- "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer recalls the 2008 breakdown in oil prices and explains why investors' distrust of oil futures could help the crude market.
The U.S. economy was falling apart, but the rest of the world was still strong. Foreign demand for oil coupled with instability in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa sent oil prices soaring to $147 a barrel.
"But what happened after that shows you just how fragile, skittish and easily manipulated the oil market is because the price of crude collapsed pretty much in a straight line" to $31, the "Mad Money" host said.
The fact that oil prices surged higher, then fell apart in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis seemed like "pure manipulation" to Cramer. Still, he acknowledged that it looked like there wasn't enough selling being done as oil climbed.
"It was almost as though there was no spare capacity to sell," he said. "But, of course, that turned out to not be true. There was tons of space capacity. The new supply just couldn't be ramped up fast enough. But when it did, the market collapsed."
Turning back to 2018, Cramer said that oil's recent spike on rising tensions in the Middle East resembled the situation 10 years ago.
"That's what I think could happen here now. The oil market is terribly inefficient and supply seems to be provided only by the short-sellers, who then cover when no oil comes to the market," he said. "There's not enough time to find real sellers or they're all holding out for higher prices."
But what's different now is investors have grown wary of oil futures, the "Mad Money" host said. They know that oil traders tend to buy crude on bad news, and not necessarily because the commodity is in demand.
"Investors in the stock market know from this lesson not to trust these spikes," he explained. "So, sure, oil's gotten up there. No doubt about it. But we know the futures aren't necessarily the real deal and that's keeping investors in the stock market from panicking out as we watch the price of crude climb inexorably higher. I think that's the right attitude."