You know, gasoline prices are supposed to climb as we head into summer, but things are getting a bit ridiculous!
OPEC decided not to produce more crude oil. Or rather, Iran and its cohorts blocked Saudi Arabia’s efforts to try to boost production.
Aside from the crummy effect this had on crude oil prices just after the meeting last Wednesday, there are some bigger issues coming to the surface.
An acrimonious OPEC meeting failed to produce an agreement to increase oil production despite tight supplies and rising prices, bringing to the fore long-simmering divisions between key cartel players Saudi Arabia and Iran and calling into question the group’s ability to influence oil prices.
OPEC’s stunning admission of major dissent within its ranks has left it reeling and its status as the world’s oil power-broker weakened — perhaps beyond repair.
OPEC has already lost a lot of clout as crude oil production outside of its group has grown in the past decade or so. Places like Russia and Brazil have brought a lot of crude oil to the table. These countries aren’t under the thumb of OPEC’s production rules.
I’m talking about the crude oil embargo in the mid-1970s that nearly brought the U.S. to its economic knees, and quadrupled the price of crude oil in less than half a year.
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Saudi Arabia and other Arab OPEC members turned off the tap by 15% back in 1973, and markets went bananas… The "oil weapon" will always be a threat. But ill will between major OPEC producers has even bigger consequences.
That they are fighting now should be a warning to everyone. Saudi Arabia and Iran — who are ranked as the top two Arab countries in terms of oil reserves — are vying for power… and they have very different global views. Mainly, they deal differently with the West. Saudi Arabia works closely with the U.S., while the U.S. still has strict sanctions against Iran.
Now, these two countries are dealing with more than one crisis. Even though Saudi Arabia and its OPEC allies are calling for increased demand in the second half of this year, the world is using less crude oil because of the global financial crisis. Crude oil inventories in the U.S. are 7.5 million barrels higher than they were last year.
You could say the call to increase production would solely be a bid to lower prices. This rubbed some OPEC members the wrong way because some of them can’t produce more crude oil quickly or cheaply. Iran is one of those countries.
Indeed, only Saudi Arabia and three other Gulf countries that are more allied with the West than other Arab OPEC members favored an increase in production.
Most of these countries don’t want lower crude oil prices. This is because of the second crisis. The Middle East and North Africa are under siege from their angry citizens. When Tunisia and Egypt were successful in overthrowing their governments, other countries jumped on the uprising bandwagon. Yemen, Bahrain and Libya have all seen huge protests.
Immediately after the announcement, crude oil prices climbed nearly 3%. This pressure means higher gasoline prices heading into summer. As I told you, gasoline prices are nearly $1.06 per gallon higher than last year… And unlike oil inventories, gasoline inventories are down 4.5 million barrels from last year.
On the other hand, domestic energy could get a lot of attention. Even companies doing business in friendlier countries like Canada could benefit.
Check out Apache Corp. (APA:NYSE) and Suncor Energy Inc. (SU:NYSE), up about 26% and 19% in the past year. These guys are heavy hitters without being 800-pound gorillas. They are outperforming their competitors and are a much better value than their industries as a whole.
Of course, these aren’t the only opportunities to pop up in the wake of the nasty OPEC meeting. In fact, this first OPEC fracture could be the start of an even bigger crisis. Justice Litle, editor of Macro Trader just sent me a letter about the coming crisis saying:
I can tell you right now, we have never… EVER… seen this level of chaos on U.S. shores. This will put the financial crisis of 2008 to shame…
I don’t have room to tell you what the rest of his letter said, but we’re quickly working on a way to let you read it in its entirety. One thing I can tell you, though, is that Justice believes that the bigger the crisis, the bigger the opportunity.