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Plummeting Oil Prices Could Destroy The Banks That Are Holding Trillions In Commodity Derivatives

Panic Button - Public DomainCould rapidly falling oil prices trigger a nightmare scenario for the commodity derivatives market?  The big Wall Street banks did not expect plunging home prices to cause a mortgage-backed securities implosion back in 2008, and their models did not anticipate a decline in the price of oil by more than 40 dollars in less than six months this time either.  If the price of oil stays at this level or goes down even more, someone out there is going to have to absorb some absolutely massive losses.  In some cases, the losses will be absorbed by oil producers, but many of the big players in the industry have already locked in high prices for their oil next year through derivatives contracts.  The companies enter into these derivatives contracts for a couple of reasons.  Number one, many lenders do not want to give them any money unless they can show that they have locked in a price for their oil that is higher than the cost of production.  Secondly, derivatives contracts protect the profits of oil producers from dramatic swings in the marketplace.  These dramatic swings rarely happen, but when they do they can be absolutely crippling.  So the oil companies that have locked in high prices for their oil in 2015 and 2016 are feeling pretty good right about now.  But who is on the other end of those contracts?  In many cases, it is the big Wall Street banks, and if the price of oil does not rebound substantially they could be facing absolutely colossal losses.

It has been estimated that the six largest “too big to fail” banks control $3.9 trillion in commodity derivatives contracts.  And a very large chunk of that amount is made up of oil derivatives.

By the middle of next year, we could be facing a situation where many of these oil producers have locked in a price of 90 or 100 dollars a barrel on their oil but the price has fallen to about 50 dollars a barrel.

In such a case, the losses for those on the wrong end of the derivatives contracts would be astronomical.

At this point, some of the biggest players in the shale oil industry have already locked in high prices for most of their oil for the coming year.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

US producers have locked in higher prices through derivatives contracts. Noble Energy and Devon Energy have both hedged over three-quarters of their output for 2015.

Pioneer Natural Resources said it has options through 2016 covering two- thirds of its likely production.

So they are protected to a very large degree.  It is those that are on the losing end of those contracts that are going to get burned.

Of course not all shale oil producers protected themselves.  Those that didn’t are in danger of going under.

For example, Continental Resources cashed out approximately 4 billion dollars in hedges about a month ago in a gamble that oil prices would go back up.  Instead, they just kept falling, so now this company is likely headed for some rough financial times…

Continental Resources (CLR.N), the pioneering U.S. driller that bet big on North Dakota’s Bakken shale patch when its rivals were looking abroad, is once again flying in the face of convention: cashing out some $4 billion worth of hedges in a huge gamble that oil prices will rebound.

Late on Tuesday, the company run by Harold Hamm, the Oklahoma wildcatter who once sued OPEC, said it had opted to take profits on more than 31 million barrels worth of U.S. and Brent crude oil hedges for 2015 and 2016, plus as much as 8 million barrels’ worth of outstanding positions over the rest of 2014, netting a $433 million extra profit for the fourth quarter. Based on its third quarter production of about 128,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, its hedges for next year would have covered nearly two-thirds of its oil production.

Oops.

When things are nice and stable, the derivatives marketplace works quite well most of the time.

But when there is a “black swan event” such as a dramatic swing in the price of oil, it can create really big winners and really big losers.

And no matter how complicated these derivatives become, and no matter how many times you transfer risk, you can never make these bets truly safe.  The following is from a recent article by Charles Hugh Smith

Financialization is always based on the presumption that risk can be cancelled out by hedging bets made with counterparties. This sounds appealing, but as I have noted many times, risk cannot be disappeared, it can only be masked or transferred to others.

Relying on counterparties to pay out cannot make risk vanish; it only masks the risk of default by transferring the risk to counterparties, who then transfer it to still other counterparties, and so on.
This illusory vanishing act hasn’t made risk disappear: rather, it has set up a line of dominoes waiting for one domino to topple. This one domino will proceed to take down the entire line of financial dominoes.
The 35% drop in the price of oil is the first domino. All the supposedly safe, low-risk loans and bets placed on oil, made with the supreme confidence that oil would continue to trade in a band around $100/barrel, are now revealed as high-risk.

In recent years, Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world.

Most of the time the big banks are very careful to make sure that they come out on top, but this time their house of cards may come toppling down on top of them.

If you think that this is good news, you should keep in mind that if they collapse it virtually guarantees a full-blown economic meltdown.  The following is an extended excerpt from one of my previous articles

—–

For those looking forward to the day when these mammoth banks will collapse, you need to keep in mind that when they do go down the entire system is going to utterly fall apart.

At this point our economic system is so completely dependent on these banks that there is no way that it can function without them.

It is like a patient with an extremely advanced case of cancer.

Doctors can try to kill the cancer, but it is almost inevitable that the patient will die in the process.

The same thing could be said about our relationship with the “too big to fail” banks.  If they fail, so do the rest of us.

We were told that something would be done about the “too big to fail” problem after the last crisis, but it never happened.

In fact, as I have written about previously, the “too big to fail” banks have collectively gotten 37 percent larger since the last recession.

At this point, the five largest banks in the country account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks control 67 percent of all banking assets.

If those banks were to disappear tomorrow, we would not have much of an economy left.

—-

Our entire economy is based on the flow of credit.  And all of that debt comes from the banks.  That is why it has been so dangerous for us to become so deeply dependent on them.  Without their loans, the entire country could soon resemble White Flint Mall near Washington D.C….

It was once a hubbub of activity, where shoppers would snap up seasonal steals and teens would hang out to ‘look cool’.

But now White Flint Mall in Bethesda, Maryland – which opened its doors in March 1977 – looks like a modern-day mausoleum with just two tenants remaining.

Photographs taken inside the 874,000-square-foot complex show spotless faux marble floors, empty escalators and stationary elevators.

Only a couple of cars can be seen in the parking lot, where well-tended shrubbery appears to be the only thing alive.

I keep on saying it, and I will keep on saying it until it happens.  We are heading for a derivatives crisis unlike anything that we have ever seen.  It is going to make the financial meltdown of 2008 look like a walk in the park.

Our politicians promised that they would do something about the “too big to fail” banks and the out of control gambling on Wall Street, but they didn’t.

Now a day of reckoning is rapidly approaching, and it is going to horrify the entire planet.

The Audit The Fed Bill Gets Passed By The House But Obama And The Democrats Are Going To Kill It

On Wednesday, Ron Paul’s bill to audit the Federal Reserve was overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.  The vote was 327 to 98.  You would think that a bill with such overwhelming support would easily become law.  But it won’t, because Barack Obama and the Democrats plan to kill it.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already said that the Senate will not even consider the bill.  But of course if Barack Obama called Harry Reid and told him that he wants this bill to get through the Senate so that he could sign it then Harry Reid would be singing a much different tune.  Sadly, we all know that is not going to happen.  Barack Obama’s good buddy Ben Bernanke called the Audit the Fed bill a “nightmare scenario” last week, and Obama is certainly not going to do anything to upset Bernanke – especially this close to the election.  Obama needs Bernanke to do everything that he possibly can to stimulate the economy so that Obama will look as good as possible in November.  The sad truth is that there is absolutely no chance that the Audit the Fed bill will become law and that is a crying shame.

So why is an audit of the Federal Reserve so important?

Why does Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke consider an audit of the Federal Reserve to be a “nightmare scenario” that must be avoided at all costs?

Well, perhaps it is because there has never been a true comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve since it was created back in 1913.

The Federal Reserve has more power over the economy than anyone else in the country does, and yet they are virtually unaccountable and the American people have very little idea what has been going on behind closed doors over at the Fed for the past 100 years.

A very limited audit of the Fed that was passed a couple of years ago that examined transactions during the last financial crisis discovered that the Federal Reserve had actually loaned out more than 16 trillion dollars in nearly interest-free money to the “too big to fail” banks between 2007 and 2010.

Keep in mind that U.S. GDP for the entire year of 2011 was only slightly more than 15 trillion dollars.

The Federal Reserve loaned out trillions upon trillions of dollars to their friends and never told the American people about it.

Whoa.

You would think that Congress would be quite eager to see what else has been going on over at the Federal Reserve.

But instead, many Democrats are completely and utterly opposed to auditing the Fed any further.

U.S. Representative Barney Frank (a Democrat) seemed to regard the bill as a joke even after it overwhelmingly passed in the House.  Frank stated that “nobody here thinks this will ever become law“.

According to Politico, there is zero chance that the bill will get through the U.S. Senate….

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said the Senate will not consider the bill, effectively killing its chances of becoming law.

But we all know that if Obama wanted this bill to become law that it would be a done deal.

If Barack Obama came out tomorrow in front of the television cameras and declared his support for this bill it would sail right through the Senate.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration has made it very clear that it considers a comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve to be a really, really bad idea.

For example, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner once stated that auditing the Fed is a “line that we don’t want to cross” and that if we did audit the Fed it would be “problematic for the country”.

So what exactly did he mean by that?

That is a very good question.

In any event, people should take this as an opportunity to confront Barack Obama about the Audit the Fed bill wherever he goes.

Perhaps Obama will prove me wrong.

Perhaps Obama will show that he is willing to stand up to the Federal Reserve.

In fact, if Obama gets this bill pushed through Congress and signs it into law, I will not criticize him for an entire month.

But we all know that will never happen.

The Federal Reserve is going to be able to continue to keep their secrets hidden from the American people.

The following is what Ron Paul had to say following the vote on Wednesday….

“I think the whole idea that they can deal in trillions of dollars and know that nobody is allowed to ask them a question is a moral hazard.”

And Ron Paul is right.

If the Federal Reserve can zap trillions of dollars into existence out of thin air and loan that money to their friends at the big banks and to central banks in other countries, then it should not be too much to ask them to be accountable to the American people.

Over the coming months, the American people will heatedly debate whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney would be better for the U.S. economy.

But the truth is that the Federal Reserve has far more power over the U.S. economy than the president of the United States does.

The Federal Reserve has been called the “fourth branch of government” because of how much power it has.  The Federal Reserve sets our interest rates, it determines the level of our money supply, it regulates and secretly bails out our banks, it determines the “target rates” for unemployment and inflation, and every small move the Fed makes causes global financial markets to swing wildly.

The Federal Reserve does all of this without ever having to be accountable to the American people.  In fact, whenever a bill is introduced that would shed some light on their activities they whine and cry about how important their “independence” is.

In a previous article, I described how preposterous this all is….

For a moment, imagine that there is a privately-owned organization in the United States that can create U.S. dollars out of thin air whenever it wants and can loan that money to whoever it wants to.  Imagine that this organization is able to act with the full power of the U.S. government behind it, but that nobody in the organization is ever elected by the American people, and that for all practical purposes the organization is not accountable to the president or to Congress.  Imagine that the organization is able to make trillions of dollars of secret loans to banks, to foreign governments and even to their close friends without ever having to face a comprehensive audit.  Does that sound preposterous?  Well, such an organization actually exists.

The American people need to stand up and demand an audit of the Federal Reserve.

We deserve to know what is going on over there.

Sadly, the mainstream media makes it sound as if hell has a better chance of freezing over than this bill does of becoming law.  The following is from a USA Today article that was posted on Wednesday….

The bill stands no chance of becoming law because the Democratic-controlled Senate will not take it up. The vote, however, served as a symbolic swan song for Paul, who is not seeking re-election. It is also an indicator of how Paul’s economic views have gone more mainstream, particularly within the Republican Party, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that shook Americans’ confidence in Wall Street and the federal government.

Well, let us hope that this kind of a bill keeps getting introduced in Congress.

Perhaps someday we actually will get a real audit of the Federal Reserve.

When that happens, the following is a list of questions that I would like to see asked by those auditing the Fed….

If the Federal Reserve is supposed to prevent shocks to our economy, then why have there been 10 different economic recessions since 1950 and why are we about to enter another one?

Was the Federal Reserve involved in the manipulation of Libor?

What role did the Federal Reserve play in creating the housing bubble that resulted in an unprecedented housing crash?

Why has the value of the U.S. dollar fallen by 83 percent since 1970?

Why is the Federal Reserve paying U.S. banks not to lend money?

Why did Barack Obama nominate Ben Bernanke for a second term as head of the Federal Reserve when Bernanke has a track record of failure that makes the Chicago Cubs look like a roaring success?

Why is the U.S. national debt more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was created in 1913?

Why were the Federal Reserve and the personal income tax both pushed through Congress in the same year in 1913?

Why does the Federal Reserve argue that it is “not an agency” of the federal government in court?

Why do all 187 nations that belong to the IMF have a central bank?

Do you have any other questions that you would like to have asked during an audit of the Federal Reserve?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

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