Friday, October 17, 2008

Daily Sources 10/17

1. Platts reports that Chekib Khelil, Algerian Oil Minister and President of OPEC, told journalists Thursday that it was "obvious" the cartel needed to cut supply. He refused to estimate what the predicted cut would be, but suggested that the consumer countries had a stake in higher prices as well, saying that ultra-deepwater and oil sands projects are not economically viable with oil below $70/b. "People say that the marginal price below which we cannot go is between $70 and $90/barrel." Oil has been up today between $2-4/b on the back of OPEC's signals.

2. BBC reports that Cubapetroleo announced estimated offshore reserves of 20 billion barrels. This is a little over the US Geological Survey's previous estimate of about 9 billion barrels. As of now, Cuba doesn't produce a significant amount of crude oil. However, several companies have shown interest in the sector in the last five years or so, including CNPC and PdVSA. If you assume all 20 billion barrels are recoverable, 20 billion barrels are about 235 days of world oil consumption.

3. Platts reported yesterday that the Italian Minister of Economic Development told a conference of the Nuclear Energy Agency in Paris that Italy's nuclear phase-out cost the country 50 billion Euros. Minister Claudio Scajola said that Italy's electricity prices were 30% above the European average and 80% above those found in France. Italy now plans to build 8 to 10 nuclear reactors from 2013 to 2030, at which time it expects to get a quarter of its electricity from nuclear power.

4. Juan Forero at the Washington Post writes that Human Rights Watch released a report Thursday that the government of Álvaro Uribe is hindering the investigation into paramilitary death squads by Colombia's courts. The report--140 pages long--documents efforts by Uribe and his cabinet to defame and intimidate the Colombian Supreme Court, which has backed the aggressive probe and has found ties between the death squads and members of Colombia's Congress.

5. Howard Schneider at the Washington Post reports that housing starts "fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 817,000, a 6.3% decline from the month before and more than 31% below September of a year before. It is the lowest monthly rate for home starts since January 1991."

6. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has an op-ed in today's Washington Post outlining his argument for a "new Bretton Woods" and for why the governments of the world need to cooperate to manage international financial flows.

7. Warren Buffet has an op ed in today's New York Times advising people to buy, saying to "Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful."

8. Justin Fox at the Curious Capitalist has an interesting post on Martin Wolf's explanation for the current crisis.
[W]hat set it all off was the Asian financial and economic crisis that began with the collapse of the Thai baht in the summer of 1997.

As local currencies tanked all over Southeast and East Asia, corporations and banks that had borrowed in dollars suddenly stood no chance of repaying their loans. The lesson that these countries--and China, which survived the 1997-98 scare but only just barely--drew from the experience was not just to stop borrowing in dollars but to stop borrowing from the rest of the world, period.

"These were the world's natural capital recipients," Wolf said. "Instead, they started to export capital in a big way." Add that to perennial capital exporters Japan and Germany, and oil-exporting countries that were getting ever flusher as crude prices rose, and you had a vast, sloshing wave of money that ended up flowing to the countries with the most "elastic" banking systems--the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Spain--and financing spectacularly unsustainable house-price booms.

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