Gas prices are dropping! Woohoo! No complaints here. In fact, I’ve already begun to feel the weekly cost difference, and what a sharp contrast since the post I made a month ago about how insane prices had gotten. So, my question is this…
First, let’s get the facts out of the way before I start asking about the “why’s”…
Here’s the curve…
Look at the dip on the end of that puppy, will you?! Gas prices (national average) are down $0.337 over this time last year, dropping $0.227 ($2.845 the week of 8/28 vs. 2.618 this week) in the last three weeks and almost 11 cents/gallon in the last week alone. Now it’s not like I can now afford that surgery I’ve always wanted, but still I say again… Woohoo!
So, the big question is why?
Well, supply and demand are constant. China didn’t see a major dying off of 100,000,000 citizens or anything. No radically new technology. There are only three factors… Politics, Speculation and Complacency.
Iraq is a mess. Iran and South Korea are sabre rattling. Good ole’ Putin and our friend Hugo down in Venezuela are still as much NOT our friends as ever. The big variable that’s changed … cease fire and UN troops in Lebanon. Do I think that really matters? No.
Yes, it adds to a sense of stability (or rather, detracts from an overall sense of instability), but it’s not making the 23-cent difference in the price of regular unleaded, is it?
No other way to slice it, speculators drive the market. Traders get out on the floor and bid this stuff up as high as it can go — based on their belief they can capitalize on fear and a healthy dose of mob mentality. And when something goes right (Israel-Lebanon, as the world perceives it) and prices are already astronomically high (which they were), then people become hesitant to continually throw their lot in with the doomsayers and bet that prices will run up endlessly. And a correction occurs, as it is / has / will. And we get to drive to work a little cheaper. And some of the bolder in the (speculator) business are losing their shirts in the process.
Here’s a big one. The American people (especially) just have short attention spans. Something like a war in Iraq gets on the radar only briefly. There’s a reason why the news media has to continually “drum up business” by bombarding us with the constant drama, death and destruction. And it even has to escalate. Otherwise, people will stop paying attention. As long as bombs aren’t dropping on their favorite Starbucks, people just cease to pay attention quick — if they ever paid attention at all.
And although this definitely applies to the huddled masses, they aren’t whom I’m talking about here. Really I think this ties back to the investors. The kind of complacency that goes hand-in-hand with a long-running war in our country lends itself well to the cold feet I described above. If the average investor doesn’t feel the immediacy of the doomsday predictions, then they get scared and start selling — or betting the other way. Without the riveting fear to keep them motivated, natural market forces will course correct. Which is why the slightest good news after a massive string of bad news causes such a correction.
So, it that it? I’ve heard a number of more colorful theories, even including that since Oil Companies have come under scrutiny in the past month or so, they’re now afraid and dropping prices to get the heat off. And I have to say, as someone who very rarely buys into conspiracy theories, I don’t buy it. It’s interesting, but I just don’t think so. What do you think?
The problem is that I don’t see how the other three factors would have such an impact. >10% in 3 weeks? Am I underestimating the power of a natural course correction? Or of paranoia? Maybe so, but I’m curious what you think.
So that’s my question to all of you… “What do you think?” What’s driving prices down? Have I covered it, or am I missing something?