Could oil be the best play for providing inflation protection? Oil as we all know is priced globally in dollars however it is a liquid, global market making it in my opinion an excellent inflation hedging vehicle. If we look at the recent run up in oil while taking a look at the historical inventory, consumption and pricing data we see that we are near historically high supply with slightly reduced global demand. Inventories look strong and the rate of inventory draw down looks very, very low. This begs the question why the steady price increase? I believe that oil's recent strength can be attributed to the vast increase in M1 (Money Supply) created through the various, Federal Reserve lead, quantitative easing rounds. I have provided a variety of charts to help you visualize my argument.
Oil's Recent Pricing: The price has been moving steadily upward.
Global Crude Supply: Global Supply has been steady and is expected to increase.
Global Crude Consumption: Consumption has been steady however there has been a 2%+ decline in global demand in 2009. In fact, the decline sank global demand below the pre-bubble year of 2005 by .20%.
Source: US DOE
Global Crude Inventories: Were slightly down in 2009 but are forecast to increase in 2010 before heading lower again in 2011.
Global Crude Inventory Withdrawals: Withdrawals declined steeply and are forecast to remain flat. So basically less demand.
M1 Money Stock: So if supply is steady and demand is down even slightly with no major increases in demand forecast why the price rise? Take a look at the graph below. The graph showcases increases in the M1 Money Stock, you can see that in 2009/2010 there has been a dramatic increase in dollars globally. In 2009/2010 there was an increase of roughly $400 billion or roughly 28%. Now remember oil is a globally traded commodity priced in dollars. As the value of the dollar declines the price of oil must rise globally. This is why I believe oil is an excellent hedge against future inflation. Now what stock represents the best vehicle this is your decision.