Recently, I talked about how crude was beginning to occupy a position as a store of market value ("Why Oil Is Becoming the New 'Gold Standard," May 20, 2013). The development has been a direct consequence of the flight from holding gold.
That flight may be tapering and a new floor established for the next major spike by the metal.
The problem is there is no agreement on which direction that move will be...
These days, a sudden improvement in gold prices may only extend as far as hedge funds and institutional investors covering shorts.
Nonetheless, there is an interesting parallel developing between the plight of gold and crude oil prices.
These Oil Stocks Are the Big Winners in This Year's "Summer Pop"
I have been "in the field" for the past several days and will be back in circulation later this week. But I wanted to send you a note on what's been taking place recently.
The last two trading sessions have seen a spike in oil stocks. The rise has been focused on companies that provide services to early-stage field development, as well as for crude production.
Now, we have witnessed a similar "summer pop" in each of the past three years. It tends to signal a rise in expected medium-term demand for both crude oil and oil products.
However this time around, the improvement isn't reflected in companies across the board, but rather in those emphasizing geographically specific field plays.
How to Invest in Oil's Final Frontier: The Arctic
Investors searching for how to invest in oil in 2013 should be focused on these latest developments from the Arctic.
In fact, countries are racing to get a piece of what could be the final frontier for oil...
As ice melts in the Arctic region, oil and gas trapped beneath the water becomes more accessible.
Money Morning Global Energy Strategist Dr. Kent Moors recently explained to Money Morning members about the search for Arctic oil and gas.
He spoke about the years-in-the-making U.S. Geological Survey's Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal. The study found that 84% of the total undiscovered oil and gas left on the planet is located above the Arctic Circle, mainly offshore and in three huge basins that lie under shallow seas.
Why Oil Is the New "Gold Standard"
Something very interesting just happened at the 2013 MoneyShow in Las Vegas.
The purveyors of doom and gloom were all still hawking their services there. But the primary solution they offer - a cure-all elixir for everything that ails markets - was beginning to wear thin.
The usual conviction that this one asset is the remedy was gone. And the seats at these sessions were only half-filled.
Indeed, gold is beginning to lose its luster.
The erstwhile commodity fix has been under pressure of late as well. Yet, even while most eyes have been on declining commodities - especially gold, silver, and platinum - something else has been happening.
Crude oil is emerging as a new replacement to reflect stored market value.
That is good for folks like us who invest in the energy sector, because it will provide a floor to downward pressures in oil prices. It will not counter all forces reducing the price of oil, but it is likely to temper such movements, allowing us some leverage.
Oil Price Manipulation Awakens Libor, Enron Ghosts
Last July, we warned you that oil prices could potentially be manipulated in similar fashion to the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), and now a recent raid of major oil companies highlights this growing danger to the $3.4 trillion-a-year crude market.
The European Commission last week stormed the offices of Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE ADR: RDS.A, RDS.B), BP PLC ( NYSE ADR: BP), and Statoil ASA (NYSE ADR: STO) as part of the ongoing investigation to find out whether companies are manipulating oil prices and, if so, how long it has been going on and the possible ramifications.
"The commission has concerns that the companies may have colluded in reporting distorted prices to a price reporting agency (PRA) to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products," the EC said in a statement.
Besides major oil companies, big banks are active in the energy market and would likely benefit from any manipulation, David Frenk, director of research at the financial reform group Better Markets and a former commodities analyst, told CNN.
The ordeal has brought back memories not only of last year's Libor scandal but also of the actions taken 12 years ago by Enron to control energy prices.
How to Hedge Oil Prices in Volatile Markets
Welcome to the new pricing environment.
We're already started to see kneejerk reactions to short-term indicators last Friday.
A better than expected jobs report sent crude oil prices higher immediately. The figure was encouraging but not a barnburner. Of course, some massive upward revisions for the previous two months hardly hurt either.
Some of this is the result of investors still gun shy after a massive recession. Now we have certainly had a very nice bull market run and the prospects of another meltdown any time soon are negligible.
Nonetheless, the new drivers of oil prices provide little chance for real dynamics to work themselves out. This is all about reaction. Picture it as the newest investor version of smoke and mirrors.
Today's prospects are very good for the oil sector. Natural gas has pulled back from some heavy gains. Major losses earlier this week were erased on Friday. There is a range forming, and it is likely to remain absent any unexpected developments (largely geopolitical at this point).
Demand will increase as we move into the summer; global levels will rise quicker than domestic in the U.S. or Western Europe. That will provide some upward pressure on oil prices.
Remember as well that, while certain region such as the U.S. have a new largess in unconventional (tight or shale) oil, the full volume of that new production will be more expensive to bring on line. That means the additional extraction will not decrease the overall price.
However, the real question is how to make money if trading is in a narrow range for the near term.
You need to develop a new hedging strategy. Here's how...
Frack or Fail: Is It Time For California's Liberals to Go?
Editor's Note: California is in a LOT of trouble financially. Cities are going under and the state can't balance its budget. It also has almost half a trillion in state pensions to fund and revenue is drying up.
But there is one way out: Tap the largest oil and gas play in the Lower 48.
The question is whether this left-leaning state crowded with special interests like the Sierra Club will actually let oil services companies begin to start fracking on state land.
In our inaugural Money Morning Fight Club brawl, Frank Marchant and Garrett Baldwin square off on this contentious issue. The best part is we are asking you to turn in your scorecard and pick the winner at the end.
So let's get ready to rumble...
Why the "Death of Peak Oil" Still Won't Mean Cheap Oil
Today (Wednesday) an analyst from Citigroup became the latest lemming to declare the death of peak oil.
In a report entitled "The End is Nigh," Seth Kleinman says a combination of flattening demand and rising supply will cause oil prices to slide slightly by the end of the decade to $80-$90 a barrel.
But while oil companies have made many large new discoveries over the past few years, including big shale oil finds in North America and Australia as well as deepwater finds in the Gulf of Mexico, that doesn't mean oil prices will fall.
In fact, according to Money Morning Global Energy Strategist Dr. Kent Moors, it's far more likely that oil prices will continue to rise over the next decade.
Moors points out what most other analysts seem to be missing - that all of the new oil finds present many challenges that will add to the cost of extraction.
"None of this new volume is light, sweet crude," Moors said. "The average wellhead costs continue to go up, and that moves its way downstream to processing, wholesale, and retail."
Forget the Kneejerk Reactions, Oil Prices Are Going Higher
With all of the concern exhibited over Cyprus' problems with banks and China's high-profile billion-dollar solar implosion, the doomsayers are once again predicting an oil price crash.
These guys must really need your money!
Each new geopolitical event is cast as the end of the world as we know it.
The fact is there is nothing on the horizon that will collapse oil prices for one very simple reason.
The prospects for oil prices are increasing, and elevating oil products along with them. Most sections of the U.S. will be testing 2008 gasoline price highs at the pump well before mid-summer.
Yes, we did see a swing down in crude futures during the initial stages of the Cypriot crisis, augmented by some short-lived negative comments on Chinese industrial prospects.
But by last Friday morning, stabilization had occurred and an oversold crude oil futures market began to move back up.
Oil Companies Hope for New Opportunity in Energy-Rich Venezuela
One of the biggest headlines recently related to oil companies was news of the passing of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
"El Commandante" as he was affectionately referred to by his countrymen, at least by those who approved of his leftist policies, was 58 and succumbed to a lengthy battle with cancer.
Predictably, news of Chavez's passing has sparked ample speculation about what the future holds for Venezuela's oil industry and those oil companies looking to profit from a possible renaissance there.
Venezuela is South America's largest oil producer and an OPEC member. In what may come as a surprise to some investors, Venezuela could be called the Saudi Arabia of OPEC.
In other words, the South American nation is home to about 300 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, compared to about 270 billion barrels in Saudi Arabia. That is according to OPEC's own estimate.
Not only that, but Venezuela is home to the largest natural gas reserves in the Western Hemisphere.
Given those superlatives, it is easy to understand why some Western oil companies are cautiously optimistic about what the future may hold for them in Venezuela.