they buy everything in sight and there is nothing the Fed or any other Central Bank can do to prevent this. One way or the other, there is going to be fallout - either failing banks, falling prices, rising unemployment or surging prices, particularly energy and food once again.
"When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe." … Frederic Bastiat
Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God. – Archbishop Chaput
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