Why oil is the 'canary in the coal mine': Analyst

Oil expert: Likely see $30 handle before balance mid-2016
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Since economies drive commodity prices, not the other way around, the collapse in oil is more of a demand issue than it appears, said Stephen Schork, founder and editor of The Schork Report newsletter.

The influential oil analyst told CNBC on Friday that there's an "absolute glut" in crude, but the demand side of the equation can't be overlooked. "When you have such a sharp fall in commodity prices, that's because of economic demand. And I think that's a very worrisome telltale."

"Oil prices are the canary in the coal mine," Schork said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "I don't think the global economy, especially in the United States, is all rainbows and unicorns right now."

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The current, robust pace of oil production has been going on for two years now, he said. What has changed over the summer? "The supply picture has not changed. So the drop in price, to me, is an indication, I think, of worrying global demand," he said.

Schork predicted crude prices could fall to $40 a barrel, and go even lower, before demand increases in the summer driving season.

Oil prices were little changed in early trading Friday, around $51 a barrel, after U.S. crude pared heavy losses Thursday on U.S. Energy Information Administration data that showed inventories rose by 7.7 million barrels last week—half of what the American Petroleum Institute had originally indicated.

Schork is not alone in thinking oil could go lower. Citi's Ed Morse, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for international energy policy, told CNBC earlier this month the likelihood was "very great" that oil drops to a range in the $30s. "The world is oversupplied with oil, and we haven't seen the worst of it yet."

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Morse's Citi colleague, Chief U.S. Equity Strategist Tobias Levkovich, told "Squawk Box" on Friday, "I don't want to step in front of that. I'd rather wait for the [energy] stocks to come to me, then chase it."

Levkovich said he's watching beaten up oil stocks for possible upgrades. "Valuations are starting to look good in ... drillers."

Robert Leary, president of Asset Management at TIAA-CREF, said on CNBC he's also looking for opportunities to bottom fish energy. "When we see oil prices dip or gas prices dip, we see it as opportunities and try to buy things that make sense."

With $851 billion in assets under management at TIAA-CREF, Leary overseas managers that run what he calls a diversified energy portfolio in fracking, oil, solar and wind. "For the last year, the portfolio has been in the mid-teens [growth] overall."