Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Few will escape this unscathed

Residents of Alberta island, especially those with strong vested interests in high commodity and real estate prices are about to wake up to a harsh reality. The falling prices of oil were affecting the future prosperity and project based construction and engineering employment. But now there’s another potentially dangerous animal circling on top of Alberta economy-falling natural gas prices.

A lot of people don’t pay much attention to natural gas prices, but they are the bread and butter of the province, especially of big corporate in Calgary and the provincial government royalties. Oil royalties are merely a drop in bucket as compared to what the Alberta government collects from natural gas (by a factor of 6).

Today natural gas prices fell to 2 year lows of around $5. Should the natural gas prices fall further, as they just might in face of severe demand contraction, there will be massive further fallout from this in provincial government and corporate employment levels in the province.

Natural gas business is the cash cow for most businesses in the province while oil sands was the future growth business.

The growth business is now in dumpster and the cash cow will likely come under severe duress. There’s no way this will have a happy ending for the provincial economy.

Right now it’s hard to find a sector of economy that is booming or even going steady, bankruptcy specialists excepted.

If worldwide demand continues to fall across the board as it has, there’s no one that will escape unscathed.

Despite a significant fall in the oil prices, there was a noticeable decline in consumption of gasoline in the first week of this year. Unemployed people don't take skiing trips , take extended vacations or go for frequent shopping trips to the mall. Those who are fearful of losing their jobs show similar behavior.

Everything ranging from dental hygienists to entertainers will feel the pinch of this slowdown. A lot of demand of everything in last several years was just as fictitious as the NINJA loans and demand for virtually everything is falling apart worldwide. In face of this, Canada’s (and Australia, Brazil, New Zealand’s ) economy cannot remain insulated.

It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out what a further collapse in commodity prices will do to Canadian economy and Alberta real estate.

Those who are contemplating buying in this environment at ridiculously inflated prices will have severe cases of post purchase dissonance for many years.

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