Gold prices have been used as a store of wealth for centuries. Gold prices can be quite erratic and have a history of massive swings. One issue with gold prices is that supply can and does come back into the market. Unlike other commodities that are used up, such as oil, when gold prices move up, people can sell their holdings, which can be melted down and added to the world supply again. High gold prices are usually a sign of a lack of faith in paper money, usually due to inflation, which erodes the value of fiat (paper) money.
Nothing helps create volatility on the stock market like the threat of war. And just a few short days after the close of the bloated $52.0-billion behemoth in Sochi, Russia has embraced its ne’er-do-well Olympic spirit and invaded the Ukraine. Or, according to Putin, “pro-Russian soldiers” have simply moved into the Ukraine to defend Russian interests.
With a growing threat of war/retaliation on the horizon, investors have been pulling their money from riskier assets, like stocks—sending global financial markets reeling. Crude oil and gold prices, on the other hand, have been on the rebound.
While it seems utterly crass to deconstruct the potential for war down to economics, the fact remains—a stand-off or sanctions could both disrupt gas supplies to the European Union and send U.S. crude oil prices higher.
For starters, any issues in the Ukraine could disrupt the flow of natural gas supplies from Russia to the European Union. That’s because the European Union gets about a third of its crude oil and natural gas supply (and a quarter of its coal) from Russia, mostly piped through the Ukraine. Russia, the world’s biggest crude oil producer, generated 10.9 million barrels a day in 2013 and currently exports close to 5.5 million barrels of crude oil per day.
Since the end of the Cold War, no one really worried about relying on Russia for crude oil and coal. All of that has changed. While the notion of war is remote, it’s still on the table. Nations far removed from Russia and Ukraine might push for economic sanctions, just as the U.S. has done, threatening visa bans, asset freezes, and … Read More
Just like any other commodity, natural gas prices are affected by supply and demand metrics. If demand increases and supply remains the same (or declines), you have a perfect recipe for higher prices. Since the beginning of the year, this commodity’s prices are up more than 40%!
Before you start judging where the prices will go next, you have to see what kind of factors can affect the demand or supply. Consider gold prices, for example. If the demand for gold increases and, at the same time, there’s a discovery of a major mine—the prices may not move as much as anticipated if the mine wasn’t discovered. The reason behind this is simple: there’s supply to meet the demand.
A few factors that affect the natural gas demand and supply are playing out in favor of those who are bullish on it. For example, the commodity is highly affected by weather.
In extremely cold weather, natural gas is used to heat up homes—cold weather disrupts the short-term supply due to increased demand and causes prices to soar. In extremely hot weather, we see a similar situation occur in the commodity’s prices. Power plants use more natural gas to make electricity to meet the increased use of air conditioning units in homes and buildings. This phenomenon, again, causes a disruption in the short-term supply because power plants consume more. This results in higher prices as well.
What’s happening in natural gas prices these days is the very same problem; the short-term supply is being tormented by extreme weather—in this case, extremely cold weather. We have seen some extreme winter storms and … Read More
We see there’s a significant amount of economic news mounting against the argument that key stock indices will go higher this year. We see major companies on the key stock indices reporting corporate earnings that are dismal to say the very least. We see indicators of prosperity suggesting the opposite is likely going to be true for the U.S. economy. Lastly, we also see troubles developing very quickly in the global economy.
First on the line are the corporate earnings of companies on the key stock indices—which is hands down one of the main factors that drive these indices higher. We see companies showing signs of stress. Consider General Motors Company (NYSE/GM), for example; the company’s corporate earnings declined 22% in 2013 from the previous year. (Source: “GM reports lower-than-expected 4Q earnings,” Yahoo! Finance, February 6, 2014.)
Some might call this a story of the past; we need to look at what the future looks like instead. Sadly, going forward, companies on the key stock indices and analysts look worried as well. Consider this: so far, 57 S&P 500 companies have issued negative corporate earnings guidance, while only 14 have issued positive guidance. At the same time, analysts’ expectations are coming down as well. On December 31, the consensus estimate expected S&P 500 earnings to grow by 4.3%; now, these expectations have come down to 1.5%. (Source: “S&P 500 Earnings Insight,” FactSet, February 7, 2014.)
Looking at the broader U.S. economy, it’s not moving in favor of the key stock indices, either—the economic data isn’t looking very promising.
Industrial production in the U.S. economy declined in January from the previous … Read More