Global Investing

Oil prices — Geopolitics or growth?

It’s the economy, stupid. Or isn’t it?

Brent crude has risen 15 percent since the end of last year, focusing people’s minds on the potential this has to choke off the recovery in world growth. But some reckon it is the recovery that’s at least partly responsible for the surging oil prices — economic data from United States and Germany has been strong of late. There are hopes that France and the United Kingdom may escape recession after all. And growth in the developing world has been robust.

Geopolitics of course is playing a role  as an increasing number of countries boycott Iranian oil and fret over a possible military strike by Israel on Iran’s nuclear installations.  But Deutsche Bank analysts point out that world equity markets, an efficient real-time gauge of growth sentiment, have risen along with oil prices.

Their graphic (below) shows a remarkably close relationship between oil prices and the S&P 500. Click to enlarge

Deutsche says:

We find it hard to believe that a genuine concern about a real risk of war would have accompanied a 4.7 percent gain in the S&P 500 index during February to a post-Lehman high.

It adds that an analysis of the oil/S&P500 relationship reveals:

The oil price on March 1 was precisely what it should have been, based on the view of the world economy embedded in S&P 500 prices

from MacroScope:

China leading other markets?

It's becoming increasingly common to blame Chinese stocks for recent volatility in global markets.

In some places, numbers do back up why China and other markets are increasingly moving in tandem.

According to Brown Brothers Harriman, the correlation based on percentage change between Shanghai stocks and the S&P 500 index has risen to 18 percent in the last three months. This compares with year-to-date correlation of 9 percent and 4.5 percent in the past two years.

from Commentaries:

Anglo dresses interims up as a defence

    Anglo American hasn't yet received a formal bid from Xstrata. But the miner's interim results read very much like a defence document.CHILE-CODELCO/ANGLOAMERICAN
    The highlights alone give a pretty good idea of what chief executive Cynthia Carroll and new chairman John Parker will focus on if Xstrata does eventually pounce.
    Anglo's case hinges on four things.
    First, that its plan to cut $2 billion of costs by 2011 is ahead of target. Second, that it is getting on top of its $11 billion net debt, and third, that progress is being made in restructuring its problem child Anglo Platinum <AMSJ.J>. Lastly, Anglo acknowledges that it is an objective to reinstate the dividend.
    Added to these elements, lest they appeared to have too defensive a flavour, is the promise of growth, largely through its Minas-Rio iron ore project in Brazil and its Los Bronces copper development.
    Of these, cost savings are a crucial point of contention in the Xstrata debate, with the rival miner's chief executive Mick Davis confident he can squeeze a further $1 billion out of a combination with Anglo, taking the total to $3 billion.
    Anglo isn't making any promises beyond those already given but the tone of the language -- which includes talk of being ahead on "asset optimisation", procurement and job reductions -- hints that it may be able to find more savings on its own, without handing anything to Xstrata.
    So far the market seems largely happy to let Carroll stick to her plan -- highlighting Anglo's leading position in platinum, diamonds and iron ore alongside its cost cutting success. But investors might ask more searching questions in the event that Xstrata did come back offering a premium.