A case can be made that the current financial panic will only subside when the ultimate black swan – Covid-19 – is contained.
Is the planet under the spell of a pair of black swans – a Wall Street meltdown, caused by an alleged oil war between Russia and the House of Saud, plus the uncontrolled spread of Covid-19 – leading to an all-out “cross-asset pandemonium” as billed by Nomura?
Or, as German analyst Peter Spengler suggests, whatever the averted climax in the Strait of Hormuz has not brought about so far “might now come through market forces”?
Let’s start with what really happened after five hours of relatively polite discussions last Friday in Vienna. What turned into a de facto OPEC+ meltdown was quite the game-changing plot twist.
OPEC+ includes Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Essentially, after enduring years of OPEC price-fixing – the result of relentless US pressure over Saudi Arabia – while patiently rebuilding its foreign exchange reserves, Moscow saw the perfect window of opportunity to strike, targeting the US shale industry.
Shares of some of these US producers plunged as much as 50% on “Black Monday.” They simply cannot survive with a barrel of oil in the $30s – and that’s where this is going. After all these companies are drowning in debt.
A $30 barrel of oil has to be seen as a precious gift/stimulus package for a global economy in turmoil – especially from the point of view of oil importers and consumers. This is what Russia made possible.
And the stimulus may last for a while. Russia’s National Wealth Fund has made it clear it has enough reserves (over $150 billion) to cover a budget deficit from six to ten years – even with oil at $25 a barrel. Goldman Sachs has already gamed a possible Brent crude at $20 a barrel.
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