James Saft

Libya gives world economy needed break

Aug 23, 2011 18:57 UTC

James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

For Libyans the fall of Muammar Gaddafi comes about 40 years too late, but from the point of view of the global economy it is not a moment too soon.

The apparent end of the reign of Gaddafi, whose whereabouts were unknown on Monday after rebels took Tripoli, will take pressure off of the price of energy, especially in hard-hit parts of southern Europe, and thus ultimately may remove roadblocks to further easing by either the European Central Bank or Federal Reserve.

Brent crude futures, the key European measure, fell by as much as 3 percent on Monday following the taking of Tripoli by Libyan rebels before settling about 1 percent down, while the U.S. measure rose about a third of a percent.

Libya accounts for about 2 percent of global oil production and in particular has supplied much of the oil consumed in Italy. While experts caution that it may take some time to restore production and exports, the nightmare option of mass sabotage by the falling regime now seems unlikely. Regime change also opens up the possibility that production and exploration in Libya are more competently and aggressively pursued than they had been. Corruption and kickbacks are rife in Libya, and while that may or may not improve, if it does, look for production figures to improve over the longer term.

Lower energy prices are an unalloyed good at this point for the global economy. High gasoline and heating costs act as a brake on consumer demand, something the hard-hit southern euro zone nations can ill afford as they descend into a vicious cycle of austerity and economic contraction.

Investors should “Viva!” the revolutions

Feb 22, 2011 13:12 UTC

Rather than fear the spread of people power revolutions, investors should welcome them.

Just don’t expect an easy ride in the near term.

Lots of people have made lots of money out of dictatorships, but you, dear reader, are probably not one of them and are likely to do better, in the long run, as they fall.

A spreading revolt in Libya, following closely on the overthrow of the Egyptian and Tunisian governments, sent a scare into global financial markets on Monday, hitting share prices and prompting a near six percent spike in the price of oil.