Saturday, June 7, 2008

Inflation and Crude Oil Technical Analysis

The topic of my discussion today is crude oil. But because of the increasing oil prices we saw a hike in the prices of petrol. That will increase the inflation, so let me talk about inflation. With increasing inflation, the markets will come down, so let’s change the discussion to the markets. But this oil price increase may be because of the weakening dollar. Shall we talk about the dollar then? There are so many things to talk about, why limit ourselves to one topic. I’ll just write type whatever comes to mind.

Let us take a very simple example. Let us assume that milk and cows are not easily available commodity/animal. Let us assume that you have 5 cows with you (lucky you) and that you get about 50 litres of milk a day. Since milk is not easily available you don’t want to sell it all and would like to keep some for your future use, so you freeze it. And since your neighbours are buying from you, you sell about 28-30 litres in a day, consume 2 and freeze the rest. Now, your cows are getting old and their milk giving capacity is going down. You know that in a few months time you will be left with no milk. Your neighbours are requesting you to start selling 40-45 litres a day. Obviously, you won’t do it because when the cows stop giving milk, you could charge a fortune for a litre of milk.

Now let us say that the cows will give milk only for 6 months more, which is 180 days. At your current rate of 20 litres a day, when the cows stop giving milk you would have 3600 litres of frozen milk with you. The neighbours have been paying you with a kilo of rice for each litre of milk. But rice is easily available and its value is going down. And because of the value of rice going down, you have started asking for 1.2 kg of rice for every litre of milk. And because you are selling less your neighbours are even willing to pay 1.5 kg of rice for a litre of milk. You know that your 3600 litres of milk which was worth 3600 kg of rice, will now get you 5400 kg of rice. So, in effect you are richer by 1800 kg of rice without doing a thing. Would you sell more milk or just keep building up your wealth which is now increasing without even selling?

This is exactly what is happening in the world today. Just substitute crude oil for milk, the oil rigs for the cows, the Arabian countries owning the oil rigs for yourself, the rest of the world for the neighbours and the US dollar for rice. It is all so simple. Why would they sell more oil when their net worth is increasing every day because of the depreciating dollar? Why would they sell more when they know that 20-30 years down the line when the production is zero, the crude will be worth much more? Why would they sell more when they could get a fortune for a barrel of oil 30 years down the line?

Inflation jumped to 8.24% for the week ended May 24, 2008. On Wednesday, the government hiked the price of petrol by Rs.5/- per litre, diesel by Rs.3/- per litre and LPG by Rs.50/- per cylinder. The government says this hike could increase the inflation by 50 or 60 basis points. But inflation is not only affected by fuel price hike. This fuel price hike will have a cascading impact on all sectors from industries to agriculture and even services. The worst hit, as is easy to understand, will be the transportation sector. It will also mean increased house rents because the cost of construction material will be pushed up by the cost of transportation. And since almost everything needs to be transported before and after production, this hike would affect everything. In time, the food will also becoming dearer, and now with the LPG hike even cooking the food is going to become costlier.

Economic Times says that historically a Rs.2/- per litre hike in petrol and Rs.1/- per litre hike in oil pushes up the wholesale price index by more than a point in the subsequent two weeks. The LPG price had not been increased since 2004 and this time with a Rs.50/- per cylinder hike in LPG and Rs.5/- and Rs.3/- hike in petrol and diesel respectively, the wholesale price index could move up about 4 points (though the Economic Times says only a point and a half) in the week ended 7th June, the figures for which will be released on 20th June, 2008. This would push the wholesale price index to about 234.5 to 235. A figure of 235 would translate into an inflation of over 10.48% since last year in June the Wholesale Price Index was 211.8.

Coming back to crude, the crude price jumped by more than $10 a barrel on Friday to a record high of $138.54. Did the government do something wrong in increasing the petrol, diesel and LPG prices? Absolutely not, but it came too late. This was a decision which should have been taken months ago. With the reformist finance minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh heading the government, we didn’t expect such a good economic decision to come so late in the day. But maybe the government was just waiting for the Karnataka assembly elections to get over. But the decision took more than 10 days after the elections to be announced. Every single day was adding up several crores of rupees of losses for the oil companies. But in the end such a drastic hike was a bold decision by the government. But despite that, Petrol sold in India is still about Rs.10/- per litre cheaper than what price it commands in the rest of the world. But where is it headed? $150 a barrel is not too far away and there even have been predictions of $200 by the end of the year. Let us do some technical analysis.

Crude Oil in MCX - Elliott Wave Counts

Seen above is the daily chart of crude oil near month futures listed on Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) in Rupees. In this chart we are not taking the help of any line studies or indicators. The only thing on the basis of which we are trying to predict is the Elliott Wave Theory. Applying the Elliott Wave counts to the above chart, we can see that we are currently in the 5th wave. All waves have been marked as 1,2,3 and 4. 0 is where we have started the wave count from. You can also notice that within wave 3 also there are 5 waves which have been numbered in brown colour to avoid any confusion. Wave 1 was Rs.1076/- long while the length of wave 3 was Rs.1838/-, which clearly shows that wave 3 was the extended wave. This means that wave 5 should be, more or less, as long as Rs.1076/-. From the end of wave 4, this gives us a target of Rs.6288/- per barrel for crude when wave 5 ends. A target of Rs.6300/- would translate into a price of $148/50- per barrel in dollars. There the crude should, rather, could make a short term high, at least.

More tomorrow. Happy Investing!!!

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