The spread between front-month oil futures and contracts for later delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange (see Fig. 1) has widened dramatically this month. (See Fig. 2)The widening contango frequently portends a rise in inventories. For example, in Fig. 3, it can be seen that when the discount for fronth-month crude to second-month crude widened to near $4 a barrel earlier this year, inventories jumped to 19-year highs. The relationship between inventories and the outright futures price can be seen in Fig. 4.
Oil prices have been trading in an unusually strong positive correlation with equities markets over the past few months on hopes that signs of an economic recovery could mean a boost for energy demand.
But with oil and product inventories swelling and little sign of demand improving in the United States and other big developed economies, analysts warn that the linkage may be hard to maintain, especially if U.S. motorists cut back on vacations this summer.
Locations of shale basins not geographically precise. E.g. Haynesville basin is located on the north Louisiana/east Texas border. Figures in trillion cubic feet. Source: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission website, derived from the American Clean Skies Foundation.
Rising estimates of U.S. recoverable natural gas reserves from shale deposits could keep natural gas prices low over the next few years. The above map shows the sharp increase in recoverabe reserves from select shale basin in trillion cubic feet from 2006 to 2008.