Crude oil selloff in the works

“Should all your short sells be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should all the short sells be forgot or get ready to unwind!”

A bullish end to a bullish year for most commodities. But let's face it, the poor oil bulls must feel a little left out. Crude was up only a measly 15% this year and that was only put on the last month. That was a far cry from other commodities. Like silver coming close to its 1980 high up a whopping 80% on the year or gold up almost 20% or corn up 60% in three months. While oil got a boost from QE2, the rest of the commodity complex seems more bullish. Is it possible that if crude does not end the year strong that perhaps we are getting ready for a big sell off after the first of the new year?

I say yes, a sell off could be in our near future. Oil inventories should rise sharply and that should put some downward pressure on price. The Chinese, known for holiday surprises, may raise rates again. Copper and industrial metals moved higher after growth in Chinese manufacturing slowed this month for the first time since July. The dip was not enough to shake anyone out of their bullish positions. The Chinese must be concerned that the commodity markets did not sell off more sharply after their last rate increase and may fear that with food prices soaring, they may have to act again to ward off soaring inflation. This rate increase coupled with an expected rise in oil inventories should give us a $10 pullback.

The American Petroleum Institute reported that crude supply surprisingly increased by 3.14 million barrels, a bearish development that could accelerate if the Department of Energy shows comparable data. What could go wrong, though, is the weather if forecasts turn colder for late January and February. Apparently there is quite a debate as the El Niño weakens and a blocking pattern comes into play. Some forecasters are shifting their forecasts to substantially colder, a fact that has not gone unnoticed in the natural gas market.

Gas got a boost earlier this week as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed that natural gas production in October in the lower 48 U.S. states fell 0.2 percent from downwardly revised September output. Reuter's News reported that lower 48 "wet" gas output in October totaled 65.72 billion cubic feet per day, down 0.15 Bcf per day from September's revised production of 65.87 Bcf daily, EIA said in the monthly Natural Gas Gross Production Report.

Yesterday U.S. spot natural gas prices at Henry Hub, the benchmark delivery point in Louisiana, climbed nearly 11 percent in 2010 to average $4.41 per million British thermal units, according to Reuter's data. They say that chilly first-quarter weather, a slowly recovering economy and a record hot summer all helped underpin physical prices this year, despite record high inventories and production that kept the market well supplied. The Hub average was the second lowest in eight years and about half the record high annual average of $8.93 set just two years ago in 2008. Now add in some cold weather and it seems that natural gas might finally be ready to run a bit!

Phil Flynn is senior energy analyst for PFGBest Research and a Fox Business Network contributor. He can be reached at (800) 935-6487 or at pflynn@pfgbest.com.

$5.00 A Gallon Fantasy!
Well, it seemed it was going to be one of those days! Radio stations and TV stations were ringing my phone off the hook wanting to know if it was true! Could it be possible that we could be seeing $5 a gallon for gas by 2012? What set this firestorm of media outlets off all basically asking the same question was a prediction by former Shell Executive John Hofmeister who is predicting that not only will we see $5.00 a gallon gas, but at the same time they are predicting sort of an oil price Armageddon, or at the very least a return to shortages and gas lines like we had back in the 1970's.

While gas prices could rise to this historic level, the truth is that it probably won't. Of course, just by making that prediction Mr. Hofmeister more than likely got the attention he was looking for. You see Mr. Hofmeister is now a spokesman a political action group called, "Citizens for Affordable Energy." A group that according to their website exists, "To educate citizens and government officials about pragmatic, non-partisan affordable energy solutions, environmental protection, energy alternatives, efficiency, infrastructure, public policy, competitiveness, social cohesion, and quality of life." And if you are interested they do accept donations.

Of course, while their goal is a noble one and I agree with many of their big picture ideas (thank goodness we have another political action voice other then the wildly imaginative and often misleading anti-energy group Public Citizen program). I respect Mr. Hofmeister and agree with him on many issues, but in this case I have to believe that this doomsday prediction was an attempt to get attention for the serious energy problems facing this country as opposed to an accurate prediction of where the price of gas is going. There is nothing that will get your attention more than a prediction of outrageously high gas prices, which today happens to be $5.00 a gallon!

Let's look into Mr. Hofmeister prediction and try to see how much is real and how much is hype. One argument that Mr. Hofmeister makes is that the U.S. government is turning its back on domestic oil production. Yes, that is true, but at the same time oil is a global market place. In fact just today the Wall Street Journal reported that Western oil Companies, "For the first time in several years, large Western oil companies are leading the industry's charge, increasing their budgets faster than the state-run national oil companies that have dominated spending in recent year. From giants Saudi Aramco and Exxon Mobil Corp. to five-person wildcat outfits, the industry plans to spend nearly a half-trillion dollars next year to find and extract oil and natural gas, according to a new survey by investment bank Barclays Capital".

While this does mean that the industry is expecting decent prices, the increase in production should help ward off major areas of tightness in supply. Even for gas prices to reach $3.00 a gallon in December, it happened after an unlikely chain of events that is unlikely to be repeated in the future. First of all you had a crude price that got a major lift because of the Fed policy of QE2. There is not anyone that would tell you that oil prices would be above $90.00 a barrel without the Fed stepping in.

The Department of Energy says that rising crude oil prices have been the main driver behind increasing U.S. and global gasoline prices. Crude oil prices have been supported by strengthening global demand for products. Demand growth in 2010 has been broad-based, with strong non-OECD oil demand throughout the year, augmented by a pick-up in OECD consumption, particularly in the United States, as the year progressed. Based on monthly data through September, U.S. gasoline demand increased (year-over-year) for six consecutive months, the longest such stretch since 2007. Weekly data for October, November, and December indicate that trend is continuing.

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