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Demand for lithium—the hottest commodity on the planet and the only commodity to show positive price movement in 2015—are poised to continue on its upward trajectory, becoming the world's new gasoline and earning the moniker of "White Petroleum". In addition, the battle for market share in and around this commodity has everyone from major tech players to trend-setting investor gurus vying for a foothold.
After a 50 percent rally in oil prices between February and March, crude has retreated a bit as of late. The upcoming OPEC-Russia meeting in Doha looms over the markets, but few expect the outcome to have any material impact on supply and demand. Global supply still exceeds demand, but there are solid signs that the overhang is finally starting to ease. Storage levels are high, but are expected to come down.
Just over three months after the authorities lifted the four-decade ban on crude oil exports, the U.S. has actually exported less this year than it did over the same period the year before, when the ban was still in place.
According to Clipper Data market intelligence cited by the Financial Times, we've seen a 5 percent decline in U.S. crude oil export volumes since the beginning of this year. The data suggests that on average we are exporting (waterborne) 325,000 barrels per day now, compared to 342,000 barrels per day during the first months of 2015.
Oil prices have climbed by about 50 percent from their February lows, topping $40 per barrel. However, the rally could be reaching its limits, at least temporarily, as persistent oversupply and the prospect of new shale production caps any potential price increase.
Oil prices have shown signs of life over the past few weeks, as production declines in the U.S. raise expectations that the market is starting to adjust. As a result, Brent crude recently surpassed $40 per barrel for the first time in months.
Argentina offers one of the few places on earth where oil companies are not suffering from the full force of the collapse in prices.
Argentina regulates oil prices, a policy originally intended to insulate the public from the whims of the market, protecting people from triple-digit crude prices. However, with the crash in prices since mid-2014, the effect of the regulation has reversed: motorists are now effectively subsidizing the oil industry.
What if I told you that there was a period in history where oil demand declined by 5 million barrels per day and non-OPEC supply increased by 5 million barrels per day, yet oil price rallied more than 50 percent? Would you believe me? If your answer is yes, then you guessed right. This was the period from 1979 to 1985.
With lithium prices skyrocketing beyond wildest expectations, talk heating up about acquisitions and mergers in this space and a fast-brewing war among electric car rivals, it's no wonder everyone's bullish on this golden commodity that promises to become the "new gasoline".
Moreover, land grabs, rising price predictions, and expectations of a major demand spike are leaping out of the shadows of a pending energy revolution and a new technology-driven resource era.
This is a financial cold war—nothing more, nothing less.
While there are billions of reasons to cut output, and every major producing country is reeling from the loss of revenues, some are weathering the current bust better than others are, but the devil is in the details, and the details contain tons of variables.
Production cost and breakeven figures that analysts enjoy bandying can trap you in bubble of black-and-white mathematics that is a few brush-strokes shy of a full picture.
In recent days, signs of a possible breakthrough in the yearlong standoff between Russia and Saudi Arabia on crude production strategy have emerged. Saudi Arabia, OPEC's dominant member, has long insisted OPEC (read Saudi Arabia) would not reduce output to balance supply and demand absent corresponding cuts from non-OPEC members (read Russia), while Russia has consistently insisted harsh climactic conditions prevent Russian producers from reducing output and in any case Russia insists it could withstand low prices as well as any other country.
Oil inventories will continue to rise, but the momentum is slowing. The following are some observations as to how we got here and how we're going to get out.
9 reasons why oil has taken so long to bottom:
1. OPEC increased production in 2015 to multiyear highs, principally in Saudi Arabia and Iraq where production between the two added 1.5 million barrels per day (mb/d) to inventories after the no cut stance was adopted.
2. Russian production increased in 2015 to post Soviet highs.
Oilprice.com recently spoke with Carl Larry, Director of Oil and Gas at Frost & Sullivan, a consultancy that conducts research on oil and gas markets, to get his thoughts on the state of oil in 2016.
Oilprice.com: I saw that you were on Bloomberg in December, and you said that you thought oil would go to the low $30s per barrel, which was a good call at the time, before OPEC would rather relent. Do you see any chance that OPEC can actually coordinate any production cuts?