US crude oil inventories do not appear to be especially low in the graph above, showing June 1998-June 2008 (from Bloomberg). But it is true that they are not especially high either.
We are talking about relatively integrated world markets, however, so it is world inventories that should matter most. According to the International Energy Agency’s Oil Market Report, oil inventories held in developed countries have been above average during most of the last year, as the next graph shows. They rose sharply in January 2008, which happens to be the month when the very aggressive cuts in US interest rates took place. These numbers are far from conclusive, but still…
The theory is meant to explain the mystery why prices of virtually all mineral and agricultural prices are high, not just oil, and in some ways fits others better. Inventories of some commodities are indeed high now. The price of gold, the last graph shown, is a good example. Here the evidence supports the theory (1) that easy monetary policy has driven up the price, and (2) that one channel is low interest rates making it more attractive to stockpile the yellow metal. But, as with oil, the biggest inventory is the one underground.
[Thanks to Pravin Chandrasekaran.]
Originally published at Jeff Frankel’s Weblog and reproduced here with the author’s permission.