Gas prices at the pump haven't been this low since 2009, though the prices back then maintained for a very brief time, as oil plummeted during the financial crisis (remember that?), but quickly rebounded as the Fed and other central banks added extreme amounts of liquidity to markets globally and before long, crude oil was back in the $90-100/barrel range.
Last year, the price of a barrel of crude - both Brent and WTI - began a precipitous decline, cutting in half the traded price. As 2014 turned to 2015 and many culprits were blamed (Saudi Arabia, US frackers, Russia(?), the price continued to hover in the $45-65 range. By late summer, all bets were off as the price of a barrel of crude fell into the low-$40 range, and then this month declined into the 30s.
While gas at $2/gallon and lower is a boon for drivers, especially in the US, where commuters and businesses were burdened with gas above $3.00 and sometimes over $4/gallon for years, it's not such a great deal for oil producers, especially the aforementioned frackers, whose marginal profitable price per barrel was estimated at somewhere between $45 and $75 per barrel.
Plenty of rigs have gone idle, but debt has to be serviced, and most of these drillers are on the hook for millions, borrowed from banks when the getting was good, now having to pay back the costs of exploration, drilling and extraction while operating at a loss.
The oil patch is just one element of the global liquidity crunch which may be about to enter a new, more dangerous phase, when, in two days time, the FOMC of the Federal Reserve is supposed to raise the federal funds rate for the first time in more than seven years.
The Fed plans to set the rate at 0.25% for money banks can borrow from the Fed, and, while that may not sound like a big deal to most, it certainly is to banks and corporations, which have been borrowing and spending at record paces since mid-2009.
With the FOMC rate policy decision now less than 48 hours away, there's a growing nervousness on Wall Street over this unprecedented move by the Fed. It's unprecedented because there's a vast amount of evidence that the bubble the Fed has blown is about to be not only pricked, but popped and blown wide open. Simply put, the party is about to end, and the drunks on the dance floor will be looking for a ride home, but nobody will be available for a safe trip, because not just the investment and corporate community, but the Fed itself, is staggering and woozy.
It may be a big, bad boogey man, like the 2000 scare, or the Mayan calendar, or those pesky asteroids which dare to come within 100,000 miles of dear planet earth. Or, it could be the real thing.
Nothing lasts forever, and, from the looks of the bond, commodity, and emerging markets, the long "recovery" and stock market rally seems to have run out of steam. Global trade is down, global GDP keeps being revised lower, US manufacturing is fading, China is becoming a basket case. It all points to reduced growth, or, in proper recession terms, negative growth.
If you're in the market, there's still a day and a half to get out, and probably more, if you can handle small losses. If you're not in the market, but still have to drive, eat, and breath, good news. In recessions and, especially, depressions, everything (except debt) is cheaper.
Hedge, buy, or sell accordingly.