Saturday, 26 February 2011

Weekend Update February 26, 2010

Baltic Dry Index. 1245

LIR Gold Target by 2019: $30,000. Revised due to QE.

This weekend, it’s all about oil and Libya. Will Saudi Arabia collapse like Tunisia? What would it mean for oil supplies if it did. Today, a what if and a new reality for Italy. Is Germany ready to bailout Italy? In all likelihood they can’t even if there was the will to do it, taking on tiny Greece and Ireland was hard enough. If Italy goes, the euro goes with it. European Debt Union anyone? The fall of Gaddafi might finally knock some sense into the capitals of Europe. Do they really want a United States of Europe, that contains Europe’s PIIGS?

"The history of fiat money is little more than a register of monetary follies and inflations. Our present age merely affords another entry in this dismal register."

Hans F. Sennholz

If the Saudis revolt, the world’s in trouble

The fate of the global recovery rests on events in Riyadh , says Jeremy Warner.

By Jeremy Warner 8:24PM GMT 24 Feb 2011

Be careful what you wish for. After an ambiguous start, Western leaders have broadly welcomed the wave of protest and revolutions sweeping North Africa and parts of the Middle East. But beneath the words of encouragement about people taking charge of their own destiny, there is a growing and vital concern – the security of our oil and gas supplies.

The West’s complicity in supporting the autocratic regimes that characterise many of the big oil-exporting nations is in part explained by the fact that, whatever their sins, they did at least seem to provide stability in the energy markets. That stability, however, has been thrown up in the air by the wave of protest sweeping the region.

Initially, it was assumed that there was a difference between oil-poor Arab nations such as Tunisia and Egypt, where the uprisings have been as much about living standards as anything else, and the much richer Gulf states. That theory was swiftly proved wrong.

In Saudi Arabia, even King Abdullah’s panicky decision to order another multi-billion-dollar splurge of spending on education, healthcare and infrastructure may not be enough to buy off the opposition. People seem to want something more precious than money: freedom.

Whatever happens, speculation about the possibility of major interruptions in supply has sent the already perky oil price bounding higher. At one point yesterday, Brent crude hit $120 a barrel, which in real terms is approaching the sort of peaks we saw in the 1970s.

---- Everyone has been so focused on buttressing the banking system against further catastrophe that they seem to have forgotten about the continued power of oil to shock. Analysts have polarised into

two distinct camps – the alarmist and the broadly sanguine, with little room for argument in between.

Those of a sanguine disposition point to the fact that, although Libya is an important producer, it represents less than 2 per cent of global output. Even if all production were suddenly to cease, the Saudis and other producers should be able to fill the gap from their ample reserves of spare capacity.

This, of course, assumes that the Saudis do indeed possess such spare capacity (many believe they don’t) and that it remains largely unaffected by the unrest. If Saudi falls, then the oil price will go through the roof, and probably stay there for a considerable length of time. That’s the alarmist scenario – and it seems more likely by the day.

----- One positive effect of high prices is that they encourage this process. After each recession, the gas guzzlers eventually return to American highways, but always in smaller numbers than before. Most nations are also taking steps to insulate themselves from these shocks by developing alternative sources of energy. If oil consumption per head in the US were to fall to European levels, it would reduce world demand by a quantity approximately equal to Saudi’s entire output.


Kissing the Hand of the Dictator

What Libya's Troubles Mean for Its Italian Allies

By Hans-Jürgen Schlamp 02/25/2011

Few countries stand to lose more from the possible fall of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi than Italy. Rome has invested heavily in Libya, and the country, in return, also has significant holdings in many top Italian companies. Those deep ties could now haunt Silvio Berlusconi's government.

When it came to deep male bonding, the two were bosom buddies. Moammar Gadhafi, the self-named "Revolutionary Leader" of a North African country rich in oil and gas, even invited his "amico" from Rome, Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi, to his harem, where the Italian leader learned about "bunga bunga" sex games. Berlusconi reciprocated in his own way. Last spring, a guest at a meeting of Arab leaders in Sirte, Libya, Berlusconi kissed the Libyan leader on the hand to greet him, a gesture he usually reserves for the pope.

Berlusconi long remained loyal to his buddy from across the Mediterranean. Just last week, as Gadhafi had already begun to gun down and bomb Libyans protesting against his regime, Berlusconi refused to utter a single word of criticism, saying instead that he preferred not to "disturb" Gadhafi.

As recently as Monday, Italy blocked a European Union resolution condemning the killing. Only after Washington exerted massive pressure -- including several phone calls by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Rome -- did Berlusconi cave in. When he finally did, though, he did so completely. Italian daily La Republicca quoted him as saying that Gadhafi was "crazy," and that he might even resort to firing rockets at Italy.

Immense Damage for Rome

But even if the Libyan leader doesn't live up to such dire predictions, the damage to Italy is already immense. The Italian business sector is particularly concerned. Libya, after all, is far more to Italy than a mere raw materials supplier and important importer of Italian products. It also has stakes in many Italian firms. With a 7.2 percent holding, the desert nation is the most powerful shareholder in Unicredit, Italy's largest bank. Correspondingly, the bank's vice president is a Libyan, Farhat Bengdara, who is also the head of the central bank in Tripoli. His whereabouts are unknown at the moment. Unicredit President Dieter Rampl says they have no contact with Bengdara.,1518,747745,00.html#ref=nlint

“With the exception only of the period of the gold standard, practically all governments of history have used their exclusive power to issue money to defraud and plunder the people."

F.A. von Hayek


No comments:

Post a Comment