Are you enjoying the fall off in fuel prices? I sure am. When you look at both mine and my wife’s cars, I figure I’m spending about $60 or $70 dollars per week less than I was six months ago.
So, what happened, and will it continue?
I think one of the reasons fuel prices came down so far and so fast was because the market speculators moved from playing with fuel prices to playing with regular stocks. The falling of fuel prices and the crashing of the financial pyramid scheme that was the mortgage industry—and more importantly, the crushing effect the collapse had on the stock markets—happened simultaneously. When the sharks who were making a killing on speculating in the fuel commodities market saw the panic that was happening, they all migrated over to where the new big money opportunity was: stocks.
There’s nothing that a market speculator loves more than wide-scale panic. With the news media wringing their hands about the stock market in the days leading up to the election, thousands of investors did the dumb thing—they sold low. Afraid of losing all of their nest eggs, many investors took themselves out of the stock market. Add to that the effects of electronic trading, and you had a sell-off that is a speculator’s dream. The stocks of perfectly good, financially sound, blue chip companies started falling, along with the troubled financial sector stocks, as millions of Americans were scared out of the market. Smelling the blood in the financial waters, the same sharks who helped drive our fuel prices up over $4 a gallon switched over to gobbling up large amounts of stocks in other sectors at—in some cases—pennies on the dollar.
Whether that activity will have stabilized the stock market by the time you read this is anybody’s guess. I hope so. My 401k could use the rest.
So, what about fuel? Does that mean you can all do your 2009 budgets with some sense of knowing what your fuel costs will be? Not so fast. Enter the Russians.
I just read (remember, I’m writing this before Thanksgiving) that the Russians, concerned with the falling price of fuel, are thinking about a strategic relationship with the OPEC nations. Simply stated, Russia, the second largest producer of oil in the world, is considering working with OPEC to fix the price of oil.
With the historic (and recently increasing) proclivity of the Russian government to act out of pure paranoia, it remains to be seen whether they can work with the Arab oil producers, some of the slickest business people in the world (you have to be pretty slick to hold the most powerful nation in the world and one of your biggest customers on a leash for over 30 years, which is exactly what OPEC has done to the U.S. since the Carter administration).
So, what does this all mean to us? My advice is: Don’t get too comfortable with $1.75 a gallon gas. If the Russians and the OPEC nations get into a pissing contest, we might just luck out. (If we could figure some way to get that whack-job Chavez down in Venezuela to stick his nose into the deal, we might see prices fall to record lows!)
If the Russians and OPEC start acting like best friends, watch out. We could be back on the roller coaster by spring, and next summer might make us yearn for the prices we were paying this past summer.