Monday, March 2, 2009

Recession, Oil Prices and Incogurence

Let's start with the headline of today-the Canadian recession. It's here and is gathering steam. The annualized quarterly number isn't so bad as compared to numbers of other countries, but let's not forget the lag effect. And if you recall, right until the end of October, most people were talking about recession as a 'US problem and not Canadian one.'
But if we were to annualize the December numbers, then our GDP shrank by a whopping 12 per cent. The GDP for November declined by 0.7 per cent. So for the last two months of 2008, the GDP declined by an astounding 10.2 per cent, a pretty bad showing indeed.
But this is a headline you are unlikely to find anywhere in the mainstream media as most people want to believe in the 'We are different', 'we are decoupled', 'our banks are solid' stuff.

M0ving on to oil...
There's something about oil that probably used to be the case with gold. I think several gold bugs are oil bugs now. Garth Turner for example. I like what he writes, at least most of the time, but I'm surprised how he can hold two incongruous viewpoints at the same time. He subscribes to the Peter Schiff hyperinflationary school perhaps.
On one hand he talks about falling economy, a potential depression, falling demand, job losses, massive unemployment and yet in face of that he also talks of $100 oil and a rising stock market. How is that possible? Unless he expects the recession to be short and mild, profits are not rising. And unless job recovery quickly takes hold, there will be a severe demand destruction for oil. The Chindia story is pretty much on hold, if not entirely dead, with Indian economy growing at barely 5 per cent or so in the last quarter. So what will cause a sudden spike in the oil prices? And if oil does indeed rise to $100, then at least one part of Canadian economy will continue to function nicely and that is Alberta. The oilsands investments will resume, the Canadian government and Alberta government's revenue projections won't be so bad and maritimers will flock to Alberta again. Happy days will return to Alberta and the speculators will rejoice once again. But in the face of grimmest economic news in the generation, is it likely to happen? I don't think so.

In similar vein, the oracle of Omaha who seems to be losing his way, says in his annual report that oil prices in $40 or $50 range are too low. Is he just trying to rationalize his purchae of ConocoPhilips? Or is there anything deeper in that statement.
If you recall Mr Buffett visited Albertan Oil Sands in August/September last year. At that time he had remarked (paraphrasing)"You could be the best mining engineer in the world but if you are not sure that oil prices will stay high, then oil sands investments may not be worthwhile."
Again, if thinks $40-$50 oil is not a good price, then why didn't he invest in oil sands? I find that Mr Buffett is now singing the same songs as the mainstream media about inflation, 'cash is trash', 'buy and hold forever', 'stocks are for long run' and so forth. Which is quite a departure from his old days of value investing that was clearly visible during the dot com days.

In other news, the Feburary Calgary Real Estate numbers don't stink too much. Sales, prices, days on market and pretty much all metrics are down with respect to last year.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Real Estate Blogs - Blog Top Sites