We all remember the Black Monday crash of 2020, when the nefarious nexus of coronavirus shutdowns and the OPEC price war sent oil plummeting to US$ 33 per barrel. Stocks and shares went with it, and the rout was real, and global.
Although precipitated by seemingly random, Black Swan events, the signs were there for all to see, that a correction was overdue. Global indices and tracking funds were at an all time high, as was supply chain integration, but the bull market was fragile and brittle. Increased complexity leads to increased vulnerability to disruption and disaster.
Covid-19 was a disaster, in human and economic terms. Though the total number of deaths was nowhere near that of any flu epidemic, emerging in China at a time when global business was so highly geared to Chinese industrial production, exposed everyone to the inter-dependencies of the super complex system. A major setback was inevitable.
Even OPEC’s price war can be linked to the situation. With global interest in the climate crisis, surging production and popularity of electric vehicles, and plunging cost of renewable energy, oil was artificially buoyed by the boom. Once the virus curtailed travel, industry, and shipping, excess supply had nowhere to go.
Now oil sits stubbornly below US$ 40 per barrel, and governments are rolling back carbon taxes as stimulus is needed to keep the shale industry and airlines alive. Oligarchs and sheiks are feeling the pinch, but the global economy needs cheap energy to get over the slump, and kick-start a new bull trend.
Coal is still anathema to global investors, and faces a declining future, but climate change is off the agenda, for now, and car companies like Tesla are struggling to find new customers. After all, only the affluent can afford to be green. For the average Joe, there are more pressing problems, like healthcare and jobs.