You’ve heard and seen the banner headlines, “Six months on, coronavirus victories remain fragile”, “immunity to COVID-19 is fragile and short-lived”, “Global economic growth outlook: Fragile, handle with care”, there’s even a web site called the “Fragile States Index”, check that out @ https://fragilestatesindex.org, they reckon Chile is the “most-worsened” country in this year’s index. By the way that is probably the first time I’ve used that particular hyphened word in my 59 years!
One thing is for sure, you can never take things for granted these days, and you can see it in the growing number of “U-turns” being performed by governments, organisations and certainly the Mums and Dads of the world. Every time it looks as if normality is returning, albeit in its newest form, something appears to disturb the equilibrium. At the centre of this, without doubt, is the coronavirus pandemic itself, and until we know more certainty, find a vaccine or just live to cope with it, the need to change course will continue.
As we reach the end of yet another month in this exceptional, and yet very worrying year, I feel that we are also approaching an important watershed. There appears to be this growing dilemma, a divergence of opinion, between those looking back, and those trying to look forward. This is not just being found in the scientific and political ramblings associated with the coronavirus pandemic, but even more so in the economic opinion being voiced globally.
I’ve always been fascinated by the power, control - call it what you like – that a relatively few number of companies have been able to apply in the crude oil and LPG world, especially when it comes to pricing. The most prominent of course is a grouping of countries who gather under the banner of OPEC, there were thirteen at last count back in April, but the leader of the pack has clearly been Saudi Arabia. The oil shock of 1973 swung the pricing control pendulum away from the U.S. and into the hands of OPEC, who look to control prices through its “pricing-over-volume” strategy.
My mind has been playing a few games with me this week, maybe it’s been the tropical weather we’ve been enjoying, or perhaps it’s just my age. My head’s been telling me there’s a major swing in influence taking place in the world right now, and LPG might just be linked to it. You see, I’ve got this theory that the most important words spoken in recent history by President Trump was on Wednesday 8th January 2020, when he said, “We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil”. Yes, the U.S. is now the world’s leading oil producer, ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia, with U.S.
Severity, we’re all fearing it, and soon we will all probably be feeling it. The severity of this awful coronavirus has already hit many countries, and may be returning again as we approach the darkness of winter, but it’s the brutality of a severe economic downturn that worries me most. Only this week here in the U.K., we wheeled-out our top financial man Andrew Baily, Governor of the Bank of England, to prophecise about the fact that GDP, although it went down the plughole by 21.5%, it could have been worse, but to also warn us that it’s not going to get better any time soon.
As the week came to an end, there was an increasing feeling that we’re actually in a dangerous place. Have we tried to kick-start the major economies too soon, especially in Europe and parts of the U.S.? Europe was starting to feel as if it had coronavirus under control, but cases are back on the up, while the rest of the world is still battling phase one, albeit in a slight time lapse. Our Boris has put a halt on lockdown easing as grim virus figures emerged in the U.K. this week.
It’s funny looking at the relationship between the antics of the crude oil market and the movement in LPG. One always seems to be following the other, but the timing appears to be out of kilter, but why? I know LPG players didn’t fall into the trap of the massive drop in WTI, heading negative in a technical “who’s left holding the baby” scenario, nor the resultant cataclysmic production forecasts, especially in the U.S., that were being rushed out as a result. In addition the U.S.
Do you remember the repetitive song by The Police, unimaginatively called “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da”, with that elegiac verse “Poets, Priests and Politicians”? Well, I’m probably not thinking of the priesthood at this particular time, but I have a few words to say about “Pundits and Politicians”! However you might be viewing the current LPG market, you’ll have to have an eye on what stage we are presently at in the chronology of coronavirus, and what’s being said.
I woke up this morning, looked quickly out of the window, and was thankfully reminded that we’re still in the middle of summer, albeit recovering from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, having only just survived the trauma of home schooling, and looking forward to the “new normal”, tinged with the fears of an extreme economic slowdown. It made me think that there was probably a little more to life in the unique world of LPG than the U.S./ Asia ARB, EIA numbers, the FEI, Baltic and of course the Saudi Aramco CP.