The Trek to Oil Independence
In the age of information, it is nearly impossible to avoid learning about current events that could affect your financial investments. The most difficult decision to make is whether or not to make quick investment decisions in response to the news you are hearing.
Change in oil pricing is a good example. Recent concerns of conflict in Iraq have sparked flashbacks to a long history of oil price spikes. The 1960’s television show, the Beverly Hillbillies tells a success story of one man’s gamble in the oil market,but the reality of oil’s effect on U.S. commerce is quite a different tale.
The Challenges of Oil Dependence
During the show’s run (1962-71) on TV, the U.S. imported an average of 1.3 million barrels of oil per day. That consumption steadily increased until peaking in 2005 at a staggering rate of 10.1 million barrels per day. The initial problem began with increased U.S. dependence on oil imports from OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries). A relationship that appeared economic in nature became political when the U.S. provided aid to Israel in the1973 conflict with Egypt & Syria. In response, OPEC proclaimed an embargo that, overnight, caused the price of a barrel of oil to rise from $3 to almost $12.
In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, causing the price of oil go from $21 to $41, and the U.S. was drawn in militarily to defend a strategic region and ally.
Not again until October of 2004 did barrel prices hit $50 per barrel. From there the price accelerated to an all-time high of $145 by July 2008 (primarily due to investor speculation). With the onset of the Great Recession, the price dropped to $35 by February 2009. Currently, it has settled in just above $100.
Moving Toward Independence
Despite this tumultuous history, there is hope! Since the peak of 10.1 million in 2005, the U.S. has reduced oil imports to 7.7 million barrels per day in 2013, representing a 23% reduction. Reduction is largely attributable to an increased domestic production through new recovery technologies like fracking. Edward L. Morse, managing director and global head of commodities for Citigroup, offers positive speculations predicting that the U.S. gas and oil boom will combine with improved efficiency to make the U.S. a net-zero importer of energy by 2020.
As a new source for economic growth,the biggest benefit for the U.S. is that the dollars stay in the U.S. rather than flowing to other countries. Our significant reserves of low cost natural gas will attract foreign companies looking to remain competitive because the energy component can be a large part of their cost.Both of these factors make U.S. stocks more attractive.
What Does This Mean to Investors?
We advise investors to take a long-term perspective. The drawing above captures the complexity of our information-driven society, showing how the“noise”can easily muffle the important facts. So while investors should listen, take information “with a grain of salt”. It is more important to stay disciplined and focused on your long-term goals. It is impossible to predict the market’s behavior, but it is vitally important that you know your personal financial plan and to make decisions that support it, moving you toward that goal.
S&P 500 7.14% | Russell 2000 3.19% |MCSI EAFE 4.78% | MSCI ACWI (global stocks) 6.18%| Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond 3.93%