1History Lesson: Oil Price Spikes and Their Aftermath (转载）
We were greeted with the following friendly banner on the EIA webpage
(Click to enlarge)
And we all know that the fuel price was caused by the 15% price spike
that occured in the crude oil markets last week:
So I thought it might be fun if we could go back and look at similar
occurrences, that is, price spikes of 15% within a 5-trading day period,
and see if anything at all can be learned from history ... keeping in
mind that we are probably in uncharted waters, with the crude oil price
being in record territory for early Spring.
As it turns out, occurrences of a 15% price increase within five trading
days (since the initiation of crude oil futures trading in the early
80's) is really rare, most of the occurrences were in the days of much
less expensive oil:
On April 5, 1986, a nightclub in Berlin frequented by U.S. soldiers was
bombed, investigation attributed the operation to Libya and within 10
days there was a retaliatory bombing strike after which the oil price
returned to its pre-crisis level.
Later that year, an unnamed early season tropical depression formed in
the Gulf of Mexico, threatening Houston. Actually this was probably more
of a technical correction, the oil price had been beaten down into the
low teens since the previous June, and after this event, the price
gradually increased for the following couple of years until stabilizing
in the low 20's in the 1988 time frame.
On April 19, 1989, there was an explosion on the USS Iowa ... which was
actually in the Carribbean at the time. No terrorism, the market
returned to its prior state a day or two afterward.
This is probably the only one that really matters, in August of 1990,
Iraq invaded Kuwait, and for the following 100 days or so, sent the
market into chaos. The price peaked out at 40 by early October, nearly
doubling from its previous level, and the price remained elevated until
January 16, 1991, when Operation Desert Storm started, causing the price
to go from 32 to 19 in the course of 2 trading days ... In that era, we
were importing about 5.5 mbpd crude oil, on average, and the resultant
drain on the economy for that length of time caused economic contraction
in the US for the fourth quarter of 1990.
At the end of the abominably bad weather winter of 1996, the stocks
heating oil in PADD 1A, New England, had reached only three million
barrels, and a late season blizzard caused some spot shortages. Within a
day or two, it became spring, like it does, and the conditions returned
This technical market correction occurred after a nearly four-month
beatdown of oil prices, the market retreated into the low teens for the
remainder of the year.
This two day crisis occurred at the bottom of the market, the oil price
returned to under 11 within a day or two.
The oil price nearly tripled anyway between January of 1999 and the fall
of 2000, the bombing of the Cole agitated the market for a few days in
This event occurred during the greatest unwinding of the oil market in
history, during which the price of crude oil went from its all time high
of 147 in the summer of that year to the mid-30's ... Category 4
Hurricane Ike struck the heart of the Gulf of Mexico oil infrastructure,
and the temporary detour in the oil price was probably aggravated by a
short squeeze because so many people were short the market as the
economy was collapsing ...
There were actually a series of greater than 15% price gyrations during
this period when the market was finding a bottom at its low point in
A couple of additional comments about the current situation:
At the current $15 price impact, and at our current import levels of
somewhere between 8.5 and 9 mbpd, the incremental amount being extracted
from the U.S. economy is nearly DOUBLE of our ENTIRE CRUDE OIL IMPORT
EXPENSE during the 1990 Gulf War. Yes, you may quibble that the economy
was much smaller at that point, but the longer this goes on, the more
serious the potential impact;
So what did we learn on this:
Most of the time, even the terror/fear events that cause a price spike
like this are really temporary and resolve themselves in a few days.
There is a lesson in this for everybody...
In a few of the "political crisis" cases, the end came swiftly, and by
actions on the part of the U.S. military that almost immediately calmed
the market down. Even Desert Storm, in January of 1991, as violent as it
was, caused a 1/3 correction in the price within a few days of its
inception. Note that the Gulf War 2, which started in March of 2003, did
not cause a price spike like this, and in fact, within a few days of the
U.S. attack the oil price actually went down by 15%.
The longer the problem goes on, the more of an impact it has on the U.S.
economy. The 100-day or so price spike caused by the Iraq Invasion in
1990 did contribute to economic contraction in the US in the fall of
In light of "B" in combination with "C" above, is it not only a matter
of time before the U.S. military gets involved in this situation with
Libya, for no other reason than to calm down the oil market? We will
have to let history unfold before us.
Everyone complains about it correctly: We appear not to be able to learn
to wean ourselves off of this vulnerability to imported crude oil. The
problems are likely to become much more severe, the more expensive oil
gets ... and the overall frequency of these price spikes may be less
important than the upward steady pressure on the oil price which has
gotten us at unprecedented seasonal crude oil pricing levels and
threatens to be even worse by next year.
The world is chaotic. There are no guarantees on anything.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to
initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
More articles by James Shell »Print Email Recommend 0
About the author: James Shell
James A. Shell is a veteran of the petrochemical supply chain, including
in marketing, product development and R and D for a major specialty
chemical company. He has worked with customers in 19 countries on four
continents ....from resource extraction, continuous and batch process
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