Last November (2003) I participated in Business Week’s annual market predictions — despite the fact that I find forecasting to be folly. Where the markets are 12 months from now is little more than a guess.
Hey, I’ll play along: My prediction was that the 2003 rally would have sufficient momentum to carry it into the 2nd Quarter of 2004 — peaking at Dow 11,100 — at which point it would run out of steam and sell off. I was one of only 3 forecasters (out of 65) who picked Energy as my favorite sector. My 12 month predictions were for Dow 10,403, the S&P500 at 1,150 and Nasdaq 2,200.
Since then, I hadn’t really thought about the contest, except to rue not making my second choice stock — Apple — as my best pick. Oh, well.
So you might imagine my shock when a friend (an investment strategist at another firm) called me yesterday to tell me I won the contest. Based on yesterday’s closing data — Dow 10,428, SPX 1,174, and Nasdaq 2,097 — my forecasts were off by 0.24%, 2.1% and 4.6%.
Wow, who da thunk it! Power, riches, fame — all will be mine! [Bwaahoohaahaa!]
Only they won’t. Turns out he’s wrong — the contest runs til next Friday (December 10) — at which point the Market, now in sync with my forecasts by the merest of coincidences, will have moved away from my present, prescient predictions.
It was fun while it lasted . . .
"We are living with an energy illusion of the highest order,"
So warns oil banker Matt Simmons, 61, whose "bold and often prescient pronouncements have won him followers — and detractors — in the course of his 30-year career."
According to Simmons, whether the Saudis have overestimated their crude reserves or not is the key question for energy prices the next decade or so.
In an interview with Barron’s, Simmons lays out the Bull case for Oil:
"With global demand for oil on the rise, and prices hovering near $50 a barrel, the Saudis’ production profile is more than academic. The No. 1 oil producer, Saudi Arabia pumps 13% of the world’s oil and boasts 23% of its oil reserves. Moreover, the Saudis alone claim to have excess production capacity and the ability to increase output if demand continues to rise.
Simmons’ conclusions are based largely on his analysis of the high water content and other signs of aging of Saudi oil fields. Not surprisingly, they have caught the attention of Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s national oil company, which has dismissed his views and remains committed to previously published numbers of the size of Saudi reserves.
Because the Saudi oil industry is state-run, and there is no independent auditor of national reserves, it is impossible to determine just how large — or small — the Saudis’ are.
If the Saudis’ numbers are correct, the kingdom could continue to produce at current levels of about 10 billion barrels a day for the next 50 years, or more. That would give the industrial world time to develop alternative energy sources and prepare for a graceful transition.
If Simmons is right, however, the world could face a dangerous imbalance between rising oil demand and diminishing supply, perhaps within the next 10 years. Oil prices could soar, economies could suffer, and oil-dependent nations, such as the U.S., China and Japan, would be forced to scramble for additional energy sources."
Consistent with my long term view on this sector, Simmons may not be that far off.
Barron’s, NOVEMBER 29, 2004