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公告: 本博客主要关注民生话题,还顺带介绍点国际万象.本人开放博客中所有文字的转载权(标“转”的除外)。任何人想转载我的文字,请各取所需。需要咨询的朋友请联系zft@sohu.com,zft2020@sina.com .,微信公众号:zhengfengtian, 微信号:zft2000 谢谢!--郑风田

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长期来看,全球石油价格还要大降?  

2009-05-03 17:31:06|  分类: 社会热点问题评论 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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郑风田 江金启 中国人民大学

石油作为最主要能源资源,其对各国及其人民的重要性不言而喻。形容石油是现代全球经济的血液,一点也不为过。因为我们世界基本是靠石油的流动而运转起来的。没有石油,我们可能无法生产出那么多吃穿住行所需的物品;没有石油,我们产品也很难流动到世界各地;没有石油,我们的世界也不可能像今天这样融合在一起。正是因为如此,全世界的人民和政府都很关注石油的价格。它的每一次变动都牵动着全球经济的每一根神经。特别是在全球经济都处于衰退期的今天,对于“目前的石油价格下挫是短期现象,还是一种长期必然?”的问题,大家肯定都很关注。

420,摩根斯坦利的投资经理Ruchir Sharma在著名的美国《新闻周刊》杂志上发表了一篇关于石油价格的文章,并引起了全球很多人的关注和探讨。在文中,这位作者认为全球石油价格持续走低将是一种必然趋势。你觉得这可能吗?它好像与人们大数人的认识是大相径庭。那我们就来看看作者的分析。

 

石油最终会上涨,那仅仅是人们的一种期待。

剧作家阿瑟.米勒曾说过,“当一个时代的基本幻觉都破灭时,它也就结束了。”而当早前经济繁荣所带来的大部分梦想都随今天的经济全球性衰退而渐行渐远时,大数人还仍然寄希望于“石油、铜、粮食和黄金等商品的价格最终会上涨”。很多精明人依就相信去年的商品价格下挫仅仅是长期牛市的一次短暂暂停。当然这些相信对于这部分人来说,并不空中楼阁。中国和印度等国经济实力的快速崛起,全球资源储备总量的下降,重要资源的国有化控制及长期的能源和农业投资不足等这些事实,都为人们的这种确信提供了支持。

然而,期望就是期望,它终归不会成为现实。事实上是,差不多早在200年前,我们就曾面临类似的情形。但得益于新技术、更有效的开采方式的运用及相关替代商品的出现和使用,所有商品的价格在那期间总体是呈持续下降趋势。一个位于蒙特利尔的银行信贷分析研究公司的数据也显示主要工业品的消胀价格比1800年下跌了近75%

 

油价悖论:石油需求增加只会导致油价下跌;

尽管大家都在担心“高油价”,但事实是石油的主要熊市都是由需求导致,而非供给导致。通常来说,一旦石油需求最终出现复苏时,一些新替代能源(如原子能、天然气和绿色技术)就会随之出现并满足供需缺口。今天,石油的真实价格,无论是与1976年相比,还是与石油第一次在美国大规模使用的19世纪70年代相比,其基本处于同一水平。而这种长期下降的趋势主要得益于新油田的不断发现,提高能源使用效率的新技术的开发和应用。而这也使得那些认为石油将很快枯竭的看法变得毫无意义。

20世纪80年代,世界所发生的经历则可以更更好的说明现在的问题。在这段时间,虽然日本和欧洲经济有一个持续强劲增长,但因燃料热能效率的提高和类似原子能等替代能源的使用,世界的石油消费总量在这十年间基本没有发生变化。类似的,2004年以来,90%的石油新增量来自于生物质能、合成油及液化天然气。国家越富裕,其商品的人均消费量就越低。因此,那种认为中国和印度的经济繁荣一定会导致石油和其它商品价格上涨的看法非常荒诞。

 

商品价格下降是一个基本规律,石油也不例外。

在任何时刻,全球都会有一些新经济体出现,但商品价格仍然在持续下降。20世纪80年代和90年代,是全球经济增长相对较为快速的时期。在这期间,中国以年均9%的速度在增长。但大多数商品的价格并没有随之增长。如石油的价格就从未突破40美元每桶的大关。

而石油价格不可能持续上涨的原因很简单:任何商品的的需求都是富于弹性的,这就意味着当价格过高时,消费者或停止购买或冒着风险寻求替代品。上个世纪的六、七十年代,日本和欧洲制造业的复苏推动了铜和镍等工业投入品的价格快速上涨,并导致消费者最终难以承受成本上升所带来的产品价格上涨。60年代中期,铜的总支出在最高时占到了全球经济总量的0.45%,镍在70年代则占到了0.2%。一旦铜价格上涨过高,铝作为一个替代品在生产工艺中就被大量使用。如果一种商品可以作为它自身生产的投入品,那人们只需要调整其在总成本的份额就可以使得它的生产变得有利可图。

这就是我们相信世界刚刚经历一个相似拐点的最好理由。石油价格的上一次上涨周期是1979年开始下挫。在那一年,石油的总支出超过了全球GDP7%。去年,当全球石油支出同样占到全部GDP的相似比例时,其价格也开始下跌,并最终下降了近2/3。其它主要商品的价格,如铜、锌和铅,虽然在去年达到上个世纪六、七十年代不曾有过的高点,但最终还是跌回谷底。

 

市场实际结果总是与人们的预测相左,商品价格上涨将是一种错误的危险预测;

然而市场仍然赌石油价格会再一次稳步上涨。在未来三年的原油交付价格将在每桶70美元上成交。而当前的现货价格才为50美元每桶。有些分析家预测到2012年它将达到90美元每桶。其它商品的价格,从铜到稻谷,也预期会上涨。

但值得注意的是,直到最近的2005年,市场的实际运作恰恰都是与人们的预测相反的。多年来,现货价格的上涨幅度都要远远高于未来价格,因为很多投资者都假定价格将下降。今天的投资者仍然在根据全球经济的景气指数(健康信号)来做出反应,把钱重新投入到商品生产中,从而也就形成了最近几周我们所看到价格波动上涨。

然而,这种景气现象是一种假象。因为我们整个世界现在都处于大危机以来最严重的一次增长衰退中。导致了20032007年间商品需求猛增的全球经济高增长时代将不可能再重现。然而,大部分分析家,不管如何他们看待全球经济,但都认为商品价格将上升。乐观主义者消费需求的复苏将推动石油和其它商品价格上涨,而悲观主义者则认为,一旦所有中央银行都开始大量印钞的话,那消费是对抗通货膨胀恐惧性爆发的有利武器。

然而,两种论点都忽视了历史。历史已向我们表明,在通货膨胀中全球仅有一种商品的价格在增加:黄金。其它商品的价格仅仅在一个经济繁荣的成熟稳定期会趋于上涨,因为此时全球经济已到达一个顶点,同时需求超过了供给。但接下来的数年内,几乎所有商品的供给都将远远大于需求,价格也就将下降。

 

生产者的某些短期行为正在进一步加剧衰退。

生产者的希望同样也会进一步加深衰退。石油企业、铜业公司和钢铁巨头明显都预期近来的价格下跌是暂时的,因为他们的工厂产出仅仅是一种短期减产,而不是永久的关闭这些工厂。以钢铁行业为例,从去年9月至今,其全球总产能削减了40%,,留下的企业也仅以其全部产能的65%进行生产,而去年这个比例是95%。然而,钢铁企业并没有关闭工厂,也就意味着这些企业在可见的未来会以部分产能进行运转,从而使生产者的定价能力进一步削弱。其它金属产业也有类似的变化。

尽管近期价格有一个下降,许多商品仍然是在生产成本之上进行交易,因此价格必须进一步下降直到他们感觉到被迫关闭企业的痛苦。相反,许多商品的存货已上升到510年的高水平,即使即期价格(汇价)仍然高于十年前的价格。那意味着价格将会下降直到过量的存货被全部处理掉(直到全部库存都清仓处理掉)。

 

中国的救市计划,只求自保,它也救不了世界。

石油价格没有进一步下跌的唯一原因在于人们对北京政府的巨额刺激计划所推动的中国经济持续繁荣的期待。这些天,只要有中国释放好消息的暗示——即使中国制造业增长也开始放缓——都能让石油的场内交易欢呼雀跃。

但他们的高兴有点来得太早了。中国正面临着过度投资的问题。在近十年里,其投资几乎占到全部GDP40%,一个经济发展史上从未有过的水平。大量的钱流向了出口行业,而这些行业目前都深陷于全球投资需求低迷的泥潭。这种低迷短期内虽说可以改变,但很难改变。中国对全球经济产出的贡献是10%,但它消费了25-50%的全球工业投入品,这样的增长在长期内难以维系。在将来,一旦中国减少对出口和投资的依赖,并建立一个国内消费主导的经济后,那它的增长速度必定放缓。北京也正在为建立一个低能耗低原材料投入的更有效经济而努力着。而同时,其他国家对商品需求以每年30-60%速率在下降,从而给予价格持续的下压力。

 

中国石油消费对世界石油价格的影响被过分夸大?

不管怎么说,中国对世界石油价格的影响被过分夸大了,中国仅消费了世界全部石油产量的9%,而经济合作与发展组织的发达国家则消费了超过50%的生产量。石油需求对全球增长非常敏感。如果假定世界经济增长率在2009年将减少1.4%,那每天的石油消费将减少240万桶。

这也将极大降低石油卡特尔提高石油价格的能力。OPEC(欧佩克)早已发现,当它们备用储量超过需求5%时,控制价格就将是一件非常困难的事。现在它已超过8%并且一直在上升。这个卡特尔在过去的六个月内已3次要求削减产量。虽然它的成员现在已削减产量目标的80%,但同时也仅会助长相互间欺骗的动机。

当然,在某些时候,商品价格会再次上涨,但这都是暂时的。迄今为此,价格在过去几个世纪的变化都表现为长期的熊市和短期牛市。来自CSFB的数据显示石油市场的牛市平均只有47年,而熊市则能持续1127年。在上个夏天结束的牛市,价格在过去9年中上涨了十倍。而历史上只有在1979年结束的牛市在持久性和广度上能与之媲美。而那次以后的熊市则持续了20年。如果历史是指南的话,那我们现在又再一次站在了一个长期熊市的门口。

(编译者郑风田为中国人民大学教授;江金启为中国人民大学博士生)

 

Cheap Oil Forever: Why Prices Will Keep Falling

Newsweek

As playwright(剧作家) Arthur Miller once observed, "An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." And most of the illusions that defined the late global economic boom—the notion that global growth had moved to a permanently higher plane and housing prices from Miami to Mumbai would rise indefinitely—are now indeed exhausted. Yet one idea still has the power to capture imaginations and markets: it is that commodities like oil, copper, grains and gold are all destined to rise over time. Lots of smart people believe that last year's swoon in commodities prices represented a short pause in a long-term bull market.

It's a view rooted in powerful and real trends, like the growth of China and India, the decline in global reserves (many of the world's biggest and best oilfields are tapped out), fears over resource nationalization (independent oil firms now control only 20 percent of global reserves) and long-term underinvestment in energy and agriculture, which hampers supply.

Yet the fact is that the world has faced all these issues before, and for the past 200 years, commodity prices have been trending downwards, thanks to new technologies, greater efficiency in extraction and the substitution of one commodity for another (which explains the high correlation between commodities prices). Bank Credit Analyst, a research firm based in Montreal, has data showing major industrial commodity prices are 75 percent below where they were in the year 1800, after adjusting for inflation. Despite all the worries over "peak oil," the fact is that the major bear markets in oil have been demand, rather than supply led. And when demand eventually picks up, there's usually some new alternative (nuclear energy, natural gas, green technologies) waiting to pick up some of the slack. The real price of oil today is now at the same level as in 1976 and, before that, in the 1870s, when oil was first put to mass use in the United States. This long-term price decline is due mainly to the constant discovery of new fields and greater energy efficiency, making nonsense of the idea that the world is rapidly running out of oil. The experience of the 1980s is instructive in the current context as well.

Japan and Europe continued to grow strongly in the 1980s, and yet oil consumption remained essentially flat through that decade as both the regions strived to achieve better fuel efficiency and switched to alternative sources of energy, such as nuclear power. Similarly, 90 percent of the growth in new oil capacity since 2004 has come from biofuels(生物燃料), synthetic oil(合成油) and natural-gas liquids(液化天然气). As countries get richer, their per capita consumption of commodities declines. It's a myth, then, that the boom in China and India will inexorably drive up oil and other commodity prices.

At any point in time, there are always new economic powers emerging on the global scene, yet commodity prices have continued to fall. The 1980s and '90s were a relatively strong period for the global economy, and China was growing at an average pace of 9 percent. But prices for most commodities did not follow: oil, for example, never broke through the upper limit of $40 a barrel.

The reason oil prices did not spike higher is simple: demand for any commodity is price-elastic, which means that once the price goes too high, consumers stop buying it or make heroic efforts to find a substitute. In the 1960s and '70s, the revival of manufacturing in Japan and Europe propelled prices for industrial metals like copper and nickel higher, until the buyers couldn't take it anymore. Total spending on copper peaked at 0.45 percent of the global economy in the mid-1960s, and on nickel at 0.2 percent in the 1970s. Once copper prices got too high, aluminum was used as a substitute in many functions. As commodities are inputs in themselves, they can justify only a certain share of the total costs before it becomes prohibitive to consume the end product.

There is good reason to believe that the world just passed a similar turning point. The last boom in the oil prices collapsed in 1979, when total spending on oil exceeded 7 percent of global GDP. Last year, spending on oil hit a similar share of global GDP, and the price has since fallen by more than two thirds. Last year prices of other critical commodities, including copper, zinc and lead, also reached peaks not seen since the 1960s or '70s, before falling back to earth.

Yet markets are still betting that the price of oil is poised to spike again. Oil for delivery in three years' time is trading at close to $70 a barrel, compared with the current spot price of about $50 a barrel. Some analysts predict $90 a barrel by 2012. Prices of other commodities, from copper to rice, are also expected to rise.

It's worth noting that until as recently as 2005, the markets acted on the exact opposite assumption. For years, spot prices ran much higher than futures prices, because most investors assumed prices would follow the historic trend line: down. They made money by simply rolling over their oil contracts at a lower price. Commodities were otherwise seen as a losing proposition—and for good reason. But the long view died with the commodity price boom of this decade, and it has yet to return. Today investors are still reacting to any sign of health in the global economy by pouring money back into commodities, producing the erratic upward price swings we've seen in recent weeks.

This bullishness(景气现象) is misplaced. The world is now in the biggest growth slump (萧条期)since the Great Depression, and the era of exceptionally high global growth that led to a surge(猛增) in demand for commodities from 2003 to 2007 is unlikely to return any time soon. Yet for the most part, analysts, no matter what their view on the global economy, agree that commodity prices will rise. Optimists say a revival in consumer demand will drive up oil and other commodity prices, while pessimists are buying commodities as a hedge against a feared outbreak in inflation, given all the money central banks are printing across the world.

Both scenarios ignore history, which shows that only one commodity rises in an inflationary environment: gold. Other commodity prices tend to bloom only during the mature stages of a boom when the global economy overheats and demand briefly exceeds supply. At the moment, supply for nearly all commodities far outweighs demand, and likely will decline for at least the next couple of years.

The hopes of producers could also deepen the slump. The oil men, copper miners and steel barons clearly expect the recent price declines to be temporary, because they are making only short-term cuts in factory output, rather than taking more permanent steps like closing factories. A case in point is the steel industry, which has slashed production by 40 percent worldwide since September, leaving mills operating at 65 percent of capacity, down from 95 percent last year. However, steelmakers are not closing plants, which means mills will run at partial speed for the foreseeable future, leaving producers with little pricing power.

The dynamics are similar for other metals. Despite the recent fall in prices, many commodities still trade well above their cost of production, so prices need to come down further before producers feel the kind of pain that forces plant closings. Instead, inventories for most commodities have risen to five- or, in some cases, 10-year highs, even though spot rates are still well above prices of a decade ago. That implies prices will have to decline as the excess inventories need to be cleared out.

The only reason the fall in oil prices hasn't been deeper already is that many people expect a continuing boom in China, driven by Beijing's aggressive stimulus plans. These days any hint of good news out of China—even a slowdown in the decline of manufacturing—can unleash whoops of joy in the oil trading pits.

They come too early. China suffers from an overinvestment problem. It has been investing at a rate equal to 40 percent of GDP for nearly a decade, a level unprecedented in the history of economic development. Much of the money goes to export industries, which are sagging in the global downturn. Investment demand is not likely to revive soon, nor should it. China contributes 10 percent of global economic output, but has been consuming 25 to 50 percent of most industrial commodities, a pace that can't be sustained. The pace should slow in coming years, as China moves to reduce its reliance on exports and investment, and to build an economy driven by local consumers. Beijing is also working to create more-efficient factories that run on less energy and require fewer raw materials. Meanwhile, in nations other than China, demand for commodities is falling at an annual rate of 30 to 60 percent, which will put intense downward pressure on prices.

China's impact on oil prices is greatly exaggerated, anyway. China consumes 9 percent of global oil production, while the rich nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development consume more than 50 percent. Demand for oil is highly sensitive to global growth and the IEA expects it to shrink by 2.4 million barrels a day or 2.8 percent as the world economy is now estimated to contract by 1.4 percent in 2009.

That will greatly reduce the power of the oil cartel to raise prices. OPEC has always found it difficult to dictate price trends when its spare capacity exceeds 5 percent of total demand, and right now it is at 8 percent and rising. The cartel has ordered three production cuts in the last six months, and while its members are now meeting 80 percent of the targeted cuts, the incentive to cheat will only grow.

At some point, of course, commodities will spike again, but only temporarily. To date, the centuries-old slide in prices has been marked by long bear markets and short bull runs. Data from CSFB shows that the average bull market in oil has lasted from four to nine years, and the average bear market from 11 to 27 years. The bull market that ended last summer saw prices rise tenfold over nine years, mirroring the duration and magnitude of the previous bull market, which ended in 1979. That was followed by a bear market that lasted 20 years. If history is any guide, we're only at the beginning of another long one.

Origin: Newsweek

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