The recent rally in crude oil has stalled out, after coming within reach of $85 per barrel last Thursday. While there has been some fundamental under-pinning to the move, in the form of several supportive weekly inventory reports from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, it is the dollar's precipitous declineand the specter of quantitative easing ("QE") by Federal Reserve that is dominating the overall discourse around the markets, generally, and is at work in the energy patch. (*Read this: 'Quantitative Easing': What Does It Really Mean for Investors?)
The impact of the dollar's decline has varying implications within in the energy realm, due to the fact that crude oil is almost universally priced in dollars.
In the case of China, as a major consuming country, higher crude oil prices should represent a headwind to economic activity, especially since its own buying power is being eroded as result of the yuan's much criticized peg to the dollar. However, being a robust exporter, this same peg serves China's interests and a an offset, by allowing its goods to be sold into Europe and other countries at even more competitive levels than currently exist, enabling its economy to continue to chug right along, despite the rise in crude oil prices.
Being so energy intensive, there may well be an energy price breaking point for China, if not its customer base. We have seen China's crude oil appetite continue to grow: September's imports were the highest of the year, approaching 6 million barrels per day.
The dollar's decline does represent some sweet revenge for U.S. consumers against OPEC, which met this week with barely a notice. A notable complaint over their diminished petrodollar buying power had several members expressing a desire for $100 per barrel oil, in order to maintain an orderly market and investment in the sector. In terms of output quotas, they were maintained at current levels. Their hopes to be relevant again were raised markedly, however.