03 March 2009

A bull market at last! Storing crude.

Finally there is a bull market to invest in: storing crude oil. Traders, and producers, are awash in such a surplus of oil that the costs of storing the stuff is going through the roof.

as storage units on land have filled up, the companies that own the tankers have profited. Tanker companies charge an average of $75,000 a day, three times as much as last summer, to hold crude, said Douglas Mavrinac, an analyst with Jefferies & Co.

As I wrote a while back, speculators are betting that crude prices will be higher in a year or so. But with volumes of stored crude rising dramatically, I wonder how well that game will work out.

Meanwhile, oil-producing countries such as Iran have pumped millions of barrels of their own crude into idle tankers, effectively taking crude off the market to halt declining prices that are devastating their economies.

Traders have always played a game of store and sell, bringing oil to market when it can fetch the best price. They say this time is different because of how fast the bottom fell out of the oil market.

“Nobody expected this,” said Antoine Halff, an analyst with Newedge. “The majority of people out there thought the market would keep rising to $200, even $250, a barrel. They were tripping over each other to pick a higher forecast.”
Now the strategy is storage. Anyone who can buy cheap oil and store it might be able to sell it at a premium later, when the global economy ramps up again.

So much for peak oil. Demand for energy is much more elastic than almost anyone realized.

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