Where Do Oil Prices Go Next?

The oil market has been nothing if not volatile this autumn. At the beginning of September, the price of benchmark West Texas Intermediate hovered near $47 per barrel after spending most of the summer trading in the mid-$40s. Then suddenly, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, WTI went on a tear, shooting up to $57 per barrel by early November: A tidy 21% gain at a time when oil demand tends to be low.

Had crude finally begun a sustained rebound after several years of depressed prices? Many oil bulls seemed to think so. Or at least, many did until earlier this week, when WTI dropped sharply after the International Energy Agency issued a prediction that global oil demand will grow more slowly next year than previously expected. Are oil prices just taking a breather before the next leg up? Or did this week’s drop mark the end of the autumn rally? Continue reading “Where Do Oil Prices Go Next?”

Sizing Up The GOP Tax Plans

Congressional Republicans’ push to overhaul the tax code is centered around two basic principles: Providing corporations with a big tax cut while helping average Americans. But like almost every major issue lawmakers tackle, competing House and Senate bills aimed at achieving these goals aren’t as simple or clear-cut as their authors want the public to believe.

Independent analyses of the tax plans undercut the GOP’s rosy predictions for how much middle-income earners would benefit (especially the House version). Although Senate Republicans’ measure is akin to the one House Republicans are preparing to approve this week, they take significantly divergent paths. If both bills pass intact, Republicans will have to broker a compromise among themselves to advance final legislation to President Trump’s desk. Such an endeavor would be messy and contentious, with success far from guaranteed. Continue reading “Sizing Up The GOP Tax Plans”

Assertive Saudi Prince Sets His Sights On Lebanon

As you relax over the holiday weekend, pay close attention to what’s happening in Lebanon. Tensions are rising in this perennial Middle East battleground, with potentially big implications for the stability of an already unstable region.

The trouble began Saturday when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying his life was threatened by the Iran-backed militia-cum-political party Hezbollah. Continue reading “Assertive Saudi Prince Sets His Sights On Lebanon”

U.S. Oil Exporters Cash in on Higher Prices, Strong Demand

Here’s something the oil market hasn’t seen lately: A price rally.

After falling as low as $46 per barrel on Aug. 30, when Hurricane Harvey forced Gulf Coast refineries to shut down, benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil has soared to about $57 per barrel. The price run-up reflects several factors: Improving economic growth around the world; hints from OPEC that its current policy of limiting crude exports will continue for longer than first scheduled; and turmoil in Saudi Arabia, where several high-ranking officials and members of the royal family have been arrested on corruption charges. (Anything that threatens the internal stability of OPEC’s largest oil producer is bound to raise concerns about potential interruptions in crude shipments.) Continue reading “U.S. Oil Exporters Cash in on Higher Prices, Strong Demand”

The Driverless Car Race Shifts into High Gear

The race to make driverless car service a reality is revving up. Carmakers are ramping up investment in an array of technologies fundamental to autonomous vehicles. The industry poured more than $80 billion into self-driving technology recently, according to a tally by the Brookings Institution spanning August 2014-June 2017. It’s a full-fledged spending spree on everything from artificial intelligence software to sensors to computer chips.

“Every manufacturer in the world wants to be an early mover—or at least avoid competitive disadvantage,” notes the Brookings report. Investments by car companies, tech giants and venture capitalists will only accelerate. The whole industry is riding on more than a decade of development, steep price drops on sensors and other key hardware and breakthroughs in artificial intelligence software. Carmakers know they are also competing outside of their industry—against Apple, Google and China’s Baidu to name a few—on the technology front. Continue reading “The Driverless Car Race Shifts into High Gear”