I am tired of the negative story. I am tired of focusing on the negatives over weaker oil prices. Think of the massive opportunities created by lower oil prices! Debt investors looking to have a field day over the collapse of weaker oil as they focus on corporate bonds issued by companies that are positively impacted by lower oil — airlines, transportation stocks, consumers …. Long-only fund managers are now licking their chops as they uncover companies that stand to benefit from lower prices as well as those energy companies that have been slaughtered as a result. Remember, as Warren Buffet says, "Be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy."
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Investment banks are gearing up for what is sure to be a busy year of M&A in the oil patch as the larger integrated oils go on a buying spree. They'll be looking to scoop up assets for cents on the dollar because of what lower prices have wrought.
Consumers stand to benefit from lower energy costs that come from lower gas prices, lower home heating-oil prices, which then allows them to redirect those savings into investment accounts or into spending that may have been put off as we all struggled with the financial crisis and the uncertainty it brought.
Next, think of the massive opportunity created as so many energy names are "on sale," with some names down 15 percent, 20 percent .... 50 percent!
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To be fair, lower prices are not good for every company or every country. We have heard and seen the difficulties that falling oil prices have brought on Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and the U.S., represented by shale oil producers. Difficulties do lie ahead for some energy companies — budgets may get cut, capital spending may suffer, investments in alternative energy projects may come to a grind — halting so much of the progress that has been made, but like everything, companies, and countries will have to adjust as the new normal takes hold.
This also assumes that oil will fall further and stay low for an extended period of time — this is where I disagree. This is a supply problem — not a demand problem. So, as prices fall, producers will begin to halt production and, in fact, we are already beginning to see that — supplies will stabilize and prices will find equilibrium. As the global economy improves, oil should not only stabilize but begin to move higher once again. Where that equilibrium will be is the question. Days of +$100/barrel for oil may be a distant memory but days of $40/barrel do not seem realistic for very long either. Do we really expect OPEC or the Saudi's to so flood the market that they drive everyone else out as well as destroy their own source of revenue? Unlikely.
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So what does it mean for the new year? Opportunity. And, while we could still see a push lower to the mid 40's (although I do not subscribe to that theory) a move like that will certainly cause investors to take notice as well as ignite the M&A space. At that price, oil would have dropped 56 percent from the 2014 highs, in a world that is now supposedly in "recovery mode," signaling a complete disconnect between the macro data and what global central bankers keep telling us.
I suspect that 2015 will be the year that Europe finally emerges from the darkness as the European Central Bank readies to launch a broad stimulus package. Couple that with weaker energy prices in Europe and it adds a double whammy to the growth story. China isn't going anywhere. Expectations remain in the solid 7+ percent range for Chinese growth, double the U.S. rate. Demand is expected to remain strong in that part of the world and with substantially lower oil prices, my sense is that growth in China (Asia) will not be negatively impacted at all.
Happy New Year!
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