The Price Of Oil Is Crashing Again, And That Is Very, Very Bad News For The U.S. Economy

Oil Price Crashing - Public DomainThis wasn’t supposed to happen.  The price of oil was supposed to start going back up, and this would have brought much needed relief to economically-depressed areas of North America that are heavily dependent on the energy industry.  Instead, the price of oil is crashing again, and that is really bad news for a U.S. economy that is already mired in the worst “recovery” since 1949.  On Monday, U.S. oil was down almost four percent, and for a brief time it actually fell below 40 dollars a barrel.  Overall, the price of oil has fallen a staggering 21 percent since June 8th.  In less than two months, the “oil rally” that so many were pinning their hopes on has been totally wiped out, and if the price of oil continues to stay this low it is going to have very seriously implications for our economy moving forward.

One of the big reasons why the price of oil has been declining is because the OPEC nations continue to pump oil at very high levels.  The following comes from CNBC

Production in July by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries likely rose to its highest in recent history, a Reuters survey found on Friday, as Iraq pumped more and Nigeria squeezed out additional crude exports despite militant attacks on oil installations.

Top OPEC exporter Saudi Arabia also kept output close to a record high, the survey found, as it met seasonally higher domestic demand and focused on maintaining market share instead of trimming supply to boost prices.

These countries don’t know if or when the price of oil will eventually rebound, but what they do know is that they desperately need cash in order to keep their sputtering economies going.  Many of these nations are already experiencing significant economic downturns, and substantially reducing oil revenues at this time would definitely not help things.

Here in North America, oil production costs tend to be higher, and so when the price of oil crashes we tend to see companies shut down rigs.  But when rigs get shut down, that means that good paying jobs are lost.

During the first four months of 2016, approximately 35,000 jobs were lost at Texas energy companies.  Globally, more than 290,000 energy jobs have been lost since the price of oil started falling back in 2014.

And even though there was hope that energy companies would add jobs as the price of oil started rebounding during the second quarter, it turned out that the job losses just kept on coming

Energy companies continued to cut thousands of jobs during the second quarter, even though many chief executives are now voicing optimism that the oil market crash is ending and a rebound in drilling is afoot.

Although the heads of Halliburton Co. , Schlumberger Ltd. and other major firms forecast higher crude prices and a return to U.S. shale fields when discussing earnings this week, those companies and others disclosed another 15,000 industry layoffs.

Personally, I have quite a few members of my own extended family that live in areas that are heavily dependent on the energy industry, and three of them have lost their jobs so far this year.

And these are precisely the sort of good paying middle class jobs that we cannot afford to lose.  In order to having a thriving middle class, you need lots of middle class jobs.  Unfortunately, those kinds of jobs are going away, and the middle class in the United States is systematically dying.

If the price of oil keeps going lower, that will mean even more jobs losses for the energy industry, and that will be very bad news for the U.S. economy.

In addition, many of these energy companies are getting into very serious debt problems.  Delinquency rates on corporate debt are already the highest that they have been since the last recession as firms struggle to pay their bills.  Of course some of them have already gone belly up, and this has pushed default rates on corporate debt to the highest level since the last financial crisis.

At a price of 40 dollars a barrel, most oil companies in the United States are not profitable in the long-term.  The longer the price of oil stays down in this neighborhood, the more energy companies we will see go bankrupt.  At this point it is just a waiting game.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that Wall Street is very heavily exposed to the energy industry.  Just as subprime mortgages brought down quite a few financial institutions back in 2008, so this time around it is inevitable that the oil crash will claim a fair number of victims as well.

As the global economy has slowed down, the demand for oil has decreased.  And at this point, even the U.S. economy appears to be seriously slowing down.  U.S. GDP only grew at about a one percent rate for the first half of 2016, and the rate of homeownership in this country just hit the lowest level ever recorded.

In the mainstream financial media, there is a lot of hopeful talk about a potential turnaround for the energy industry, but most of that talk appears to be just wishful thinking.

To me, about the only thing that could push the price of oil back to where U.S. oil companies need it to be in the short-term would be a major war in the Middle East.  And of course that is definitely always a possibility considering who is running things in Washington.  But absent that, it is hard to see the price of oil getting back to 70 or 80 dollars a barrel any time soon.

So that means that we are likely to see more job losses, more debt delinquencies and debt defaults, and more financial institutions getting into trouble due to their reckless exposure to the energy industry.

Business Debt Delinquencies Are Now Higher Than When Lehman Brothers Collapsed In 2008

Insolvent - Public DomainYou are about to see more very clear evidence that a new economic crisis has already begun.  During economic recoveries, business debt delinquencies generally fall, and during times of economic recession business debt delinquencies generally rise.  In fact, you will see below that business debt delinquencies shot up dramatically just prior to the last two recessions, and the exact same thing is happening again right now.  In 2008, business debt delinquencies increased at a very frightening pace just before Lehman Brothers collapsed, and this was a very clear sign that big trouble was ahead.  Unfortunately for us, in 2016 business debt delinquencies have already shot up above the level they were sitting at just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and every time debt delinquencies have ever gotten this high the U.S. economy has always fallen into recession.

In article after article, I have shown that key indicators for the U.S. economy started falling in either late 2014 or at some point during 2015.  Well, business debt delinquencies are another example of this phenomenon.  According to Wolf Richter, business debt delinquencies have shot up an astounding 137 percent since the fourth quarter of 2014…

Delinquencies of commercial and industrial loans at all banks, after hitting a low point in Q4 2014 of $11.7 billion, have begun to balloon (they’re delinquent when they’re 30 days or more past due). Initially, this was due to the oil & gas fiasco, but increasingly it’s due to trouble in many other sectors, including retail.

Between Q4 2014 and Q1 2016, delinquencies spiked 137% to $27.8 billion.

And we never see this kind of rise unless the U.S. economy is heading into a recession.  Here is more from Wolf Richter

Note how, in this chart by the Board of Governors of the Fed, delinquencies of C&I loans start rising before recessions (shaded areas). I added the red marks to point out where we stand in relationship to the Lehman moment:

Delinquencies-commercial-industrial-loans-2016-q1

Business loan delinquencies are a leading indicator of big economic trouble.

To me, this couldn’t be any clearer.

Just like the U.S. government and just like U.S. consumers, U.S. businesses are absolutely drowning in debt.

In fact, a report that was just released found that debt at U.S. companies has been growing at a pace that is 50 times faster than the rate that cash has been growing.

Just imagine what it would mean for your family if your debt was growing 50 times faster than your bank account.  Needless to say, this is an extremely troubling development

Well, American companies may just have a mountain’s worth of problems, according to a new report from Andrew Chang and David Tesher of S&P Global Ratings.

“At the same time, the imbalance between cash and debt outstanding we reported on last year has gotten even worse: Debt outstanding increased 50x that of cash in 2015,” wrote Chang and Tesher.

“Total debt rose by roughly $850 billion to $6.6 trillion last year, dwarfing the 1% cash growth ($17 billion).”

And the really bad news is that banks all across the country are starting to tighten credit to businesses.

In other words, they are beginning to become much more reluctant to loan money to businesses because debts are going bad at such an alarming rate.

When the flow of credit to the business community starts to slow down, it is inevitable that the overall economy slows down as well.  It is just basic economics.  So the deterioration of the U.S. economy that we have witnessed so far is just the beginning of a process that is going to take quite a while to play out.

And let us not forget that most of the rest of the world is already is much worse shape than we are.  Most global financial markets are officially in bear market territory right now, and some nations are already experiencing full-blown economic depression.

Now that the early chapters of the “next crisis” are here, most American families find themselves ill-equipped to deal with another major downturn.  In fact, USA Today is reporting that approximately two-thirds of the country is currently living paycheck to paycheck…

Two-thirds of Americans would have difficulty coming up with the money to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to an exclusive poll, a signal that despite years after the Great Recession, Americans’ finances remain precarious as ever.

These difficulties span all incomes, according to the poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Three-quarters of people in households making less than $50,000 a year and two-thirds of those making between $50,000 and $100,000 would have difficulty coming up with $1,000 to cover an unexpected bill.

What are these people going to do when they lose their jobs or their businesses go under?

If you have any doubt that the U.S. economy is already in recession mode, just look at this chart over and over.

For months, I have been warning that the same patterns that immediately preceded previous recessions were happening once again, and this rise in debt delinquencies is another striking example of this phenomenon.

This stuff isn’t complicated.  Anyone that is willing to be honest with themselves should be able to see it.  As a society, we have been making very, very bad decisions for a very, very long period of time, and what we are watching unfold right now are the inevitable consequences of those decisions.

*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*

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