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Sargon's Corner - Oil Slumps as Big Tech Runs Low on Gas

Is black gold’s day coming to an end? The glut and weak prices seen during COVID-19 may be just the beginning of a new paradigm. According to a recent report from British oil giant BP, demand for oil may have peaked last year and the market might never recover from the current global economic crisis, says a CNN report.

BP’s latest report is an abrupt change from its predictions last year when it expected oil demand growth to continue into the 2030s.

The report lays out three possible scenarios for energy demand and they all forecast a decline over the next 30 years.

“The scale and pace of the decline will be driven by the increasing efficiency and electrification of road transportation,” according to CNN coverage.

If business returns to usual eventually post the pandemic, oil demand would pick up slightly, but then plateau around 2025 and begin to decline after 2030. The other two scenarios, says BP, see governments taking stronger climate change action to curb carbon emissions and significant change in social behaviour. They suggest demand for oil will never fully recover from the effects of the pandemic.

BP’s report speculates that governments will take more aggressive steps to curb carbon emissions and that there will be long-term significant shifts in the way society behaves. For example, social changes – such as increased working from home – could play a part in reducing demand. Covid-19’s impact on global energy has been far-reaching, greatly reducing travel and manufacturing and some analysts believe the crisis will accelerate the shift to renewable forms of energy.

Under those scenarios, demand never fully recovers from the decline caused by the pandemic, which would mean we saw the peak in demand last year.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has also said demand is expected to grow at a slower pace and has forecast a steeper contraction in demand this year than previously predicted.

Usually oil prices rise when production is cut or supply interrupted, but currently global supplies are continuing to rise, while falling demand is the key concern.

BP is clearly not bullish about the demand for the product that has sustained the company since its origins over a century ago. BP is now expected to unveil a new strategy, with a 10-fold increase in annual low carbon investments to $5 billion by 2030. According to the report, it expects its oil and gas production by then to have fallen by 40 percent from 2019 levels.

CNN quoted Hargreaves Lansdown analyst, Susannah Streeter, as saying in a client note: ''As difficult steps go, BP's pirouette from traditional oil company to green energy giant ranks among the more challenging.""

Meanwhile, there are concerns about the recent performance of the major big tech stocks, which have been on a record streak this year.

Bryn Mawr’s chief investment officer Jeff Mills said in a recent CNBC report, that he believes big tech will regain its market leadership. But he has warned of more wild swings as the group works off its recent exuberance.

The Nasdaq recently came off its worst week since March, with mega cap growth stocks like Tesla and Apple among the big tech stocks contributing to the losses.

Stock prices have been reaching points that “maybe don’t make sense”, said Mills, who told CNBC: “I would wait for a little bit more downside before dipping my toes into tech.”

- Sargon Elias is a multi-decade veteran of financial markets with experience spanning across the globe. He is currently CEO of Rockfort Markets.

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