Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Goldman Sachs Again Tries to Prop Up Oil Prices

Goldman Sachs massive NYC headquarters.

Today Goldman Sachs announced that oil prices would rise to $149.00 a barrel before the end of the year. The price is hovering around $112.00. Why is Goldman trying to push oil prices higher? Does it have anything to do with the fact Goldman is an equity owner in the oil futures market, is the stock broker for the ICE futures market, manages institutional funds with substantial oil investments, participates in energy swaps to help manipulate the oil prices, and has consistently used its position and analysts to influence the oil market?

Ever since the purchase of the London Oil Futures Market by ICE, the public offering of ICE stock managed by Goldman and the huge increase in institutional investor involvement in the oil futures market Goldman has been projecting major increases in oil prices. Goldman research activity seems to be driven more on profit potential than objective oil market analysis.

The following excerpts from several stories on Goldman over the past 9 months shows the incredible leadership position Goldman took in pushing the rapid rise in the crude oil price. Now that the price has dropped about $35 Goldman today made another push to drive prices back up. Do you think there is any connection between the fact a number of financial analysts downgraded Goldman this week to a sell status rather than a buy status, thus undercutting its financial value?

One might think the actions by Goldman are so reckless, such blatant conflicts of interest, and clearly concerted efforts to manipulate the market without disclosing the company ownership position in the market that it seems Goldman's might be in serious financial trouble. Do not be surprised if sub prime mortgage losses combined with reckless credit risks and mismanagement of the oil investments doesn't result in the collapse of Goldman Sachs in the imminent future. If oil prices continue to go down the Goldman organization may very well go down with it.

Goldman's famous philosophy of being "long term greedy" may have finally caught up with them. Goldman's was formed in 1869, the same year that Black Friday took place when speculators tried to corner the US gold market and destroy the US economy. It was also the year Rasputin, the Russian mystic, Nadezhda Krupskaya, wife of Soviet founder Lenin, and Mahatma Gandi were born. A very strange year indeed.

Coltons Point Times
June 2, 2008

The CFTC, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, was set up in 1974 to protect Americans from manipulations in the commodity markets. It was last updated in 2000 even though in 2006 a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said there was substantial evidence of price manipulation in the commodity oil futures markets and a gaping loophole in U.S. Regulations that would lead to further speculation and manipulation.
That was the same year the Administration allowed ICE, the new oil futures market owner in London to trade American oil futures in London. Oil prices were $59-60 per barrel then and since the gaping loophole in our regulation prices have more than doubled, meaning the price impact of speculation could be $60 per barrel today.
So Goldman Sachs represents ICE in securities offerings and was an original equity owner of ICE. The current Treasury Secretary was former head of Goldman Sachs. The current head of NYMEX, the New York Mercantile (Futures) Exchange whose contracts can be bought through ICE in London, is James Newsome who also sits on the Dubai Exchange, the third and last oil futures exchange in the world. Interestingly Newsome is a former chairman of the CTFC.
The current CTFC Global Markets Advisory Committee includes Newsome and Jeffrey Sprecher, Chairman and CEO of ICE, along with representatives of J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup, UBS and Barclays among others. The CTFC Energy Market Advisory Committee includes Newsome and Sprecher from the futures exchanges along with Goldman Sachs, Shell Oil, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, J.P. Morgan, and others.
So the two key advisory committees to the CTFC contain many of the very firms that are under investigation by the CTFC and the largest investment houses, banks and oil companies of the world are the target. The five CTFC lawyers could spend decades searching for truth.
Why did Congress and the Administration refuse to act to close the huge CTFC regulatory loophole two years ago when it was identified? Why were no changes made in CTFC regulations to enable it to effectively stop oil price manipulations since Bush took office? Why does the Treasury Secretary ignore what may be massive oil price manipulations by the financial sector speculators? How can the CTFC investigate the largest and richest corporations in the world with five lawyers?
If Congress or the Administration have any sense they will assign all the investigative resources of the federal government to the CTFC investigation including the FBI, SEC, FTC and any intelligence service monitoring the world oil situation. If ever there was a need for a national security investigation this is it as our economy and the world economy are at risk. This could be the last chance for Bush to actually do something for the good of the people before his Administration becomes a target of the investigation.
And don’t forget these same financial and oil companies have already given $1.6 billion to the campaigns of our U.S. Senate, House and presidential candidates in this election year and another $1.6 billion will be given before November. Let’s hope $3 billion cannot buy the influence of Congress. They have also paid over $20 billion in fines for fraud and stock manipulations in recent years so such behavior may not be anything new.

Reuters News Wire
December 12, 2007

According to Reuters the most active investment bank in the energy markets, Goldman Sachs, released a new forecast today that said U.S. oil prices will head higher in the coming year. The bank also expects the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Companies (OPEC) to restrict crude oil production levels, even though global demand may rise. Goldman is forecasting U.S. crude oil to cost an average of $95 a barrel in 2008, up $10 from a previous projection. Analysts at the bank suggested that the price could even reach $105 by this time next year. The new price forecast for 2008 is 7% higher than the most bullish projection among 37 analysts recently polled by Reuters.

Bloomberg News
Published: May 16, 2008

New York: Crude oil futures rose above $127 a barrel Friday for the first time, leading other commodities higher, after Goldman Sachs raised its forecast on speculation that Chinese diesel purchases would strain supplies.

Goldman raised its price outlook for the second half of this year to $141 a barrel, from $107, citing supply constraints. China may increase fuel imports to generate power after a May 12 earthquake. Oil and other commodities, like gold and platinum, also surged on the falling dollar.

"We can blame Goldman again," said Nauman Barakat, senior vice president of global energy futures at Macquarie Futures USA in New York. "In March 2005 they predicted that prices would rise dramatically, and they did. Prices jumped to the $125 level after another Goldman report less than two weeks ago. At this point nobody wants to bet against Goldman."

Crude oil for June delivery rose $3.13, or 2.5 percent, to $127.25 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract surged to $127.82, the highest since trading began in 1983. Prices have doubled in the past year.

New York Times
By Louis Story
Published: May 21, 2008

Arjun N. Murti remembers the pain of the oil shocks of the 1970s. But he is bracing for something far worse now: He foresees a “super spike” — a price surge that will soon drive crude oil to $200 a barrel.

Arjun Murti at Goldman Sachs studied the 1970s’ oil spikes. One had drivers lined up at a gas station in San Jose, Calif., in 1974.

Mr. Murti, who has a bit of a green streak, is not bothered much by the prospect of even higher oil prices, figuring it might finally prompt America to become more energy efficient.

An analyst at Goldman Sachs, Mr. Murti has become the talk of the oil market by issuing one sensational forecast after another. A few years ago, rivals scoffed when he predicted oil would breach $100 a barrel. Few are laughing now. Oil shattered yet another record on Tuesday, touching $129.60 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gas at $4 a gallon is arriving just in time for those long summer drives.

Reuters News Service
June 9, 2008

Kuala Lumpur: Oil prices are likely to hit $150 a barrel this summer season, the global head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs said on 9 June, as tighter supplies outweigh weakening demand.

“I would suggest that the likelihood of that happening sooner has increased tremendously ... sometime in summer,” Jeffrey Currie told an oil and gas conference in the Malaysian capital, referring to oil at $150 a barrel.

Goldman Sachs, the most active investment bank in energy markets and one of the first to point to triple-digit oil more than two years ago — a once unthinkable level — said last month oil could shoot up to $200 within the next two years as part of a “super spike.”

Forecasts that oil could head towards $150 and above have multiplied over the past month as prices broke through several records, the latest being last Friday, when oil soared more than $11 a barrel on Friday, its biggest one-day gain ever.

Oil hit an all-time high of $139.12 on 6 June on the back of a weak US dollar and mounting tensions between Israel and Iran.

Goldman Sachs forecast almost a month ago that US crude would average $141 a barrel in the second half of 2008, up from a previous projection of $107, due to tight supplies.

Al Jazeera
UPDATED ON:Saturday, July 12, 2008
With oil prices having more than doubled over the last 12 months, various reasons are being cited for the price increases.

Adhip Chaudhuri, a visiting professor of economics at Georgetown University's campus in Doha, Qatar, explains the cause and effect of high oil prices.

Is the increase in oil prices plunging the global economy into stagflation?

The United States is, for all practical purposes, in a recession. The European Union's growth rates are being revised downwards below 2 per cent. The shine is coming off even China, India and Korea.
The recessions and the low growth rates represent stagnation and hence connote the 'stag' part of "stagflation", and high oil prices have a lot do with it.

Oil prices, together with simultaneous, huge increases in food prices, have increased worldwide inflation rates. Both China and India now have high inflation rates with China at almost 8 per cent and India at 11 per cent. The rising inflation is the "flation" part of "stagflation".

The worse thing about stagflation is that the central banks find themselves in a dilemma. If they lowered interest rates to spur growth, they would raise inflationary expectations. On the other hand, if they fought inflation by raising interest rates, the reduction in money supply will have contractionary effects on the GDPs of their countries.

For policymakers stagflation is a "lose - lose" situation.

Is the growth in world demand for oil the main reason?

Demand is one part of what the money market calls "fundamentals". The other is, of course, supply. In the opinion of the Bush administration, and the majority of the Wall Street establishment in the US, demand is the principal reason why oil prices are going up astronomically. However, this point of view does not correspond to facts.

Consider first the oft-mentioned demand from "China and India" which is frequently put forward as the principal reason why oil prices are going up.

According to official statistics published by the United States government, China consumed an additional 377,000 barrels of oil per day during 2007.

However, during the same time period Germany and Japan together decreased their consumption by 380,000, and hence, the net effect of China’s increased consumption is zero.

Even if China doubled its consumption in the first half of 2008, say to stockpile for the Olympics, the increment would be a drop in the bucket of total world consumption of 86 million barrels per day.
The same is true of India. It increased consumption by only 150,000 barrels per day during 2007, which is virtually indiscernible in the total world demand.

Notice also that the sum of additional consumption from "China and India" barely exceeds 500,000 barrels, an amount that Saudi Arabia has promised to increase production by.

Finally, the US has projected that the net increase in oil consumption during 2008 will increase by one million barrels per day, which is about 1.1 per cent. How can such a small increase in demand increase oil prices by 100 per cent between July 2007 and July 2008?

What is happening with the supply of oil?

The supply of crude oil has been remarkably stagnant over the last three years. According to official US statistics, the production of crude worldwide was 84.63 million barrels per day in 2005, and it was 84.55 million barrels per day in 2007. Thus, even small increases in demand over the last three years have put upward pressures on prices.

The near-term supply situation, according to the International Energy Agency, is not all that bad. Saudi Arabia will be adding to their capacity, deepwater Nigerian production will start in 2008, and Iraqi production will see an increase. If one added up the growth in all forms of energy, namely crude oil, natural gas, and biofuels, according to IEA there should be an increase in supply capacity of 1.5 million barrels during 2008.

Notice that amount of increase in supply is greater than the projected increase in demand for 2008 amounting to 1 million barrels per day. The supply projection for 2009 is even better. The supply capacity is expected to increase by 2.5 million barrels, which will outstrip the growth in demand comfortably.

It is the very short-term supply disruptions which seem to be more important for an increase in oil prices. Real disruptions may come from labour strikes in Venezuela, hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and rebel attacks in Nigeria. Given that the demand and supply situation is so tight, even the slightest of bad news can increase the price of oil in the futures and spot markets noticeably.

Can the weak dollar be blamed for high oil prices?

Asserting that the "weak dollar" is a significant reason behind the rise in oil prices has become as ritualistic as asserting that "China and India" are the cause. And yet, the forces which determine the foreign exchange value of the dollar against the euro, the yen, or the pound are distinctively different from those that determine the price of oil.

There is, however, one logical argument which can sometimes provide a sufficient explanation as to why a depreciating dollar and increasing oil prices are inversely related - If the dollar weakens against the euro, the ability of the oil-exporting countries to buy European goods will decline because their oil exports are denominated in dollars.

The Europeans, at the same time, will be able to pay the higher dollar prices of oil because the euro has appreciated. Clearly, to keep their purchasing power over European goods constant, the oil-exporting countries need an increase in oil price approximately equal to the depreciation of the dollar.

However, for the first six months of 2008 the dollar has depreciated against the euro by only 7.5 per cent, while oil prices have gone up by about 50 per cent.

Surely, both Americans and Europeans are paying much higher prices for oil than can be explained by a "weak dollar".

Is speculation, then, a major factor?

The energy ministers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar asserted for the first time in public at the recent Jeddah meeting of major oil producing and consuming nations, that speculation in the oil futures markets was the most important reason why current oil prices are going up.

The United States Senate has been holding hearings in front of several committees since 2006 on the lack of regulation and oversight by the official Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) one of the two locations for oil futures.

In a recent testimony to the Senate, a hedge fund trader presented data to show that outstanding speculative positions in all commodities futures has reached $250 billion by March 2008, as compared to only $13 billion at the end of 2003.

As far as speculation specifically in oil futures is concerned, representative Bart Stupak (Democrat-Michigan), the head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced recently that 71 per cent of all oil futures were owned by institutional investors.

The institutional investors, which consist of but is not confined to state
pension funds and university endowments from the United States, have been pouring funds into indexed commodity funds as part of a strategy of portfolio diversification.

The traditional assets, in which they would have otherwise invested in, namely stocks and bonds, have been yielding negative returns after inflation.

These investors can buy futures contracts with only a 5 per cent margin down payment. In addition the regulatory environment is very slack, filled with loopholes which bypass whatever few regulations that are on the books.

While there are dollar limits to positions that the institutional investors might take in the NYMEX, they are allowed to conduct "swaps" with the investment banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, and thereby manage to roll over their "buy" positions. This way they never have to take physical possession of the oil that they put in "buy" orders for.

If speculation is what is driving oil prices up, then it stands to reason that such high prices should lead to an excess supply of crude in the world. There are signs that such an excess supply is indeed building up, albeit slowly, much like the way the excess supply of housing emerged in the United States.

Fuel consumption has declined in the US sharply. We have already noted that oil consumption in Japan and Germany are actually decreasing.

Consumers in China and India have been insulated from the high world prices of oil until very recently with domestic subsidies. However, China has raised the prices of various petroleum products amounting to an average increase of 18 per cent, and so has India, by 13 per cent. The decrease in the demand for oil will start strengthening soon.

The biggest argument for speculation to be the single-most important cause for oil price increases in 2008 is: What else could have doubled the price of oil in one year?

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.

CNN Money
August 13, 2008

Financials sell off

"The financials [are] really what sold off," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co. Merrill Lynch's (MER) downgrades of several investment banks put the sector under selling pressure, Hogan said.

Merrill Lynch analyst Guy Moszkowski downgraded on Wednesday Citigroup, Goldman Sachs Group (GS) and Lehman Brothers Holdings to underperform, according to media reports. Moszkowski also lowered Morgan Stanley's (MS) rating to neutral.

August 20, 2008 at 11:51 AM EDT

Grains and soy also found support from firm crude oil markets following an optimistic forecast for crude oil prices from big index fund Goldman Sachs.

“The weather was supportive, plus Goldman reiterated their forecast for $149 dollar a barrel crude oil by the end of the year,” Mr. Sernatinger said.

The outlook from Goldman was well above Wednesday's price for New York crude oil futures prices of around $115 per barrel.

A Goldman Puff Piece

Goldman Sachs provides full service commodity risk management to commercial, sovereign and investor customers worldwide. Our commodities teams have extensive physical and financial experience in power, weather, natural gas, liquefied natural gas, natural gas liquids, crude oil and refined products as well as coal, emissions and precious and base metals. Our capabilities include:

Delivering the experience of over 220 professionals around the world, with offices in New York, Calgary, Houston, London, Sydney (via Goldman Sachs JBWere venture), Singapore and Tokyo.

Offering innovative risk management to our corporate clients and financial investors, from hedge funds to institutions to private equity.

etc., etc.
Isn't it ironic that of all the articles mentioned the closest one to the truth is the Al Jeerza, the Arab news service interview which is the only media to zero in on the impact of financial manipulation in the price of oil?

No comments: