Drop in oil prices, but don’t be happy just yet.

27 10 2008

Prices of crude oil dropped from a peak of $147 a barrel in July to below $60 a barrel today. This drop in oil prices has sparked off a price war between, you guessed it, UK’s top four supermarkets-Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. After trying to fill up cash strapped consumer’s shopping carts, they are now trying to fill up their cars. Prices of unleaded petrol fell to just under £1 per litre. The recent fall in the prices is due to the fear that the sharp increase in prices is likely to lead to a fall in demand and hence a fall in revenue.

However, this drop in prices is likely to be short lived. This is because OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries), a cartel of oil producing nations, announced in the wake of the recent drop in prices that they would cut the production of oil by 1.5 million barrels a day by next month since they fear that their revenue will decrease because of the drop in oil prices. This, they hope, will lead to a decrease in supply and since the demand of petrol is likely to go up due to the decrease in prices, it will ultimately lead to an increase in the price of oil, which some experts estimate to be around $80 to $100 per barrel.

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Although it is immoral and unethical, the oil producing nations, in a way, have made a smart move by coming together and working for a common interest, i.e., to make as much money as possible, rather than against each other. Working together ensures that they can control the amount of supply of oil and hence also the price we pay. Oil is by all means almost a necessity which means that the demand is price inelastic; this means that the change in price does not have a huge impact on the level of demand. People still have to fill up their cars to go from A to B, transportation firms still have to fill up their trucks to transport goods and so do buses, trains and airplanes. Also, petrol and diesel have no real alternatives.

However, in a recession, demand is likely to be price elastic, which means that demand is sensitive to the price. So, the move to cut production may lead to a fall in supply, but the increase in prices might also lead to a fall in demand, which would give counterproductive results to what OPEC hope.

Cartels formed by companies are against the law, otherwise we would not have competitive prices and certainly no price wars between supermarkets since they would be busy colluding with each other and fixing prices.

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The value of Pound (£) has been falling against the Dollar ($). The benefit of this is that it makes UK businesses very competitive in foreign markets and allows them to import their goods at a competitive price. The flip side of this is that it increases the cost of importing raw materials of which oil is a part. It is likely that even this will increase the price of petrol and diesel we pay at the fuel station.

So, there is no reason to be happy about the drop in fuel prices since it is only temporary and more of a Christmas offer than a real deal.

$143 for a Barrel of Oil

30 06 2008

The cost for a barrel of oil reached a record level of $143 today (30 June). The direct implication of this is likely to be a rise in prices of petrol and diesel. But it is not only the motorists who are going to be affected, everyone will be affected either directly or indirectly. For example, consumers are already beginning to feel the pinch as prices of day to day items such as bread, eggs, cooking oil, etc are beginning to rise. There are different reasons of this inflation in prices of which one is the rise in fuel prices. The rise in fuel prices leads to an increase in transportation costs which is added to the price of the goods and unfortunately passed on to the consumer.

It is no surprise then that last week, discount stores Aldi and Lidl announced substantial growth in like for like sales. The weekend saw a “price war” between Tesco and Asda as they tried to lend a helping hand and attract consumers already struggling with rising fuel prices and energy bills by slashing prices of everyday items by as much as 50 percent in some cases. Consumers are increasingly beginning to shop around with some using price comparison sites like mySupermarket.co.uk looking for better deals rather than just relying on one retailer. Other retailers like Sainsbury and Morrisons are also reducing prices and might also be forced to join the war by reducing prices in order to retain their customers.

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