Everyone - at least everyone in the USA - is talking about falling oil prices:
- US consumers are delighted by the lowest gas prices seen for many years - see "Holiday sales buoyed by low gas prices, falling jobless rate".
- Many businesses and those that work in or depend on the oil industry are fearful. Recent discussion of this can be found in BusinessWeek articles "Oil City Prepares for Pain" and "Oil Drillers Are Under Pressure to Scrap Rigs to Cope With Downturn".
- Policy makers in the USA face new challenges - see "For Energy Policy Makers, Tough Lessons in Downside of Cheap Gas".
- Geopolitical impacts across various nations are in motion or are threatening - see "Falling oil prices: Who are the winners and losers?"
For those interested in the reasons behind the falling price see "Why the oil price is falling":
Four things are now affecting the picture. Demand is low because of weak economic activity, increased efficiency, and a growing switch away from oil to other fuels. Second, turmoil in Iraq and Libya—two big oil producers with nearly 4m barrels a day combined—has not affected their output. The market is more sanguine about geopolitical risk. Thirdly, America has become the world’s largest oil producer. Though it does not export crude oil, it now imports much less, creating a lot of spare supply. Finally, the Saudis and their Gulf allies have decided not to sacrifice their own market share to restore the price.
Several of our younger engineering staff have asked me recently about the falling oil prices and the expected impact on demand for our simulation software in 2015. This is part of the bigger question of the impact of oil prices on the US and global economies.
For companies highly focused on the upstream oil industry - and especially exploration and installation of hardware for new oil extraction - there is no doubt such companies will be impacted and that impact will generally be negative. For example see "As oil prices fall, Alaska governor halts project spending".
However, a large part of the rest of the economy benefits from lower oil prices. Companies and consumers can keep more of their cash to spend on other things. For the industrial sector, projects that may have been too expensive previously now become more economically viable and hence will start to move forward.
This shift from one sector to another sector is discussed in the "Oil City Prepares for Pain" article linked earlier. In speaking of the "Oil City" also known as Houston the article says:
Much of the wealth created by high oil prices has been concentrated on the west side of town, known as the Energy Corridor, which is dotted with the headquarters of some of the biggest oil companies in the U.S.: BP America (BP), ConocoPhillips (COP), and Shell Oil (RDSA:LN). But there’s a boom going on in the eastern, industrial side of Houston, where companies such as Dow Chemical (DOW) and Valero Energy (VLO) are building petrochemical and refining plants. Cheap oil, just like cheap natural gas, will be a boon to them. “Labor could start to migrate across town,” says the University of Houston’s Gilmer.
With respect to AFT, some of our customers are in the upstream oil industry and it is to be expected that our sales into that sector will decrease. However, we expect our sales into other sectors to rise and likely to more than make up for the decrease to the upstream oil sector.
As the drama of the falling price of oil plays out, it provides a fascinating view into the field of Economics and how the Laws of supply and demand work. Opportunity always exists.