Tag Archives: Politics

Why High Oil Prices May Not Matter for Stocks

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You don’t need me to tell you that oil and gas prices are through the roof these days.

Gas stations are changing numbers faster than slot machines. And the explosion in prices is sowing fear in the stock market.

But I think this huge spike in oil prices won’t matter much for stocks in the long term.

Looking at some historical data today, I noticed that big advances in oil prices are actually associated with above average returns for stocks.

Let’s look back at some major oil price spikes and see what happened to stocks.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Our first stop takes us back to the late nineties. That was the last time I saw gas under a dollar!

Indeed, oil was a mere $12.36 a barrel in February of 1999. Just one year later, it had shot up to $28.28, a 128% increase.

Surely a stock market crash was next, right?

Wrong. Stocks increased 11% that year, an above average return.

Our next stop takes us to the depths of the financial crisis. At the beginning of 2009, oil traded for $46.17.

By April of 2011, the price had jumped to $107.55, an advance of 133%.

Market meltdown? Hardly.

Stocks surged 48% as the economy rose again from the ashes.

Why would stocks go up even as oil, a major cost center, rises?

Both are responding to an improving economy. Stronger economic growth means better prospects for companies, raising stock prices.

A stronger economy also means more demand for oil as families go on vacations again and buy bigger and shinier SUV’s. That increases oil prices.

Indeed, you’ll notice that during periods of increasing oil prices, economic growth also increased rapidly:

What About Today?

In April 2020, oil prices stood at just $20.28 a barrel, the lowest in over 20 years. Today, West Texas Intermediate oil has increased to $119.26 a barrel, a staggering 488%.

Sure enough, a similarly massive upshift in economic growth happened during that time. US GDP went from falling 31% year over year to growing 34% year over year, as lockdowns were implemented and then lifted.

Since lockdowns began to ease in later 2020, economic growth has remained strong, routinely clocking around 7%.

That roller coaster for growth resulted in a roller coaster for oil prices as well. We shouldn’t be unduly alarmed that oil is recovering along with the economy as a whole.

While geopolitical events have contributed to higher prices this year, you’ll note that most of the increase in oil prices happened well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

High prices or no, I’ll be holding my stocks.

More on markets:

How Did High Dividend Stocks Perform In the Last Crash?

FBI Raids Short Sellers

Is Russia’s Google Finished?

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Photo: “Gas Prices. WTF?” by kristiewells is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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The UK Has Killed COVID, and the US Is Close Behind

The UK has vaccinated faster than almost anywhere on earth:

And it’s working! Cases have fallen off a cliff, dropping by almost 90% in just two months:

The US is actually not far behind the UK in vaccinations per person anymore, although we were significantly behind until recently. And we are actually putting out more doses per capita than the UK at the moment. So, this gives us an idea of what we have to look forward to. If anything, our results should be even better because a more contagious variant is more widespread in the UK than here.

Indeed, we’ve seen cases fall by 2/3rds over the same period:

To me, this seems like an incredibly powerful endorsement of Brexit and the Johnson government, neither of which I ever thought I’d favor! But the rollout in the EU has been pathetic. Meanwhile, as an American, I’ve been looking upon the UK with envy.

Bottom line: the vaccines really are working, and we have an amazing summer to look forward to!

For more on COVID and vaccines, check out these posts:

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“Boris Johnson” by EU2017EE is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Europe Is Falling Behind the US, and It’s Going to Get Worse

A huge untold story of the world today is how far Europe has fallen behind the US economically in recent decades:

Here are the 2019 numbers (in 2019 dollars, again World Bank) US: $65,297. UK $42,330. That’s 35% less than the US. Or, the US is 54% better off than the UK.. France: $40,494. Italy: $33,228 That’s 50% less than US. Or the US is 96% better off than Italy. China: $20,261.

And it’s been getting steadily worse. France got almost to the US level in 1980. And then slowly slipped behind. The UK seems to be doing ok, but in fact has lost 5 percentage points since the early 2000s peak. And Italy… Once noticeably better off than the UK, and contending with France, Italy’s GDP per capita is now lower than it was in 2000.

More here.

So why is this happening? Regulation and lack of investment in IT in the services sector are chief suspects.

I definitely noticed this difference when I went to Paris for the first time in the fall of 2019. I was expecting a gleaming city, but I was surprised at the poverty I saw. There were panhandlers at the airport, which I’ve never seen in the US, and a lot of crumbling buildings and down-and-out people. It was rather sad. However, I enjoyed my time there a great deal, and would recommend their delicious food and superb art highly.

With the vaccine rollout in Europe going far more slowly than in the US, I think they will fall much further behind, and quickly. Other parts of the world will be wide open while they’re still locked down.

On the bright side, this could provide a great opportunity for the UK to catch up, since it has outpaced the US, China and almost every other country worldwide on vaccines. Their speed and innovative policies, like delaying second doses of vaccines, have impressed me a great deal.

For more on the economy and financial markets, check out these posts:

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Photo: Image by Nocturnales is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0