Thursday, June 5, 2008

Is Oil in a speculative bubble?

Oil continues to trend upward with some pull-backs. It is an open question if the increases merely reflect a speculative bubble, or is indicative of real supply and demand.

Take the new survey at the top left of the blog to voice your opinion.

One interesting regulatory change over the past couple of weeks is the tripling of margin requirements at the energy exchanges. The New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) and ICE Futures Europe in London have boosted the margin required by speculators to make trades. The exchanges are hoping that the margin calls will reduce volatility and keep the lid on speculative price increases in the energy markets. On the day the changes were implemented, oil dropped by more than $7. Since this time however, the price has recovered to near $130.

A number of officials such as U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have stated that high oil prices are here to stay, and are reflective of the world supply and demand situation. Jim Rogers agrees, stating that the oil bull market has years to go.

Other sources state that oil is in a classic bubble. No different than houses, dotcoms or tulips. The article in The Times makes the case that the oil price increases are not attached to reality, and outlines the case with some compelling numbers.

This leaves the question. Is oil in a speculative bubble that will pop before the end of 2008? Or do the price increases have years to go?

One truth is that bubbles always tend to go on longer than any pessimist ever believes it can; and eventually crashes harder than any optimist ever believed was possible.

The last survey – Gas at the Pump

The last survey on the price of gas at the pump showed that 43% of the poll takers expected gasoline to be between $4 and $4.50 per gallon on August 1st. 67% of the responders expected gas to be above $4 per gallon.