Following up on my earlier post about oil speculation, there’s news that 50 million barrels of oil are being hoarded on supertankers.
The market calls it “contango.”
I call it irresponsible.
“Contango” refers to a market condition in which the future price of a commodity is higher than the cost of buying it today. Right now, investors can lock in oil futures contracts to get paid $46 a barrel in March. They can fill a supertanker right now for just $41 and change. It’s pretty cheap to keep the tanker floating around in the ocean. When it unloads in the spring, the investors make a tidy profit: more than $3 a barrel.
Daniel Yergin is author of the Pulitzer-winning book, “The Prize.” He says there’s a glut of oil right now, caused by the global recession. But futures prices are going higher, because OPEC has promised to cut production. And, says Yergin, oil traders are reading something else in the economic tea leaves.
Daniel Yergin: “There’s a bet here that all of the stimulus, new economic programs, are going to work, and that by the second half of the year, we’re going to move out of recession, back into economic recovery, and that demand will start rising for oil again.”
As I’ve said before, only companies that can actually use the oil should be able to buy contracts. Not that hoarding was a responsible practice in the first place, but it’s particularly offensive now that we’ve seen what it can do to the market.
But hey, tell me why I’m wrong.