Rapidly accelerating U.S. shale production will create a virtuous cycle next year that will contain energy prices, support the recovery and encourage the Federal Reserve to pare back its monetary stimulus, Goldman Sachs said Friday.
Brent crude is poised to end 2013 at or near $111 a barrel for the third straight year, buttressed by ongoing supply disruptions and geopolitical turmoil, Goldman said in a research note. Against that backdrop, demand in developed economies has held up, while emerging markets have had the opposite effect.
The conditions are favorable to a longer-term stabilization of energy prices, the firm's analysts said. Record production on the back of shale and natural gas will keep "the U.S. energy market oversupplied and reinforcing downside price risks."
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Those forces will restrain price pressures, boost economic activity and assist the Fed in its quest to wean the economy off crisis-era stimulus.
Goldman said U.S. demand growth has contrasted negatively with weak appetite for oil and gas in emerging economies, in large measure because of "record-high oil prices in local currencies … and the unfortunate result of stable oil prices."
"The important implication of this U.S. demand surge is that it absorbed a large portion of the continued rise in U.S. shale oil production, leaving the U.S. balance to the rest of the world mostly flat during 2013," the note said. America's demand growth will likely outstrip that of China—the world's second-largest economy, [which] runs neck-and-neck with the U.S. for energy consumption—for the first time since the 1990s.
The shale boom is affecting the domestic and global economies in ways large and small. Last month, the International Energy Agency said that the U.S. would surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer by 2015 and would be churning out more than 11 million barrels a day by 2020.
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Earlier this week, the Commerce Department said the trade imbalance—for years a scourge on the world's largest economy—narrowed in October, thanks in part to petroleum exports' hitting their highest levels on record.
Economists also say that fracking is helping to create jobs across the country.
—By CNBC's Javier E. David