Will The Day Of Rage In Saudi Arabia On March 11 Send The Price Of Oil Into Unprecedented Territory?

The price of oil is shaping up to be the number one economic story of 2011, and right now the eyes of the investing world are closely watching the developing situation in Saudi Arabia.  All of the other recent Middle East revolutions have been organized on the Internet, and now all over Facebook and Twitter there are calls for a “Day of Rage” in Saudi Arabia on March 11.  The Saudi monarchy is attempting to head off any protests by promising to give $37 billion in “benefits” to the people and by publicly proclaiming that all political demonstrations are specifically banned.  In addition, the Saudi government is stationing thousands of security forces at various potential “hot spots” around the country.  So far similar measures have not done much to quell unrest in other nations in the Middle East, but Saudi Arabia will be a true test of the revolutionary fervor that is sweeping the region.  The Saudis have a long history of brutally repressing their own people.  They simply do not mess around.  So a revolution in Saudi Arabia will not be nearly as “easy” as it was in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya.  However, if a revolution does sweep across Saudi Arabia, it is going to send the price of oil into unprecedented territory.  Saudi Arabia is the number one exporter of oil in the world, and if their oil fields get shut down even for a little while it is going to have a dramatic effect on the global economy.  With the world already on the verge of a major sovereign debt crisis, the last thing it needs is for the price of oil to start soaring into the stratosphere.

Right now the investing world is not sure what to think about all of this, and financial markets do not like uncertainty.  One piece of really bad news could send markets all over the globe crashing down.

Speculation in oil futures is absolutely rampant.  A recent report on CNN noted the following….

The speculative fervor is so remarkable that the big trading firms now have nearly twice as many long contracts open as they did in 2008, when oil spiked to $147 in the summer, a development that either foreshadowed or caused the global economic meltdown, depending on how you look at it.

In particular, the number of investors that are betting that a revolution in Saudi Arabia is going to send the price of oil up to $200 a barrel has exploded in recent days.

$200 a barrel?

Are people actually betting that is going to happen?

The all-time record is only $147 a barrel.  Just a few months ago it was absolutely unthinkable to most economists that we could potentially see $200 oil in 2011.

But it would be a mistake to assume that a full-blown revolution is guaranteed to break out in Saudi Arabia.  Remember, this is a nation that has a very, very long history of denying even the most basic freedoms to the people.

For example, in Saudi Arabia the practice of any religion other than Islam is strictly forbidden.  By law, citizens of Saudi Arabia are not permitted to change religion.  Even foreign visitors are forbidden to openly practice any other religion.  It is a whole different world.  You cannot go to the store and buy a Bible in Saudi Arabia.  In fact, if you try to pass out Bibles in Saudi Arabia you will be thrown into prison.

Beheadings and other brutal public executions still happen in Saudi Arabia to this day.

So if you plan of being a revolutionary in Saudi Arabia you had better put your big boy pants on, because the Saudis play hardball.

Much of the rest of the globe is desperately hoping that a revolution does not happen in Saudi Arabia because the global economic situation is precarious at best.

In Europe, if the price of oil causes a significant economic slowdown right now it could have global implications.  Moody’s Investors Service just slashed Greece’s debt rating three levels all the way down to B1.  But Greece is far from alone.  Several European governments are finding it much more expensive to finance their debts these days.  We are right on the edge of a major European sovereign debt crisis and the chaos in the Middle East could potentially be just the thing to spark a panic.

The United States could feel a rise in the price of oil even more than Europe because the U.S. economy is so spread out and it is so dependent on products from overseas.

Did you know that in 1960 only 8 percent of the things Americans bought were made overseas but that today 60 percent of the things Americans buy are made overseas?

It’s true.

So what would happen if the cost of transporting all of those products suddenly doubled?  All of the products we buy must be transported somehow, and a rise in transportation costs will be passed on to U.S. consumers.

But the truth is that the pain is already here.  Already, millions of American families are starting to feel some very real financial pain from the chaos in the Middle East.

From February 18th to March 4th, the average price of gasoline in the United States rose 33 cents.  That was the biggest two week increase ever recorded.

Ouch.

The rise in the price of oil has some broader economic implications as well.

The more the price of oil goes up the bigger our trade deficit is going become.  As the trade deficit gets bigger, that means that more money is going out of the country and less money is going to support American businesses and American workers.  When American workers lose jobs, that means that they aren’t producing wealth anymore and they aren’t paying taxes anymore.  Instead, they become a drain on the system as they start receiving government handouts.

When millions of Americans go from being productive, taxpaying workers to unemployed welfare cases it causes our federal budget deficit to become even larger.

Most Americans do not understand how connected our trade deficit and our federal budget deficit really are.  One feeds right into the other.

Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve seems to think that the solution to any economic problem these days is to print more money.

According to Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, if the price of oil goes up high enough, it could force the Federal Reserve to do even more quantitative easing.

Really?

One of the reasons why the price of oil and other commodities has been going up over the last six months is because of all of this reckless money printing.

Now Lockhart is saying that because of the oil price increases they may have to do more money printing?

How bizarre is that?

Unfortunately, several other top Fed officials have dropped hints about a possible “QE3” lately.  It just seems like the insanity never stops.

Let us hope that the Fed does not go there because the U.S. dollar is falling apart fast enough already.

In any event, the rest of 2011 is certainly going to be very interesting to watch.

Even if a revolution does not happen in Saudi Arabia, the price of oil will most likely continue to slowly move higher just as it has been doing for months.

But if a full-blown revolution does happen in Saudi Arabia, it could literally change the global economy almost overnight.  The entire world financial system would be thrown into a state of chaos.

Oil is the lifeblood of the world economy.  Without a continuous supply of very inexpensive oil, life as we know it would dramatically change.  Most of us just assumed that we would always live in a world where we would always have an endless supply of very cheap oil.

Well, the times they are a changing.

You had better buckle up because it is going to be a bumpy ride.

5 Dollar Gas? Get Ready To Pay An Arm And A Leg For Gasoline

One of the quickest ways to bring down the U.S. economy would be to dramatically increase the price of oil. Oil is the lifeblood of our economic system. Without it, our entire economy would come to a grinding halt. Almost every type of economic activity in this country depends on oil, and even a small rise in the price of oil can have a dramatic impact on economic growth.  That is why so many economists are incredibly alarmed about what is happening in the Middle East right now.  The revolution in Libya caused the price of WTI crude to soar more than 7 dollars on Tuesday alone.  It closed at $93.57 on Tuesday and Brent crude actually hit $108.57 a barrel before settling back to $105.78 at the end of the day.  Some analysts are warning that we could even see 5 dollar gas in the United States by the end of the year if rioting spreads to other oil producing nations such as Saudi Arabia.  With the Middle East in such a state of chaos right now it is hard to know exactly what is going to happen, but almost everyone agrees that if oil prices continue to rise at a rapid pace over the next several months it is going to have a devastating impact on economic growth all over the globe.

Right now the eyes of the world are on Libya.  Libya is the 17th largest oil producer on the globe and it has the biggest proven oil reserves on the continent of Africa.

Libya only produces 2 percent of the oil in the world, but with global supplies so tight at the moment even a minor production disruption can have a dramatic impact on the price of oil.

Before this crisis, Libya was producing approximately 1.6 million barrels of oil per day.  Now the rest of the world is wondering what may happen if revolution spreads to other major oil producing nations such as Kuwait (2.5 million barrels of oil per day) or Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia produces 8.4 million barrels of oil a day.  It produces more oil than anyone else in OPEC.

If revolution strikes in Saudi Arabia and a major production disruption happens it could be catastrophic for the global economy.

David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates, is warning that if there is major civil unrest in Saudi Arabia we could end up seeing oil go up to $200 a barrel….

“If Libya can spark a $10-a-barrel response, imagine what a similar uprising in Saudi Arabia could unleash. Do the math: we’d be talking about $200 oil.”

200 dollar oil?

Don’t laugh – it could happen.

In fact, if it does happen the global economy would probably go into cardiac arrest.

The truth is that if the flow of oil from Saudi Arabia gets disrupted there is not enough spare capacity from the rest of the globe to make up for it.

Paul Horsnell, the head of oil research at Barclays Capital, recently said that the world does not currently have enough spare capacity to be able to guarantee that an oil “price shock” will not happen….

“The world has only 4.5m barrels-per-day (bpd) of spare capacity, which is not comfortable.”

Horsnell also said that even in the midst of potential supply problems, the global demand for oil continues to grow at a very robust pace….

“In just two years, the world has grown so fast as to consume additional volume equal to the output of Iraq and Kuwait combined.”

For now, Saudi officials are saying all the right things.  They say that there will be no revolution in Saudi Arabia and that there are not going to be any supply problems.

For example, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi recently announced that the rest of the world should not worry because his country is definitely going to be able to make up for any shortage in the global supply of oil….

“What I would like you to convey to the market: right now there is absolutely no shortage of supply.”

But what happens if revolution comes to Saudi Arabia?

Suddenly the whole game would change.

But even with a peaceful Saudi Arabia the price of gasoline in the United States is already rising to alarming levels.

The average price of gasoline in the United States reached $3.14 a gallon last week.  This closely mirrors what happened back in 2008.  Three years ago at this time the average price of gasoline was right around $3.13 a gallon.

Let’s certainly hope that we don’t see a repeat of what happened to oil prices back in mid-2008.  The price of oil reached an all-time record of $147 a barrel and gas prices in the United States absolutely skyrocketed.

So how high will the price of gas in the U.S. go in 2011?

We haven’t even come close to 4 dollar gas yet, but a large number of analysts believe that it is coming this summer.

Is there even a possibility that we could see 5 dollar gas in America at some point in the next couple of years?

Well, there are some in the oil industry that are convinced that it could actually happen.  Just consider the following quotes….

Darin Newsom, senior analyst at energy tracker DTN….

“If this thing escalates and there’s a good chance that there’d be a shift in supplies, $5 gas isn’t out of the question.”

Peter Beutel, president of energy adviser Cameron Hanover….

“If you are looking at the disruption of movement and production in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, you’re easily talking $5 gas.”

John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil, on his belief that we could see 5 dollar gas by 2012….

“I’m predicting actually the worst outcome over the next two years which takes us to 2012 with higher gasoline prices.”

So why is everyone so concerned about gas prices?

Well, because it affects the price of almost everything else in the economy.

David Wyss, the chief economist at Standard & Poor’s, says that every extra dollar that is spent on gasoline is a dollar that will not be spent somewhere else….

“The money that you spend filling up your car is money you don’t have to spend at the shopping mall.”

Not only that, but when gasoline costs more it has a negative effect on economic growth.  Almost all economic activities involve the use of oil in one form or another.  When the price of oil starts getting really high it motivates people to start cutting back on many of those activities.

The truth is that our whole economic system is based on the ability to use massive amounts of very cheap oil.  Now that the price of oil is rapidly rising again, many economists are becoming very alarmed.

Nobuo Tanaka, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, recently told CNBC that his organization is extremely concerned about what high oil prices could do to the global economy….

“That is our concern, regardless of the margins of disruption, if the $100 per barrel of oil is continued in 2011, the burden of oil to the global economy is as bad as 2008.”

So what was so bad about 2008?  Well, the price of oil soared to $147 a barrel in mid-2008 and this was a huge factor in the financial collapse that happened a few months later.  Now oil prices are returning to levels that we have not seen since 2008….

So if the price of oil breaks the all-time record this year will we see another global financial crisis?

It is hard to say.  But what almost everyone agrees on is that it will not be good for the global economy at all.

In addition, a higher price for oil will also have a huge impact on the trade deficit.  Because oil prices were at such a high level back in 2008, oil imports actually made up almost 50 percent of the U.S. trade deficit that year.

In 2010, the U.S. trade deficit was just a whisker under $500 billion.  If the price of oil gets up to 140 or 150 dollars a barrel we could easily see the U.S. trade deficit explode to 700 or 800 billion dollars in 2011.

That would be really, really bad for the U.S. economy.

So where are oil prices going next?

Well, if you could predict that with 100 percent certainty you could make a whole lot of money.  Nobody knows for sure.

But almost everyone believes that the price of oil is going to go up.  In fact, a lot number of investors have been making some very large bets that the price of oil is going to go up very significantly this year.

Recently, large numbers of investors have been betting that the price of oil will rise to $125 a barrel by May.  Shockingly, some investors have even been betting that the price of oil will rise to $250 a barrel by next December.

Let us hope that the price of oil does not rise that rapidly, but as the past couple of months have demonstrated, the world is becoming a very unstable place.   Just about anything is possible at this point.

If the price of oil rises significantly above $100 a barrel and it stays there for an extended period of time, it is going to be absolutely devastating for the U.S. economy.

So what do you all think is going to happen to the price of oil in 2011?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below….

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