Course:EOSC311/2020/Pricing of Gold and Oil in the Market

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Introduction

One of the main ways we use oil is through gasoline to fuel cars

Gold and Oil are two extremely valuable commodities to modern-day society. Both are non-renewable and are limited by nature, which means that their supply is continuously being depleted at a rate faster than they are replenished. However, they are incredibly necessary to our daily lives. Oil is what powers the lifestyles were are able to live today, fuelling our most common methods of transportation. By-products of oil production are also used to create plastics, chemicals, and fertilizers, among other things[1]. Gold is found in jewellery and has also historically been used for dentistry, medicine, and electronics, as well as for investment purposes[2]. These scarce resources are both harvested from Earth, but there is a high contrast to their recent responses to market events and they way they are initially priced in the market.

Summary

This page will discuss how gold and oil are created and collected as well as the main uses of the commodities. This is done in order to demonstrate proof behind the value of these assets. It is also highly interesting to contrast the pricing of these valuable resources, and to note how their values change in different ways during times of crisis. Insights will be provided as to why their value normally rises and falls together, yet recently has changed to fluctuate in opposing ways during extreme market events. The future of gold and oil pricing will also be considered, as well as the short-term and long-term impacts of the Coronavirus Pandemic on these prices. The social and environmental implications of the extraction and consumption of gold and oil will be discussed in this section in order to identify whether this will impact the long-term future of the price of gold and oil as well as the vitality of their industries.

Statement of Connection

The study of gold and oil's pricing in the market relates directly to Geology concepts that are discussed in EOSC 311. Gold and oil are two commodities that were created due to Geological processes and are fundamental parts of Earth's Geology. Their scarcity is partially what makes them such valuable resources, however, it is also due to the importance humans place on them for daily activities. As a Finance student at Sauder, I was primarily interested in what happened to gold and oil's pricing at the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic. This is what influenced my decision for this project, as I became even more curious about why this event had such a different response from how the markets normally react. In order to understand how the pricing of these assets generally responds to market events, and why they are so valuable, it is crucial to look into how gold and oil form and why they are so essential to society in the first place. The processes by which gold and oil are found, extracted, and consumed are discussed in this post, as it this is an important connection to the price of both assets. Their inherent value is partially attributable for the basis of price for gold and oil, because they are tangible, non-renewable goods that come from Geological processes. This post will also look into the negative aspects of the gold and oil industry, including the social and environmental impacts, which are affecting the carbon cycle and therefore leading to climate change. The processes by which gold and oil are extracted have also been researched in order to create cleaner practices, which will also be discussed. All of this has a major impact on the way that the gold and oil industries will move forward, which has a very strong connection to the concepts that are discussed in EOSC 311.

Main Text

How Gold Deposits are Found and Mined

Gold is a naturally occurring element that can be found in deposits such as volcanogenic massive sulphur deposits or sometimes porphyry vein-type deposits[3]. In order for a gold deposit to be economically viable to warrant the creation of a mine, there needs to be a concentration factor of 6ppm. This is 2,000 times the typical background level of 0.003ppm, which is the average concentration level of gold in typical rocks[3]. Once enough research and exploration has been completed in order to locate a spot for a gold mine, which is a process called prospecting, a mine must be created in order to extract the gold. Historically, as in the Klondike and Cariboo Gold Rushes from the mid-to late-19th century, prospectors searching for gold would pan for it in a river because the gold would sink to the bottom of the pan as it was more dense. However, as large corporations took over the mining industry and decided to revolutionize the way gold was collected, increasingly bigger-scale operations began to take place. When gold is close enough to the surface, though this is becoming increasingly rare, an open pit mine is created by blasting sections of rock away and sorting through the resulting pieces of rock. For deeper deposits, an access shaft is drilled into the ground, and multiple vertical pits are dug along this shaft where explosives are set off in order to send all of the rocks to the bottom of the pit where they are sent up to the surface and sorted through[4].

Once the combination of gold and other rocks and minerals is brought to the surface in chunks, they are crushed down into dust that is combined with water to create a mixture called slurry. Cyanide and oxygen are added in order to remove the gold from the rocks in a process called leaching. The gold is sifted from the other rocks and smelted at high temperatures in order to mould the liquid gold into solid bars which are sent to a refinery to remove any other remaining minerals[4].

Gold is the second most valuable mining sector in Canada, valued at $5.9 Billion. The total value of the mining sector in Canada is $36.7 Billion[5]. As mentioned, though it is mainly used in jewellery, it has also been used in dentistry, medicine, and electronics. It has also long been used as a mechanism for trading and as a form of currency because of how rare it is[6]. There have been approximately only 152,000 Metric Tons of gold found as of 2014. To put this into perspective, 901,000,000 Metric Tons of iron are found every year[4].

How Oil is Created and Extracted

Oil Well

Oil was formed when dead marine organisms sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor millions of years ago, and were then buried under layers of sedimentary rock. Extreme heat and pressure allowed this accumulation of organic matter to transform into oil[7]. Oil is trapped in reservoirs underground in locations where oceans either currently are or were once located in. Methods of exploration such as seismic, surveying, and rock core sampling are undertaken by Geologists in order to determine the location of these reservoirs. From this point, an oil well (see picture to the right) is drilled into the ground in order to extract the oil and bring it to the surface. However, what comes out of the ground is not the final product. Oil next needs to be transported to a refinery where it undergoes a process that is required to create petroleum products that we are able to use[7]. Main products include gasoline for fuelling our vehicles, synthetic plastics and chemicals, asphalt, and pesticides and fertilizers[7].

The reason that oil is scarce is because it is a non-renewable resource. This means that there is a limited amount of oil on Earth, and once it is consumed it cannot be replenished or if it can it will take an extremely long time to do so and cannot be replenished as fast as it is consumed. This creates value, because not only is it necessary in every day life, but because there is only so much oil that can be extracted there is a limit on the supply that makes this commodity seem more rare and desirable. Experts estimated in 2014 that reserves hold roughly 1.688 trillion remaining barrels of oil, equaling approximately 53 years of consumption left[8]. This timeline on how much longer society will be able to use oil means that oil may not be traded in the market forever, and alternative sources of energy will soon have to emerge as dominants in the market in order to continue current habits of consumption. These long-term implications will be discussed in this page's long-term outlook of oil and gold prices below.

Methods of Pricing Gold and Oil

The pricing of gold and oil is relatively market-based. As both are important commodities, price usually holds quite steady with minor increases or decreases in value based on trends in market demand. These trends can be based upon changes in taste, use, or due to their ability to hold value in a time of crisis. However, during times of crisis, the prices of oil and gold have been known to change drastically.

The way that the price of gold is set had not changed for over a century, until March 2015. This was previously completed through a process called the "London Gold Fix" over the phone by the London Gold Market Fixing Company. However, the ICE Benchmark Administration changed this telephone-based system to an electronic auction system. Twice per day, at 10:30 AM and 3:00 PM UK Time, they post the LBMA Gold Price in USD. This price is then adjusted every 45 seconds[9].

In contrast, the price of oil is determined largely through the supply and demand of the market. Other than market sentiment, there are no other factors that contribute to the pricing of this commodity[10]. However, the correlation between overall economic well-being and oil prices must not be ignored. Four different research papers cited in the Energy Strategy Reviews Journal article discovered that there is a negative relationship between economic growth and oil prices for oil importer companies[11].

Much research has been conducted to determine whether gold and oil prices move in a synchronized fashion. There are two especially interesting studies that have developed important findings. Narayan et al. determined that an increase in oil prices can cause investors to turn to gold due to inflation[12], therefore meaning that in the long run, gold and oil tend to move in the same direction. Le and Chang found that changes in oil prices can have such a positive impact on gold prices that it can even be used to forecast gold price volatility[13]. It has been found through market research that 60% of monthly gold price movements may be determined by three factors: real interest rate expectations, fluctuations in long-term energy prices, and central bank policy[14]. Currency depreciation can also impact gold prices[9], as the price of gold has a negative relationship with currency. This is because as the value of a currency increases, less currency is required in order to purchase a commodity such as gold[15].

Within recent years, up until the coronavirus pandemic, the prices of each asset had been performing on an upward trend, moving in the same direction[16][17]. As gold and oil both have a negative relationship with economic growth and currency value, it can be deduced that the market must have been performing slightly negatively during this time period.

Affects of Large Market Events and Crises

How gold prices have responded in every financial crisis since 1970

Crises such as wars and natural disasters have always had an affect on the pricing of gold and oil in the market. Gold has been seen as a safe investment due to the incredible way it holds value. This is why gold is often bought in the midst of an economic downturn or at a time of inflation[6]. Therefore, the market for gold normally responds in a time of crisis by demand increasing, which in turn causes an increase in the price. It was said in an article of the Energy Strategy Reviews Journal that "...gold price, as oil, is a good indicator for evaluating the strength of the economy, since the gold price rose in uncertain and fragile economic circumstances"[11]. Gold was suggested to be a 'wealth preserver' and a 'safe haven' in times of crises and inflation, used by investors for financial arbitrage and diversification of risk[11]. An example given was the 2008 financial crisis when gold prices rose 24% in 2009 in the midst of an economic recession[18].

Unlike gold, oil has a much less uniform response. For times of crises, it was found that the origin of market shocks determines the way in which oil and gold prices are impacted[11]. This means that contrary to normal market situations, gold and oil do not always move in the same direction when large events occur, and do not necessarily move in the opposite direction of economic growth and currency value. However, when looking at how oil prices respond in times of crisis, there is a different reaction than one might assume given the fact that oil is such a precious commodity. Instead of being used to hold value, such as gold, oil prices have generally plummeted in times of financial crisis. Looking at the 2008 recession, prices tanked from $147 per barrel in July 2008 to $32 per barrel in December 2008[19].

As determined in the previous section titled methods of pricing gold and oil, it was made clear that oil prices are especially significant because they can influence other parts of the economy. Additional research by Bildirici et al. has shown that increases in oil prices from 2001-2007 in part caused budget deficits in the USA that persist today, even having an impact on the magnitude of the 2008 Financial Crisis[20]. A book by Rigoberto Ariel Yepez-Garcia cited research that found "the economies of oil-importing countries are adversely affected by high oil prices..."[21] Results of oil prices increasing are that fiscal deficit can arise, inflation can occur which reduces real wages and therefore reduces household savings, and a trade balance can be thrown off for net-importing countries when the "...value of the country's exports decreases relative to that of its imports."[21] It was also noted that such events are amplified in developing countries that need to adjust by spending less money and therefore negatively effecting their real economic activity.[21]

It is also important to look at the rebounds of prices to their usual levels: taking into consideration how long this took, and why price was affected so much by different events. Following the 2008 Financial Crisis, Gold prices gradually fell back down. In 2012 the price increases started to slow, reaching only a 5.4% increase that year. After this, they slowly decreased back to pre-crisis levels[22] because as previously mentioned, gold moves in the opposite direction of the US dollar. Meanwhile, Oil prices also rebounded, returning close to where they were before the crisis. Oil prices returned to sit between $70 and $120 per barrel until 2014, and by 2016 had returned to previous levels[23].

COVID-19's Affects on Gold and Oil Pricing

Oil Market Response to Coronavirus Pandemic

It is important to look at one of the most impactful events that has taken place within recent years: the Coronavirus Pandemic. This event absolutely shook the market, with the pricing of both gold and oil discussed a lot in the news for much of this Pandemic due to dramatic changes in the price of both commodities.

This market event was triggered by a growing concern over International business as the Coronavirus began to spread in February. Then, the International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecast, providing troublesome warnings that "dire scenarios" may be on the horizon[24].

This had a very negative impact on the market. In addition to gold and oil prices being dramatically effected, the entire market took a downturn of incredible magnitude. After the 1987 Black Monday market crash, the US Securities and Exchange Commission established market wide "circuit-breakers" to prevent a reoccurrence. In the event that market prices drop 7%, 13%, and 20% in one day, the circuit-breaker pause trading for 15 minutes in an attempt to calm trading[25]. Until this year, the circuit-breakers had only been triggered once. However, once the Coronavirus Pandemic hit, the circuit-breaker was triggered four times in the month of March. The market dropped 7% on March 9th, 12th, 16th, and 18th[25].

Likewise, oil prices faced catastrophic decreases. Not only had they reached their lowest price in 18 years by the end of March[26], but actually even hit negative levels in April and May[27]. The lowest point was April 20th, 2020, when the price of crude oil was -37.63 per barrel[17]. This was the first recorded time that oil prices had reached a negative value[28]. These drastic prices were partially due to a drop in the demand for such commodities, but also because of the increasing supply on the market. As the space to store oil was used up, traders not only realized they would have no place to store oil once they bought it, but sellers also were running out of storage space to keep the product[28]. This phenomenon is a perfect reminder that gold and oil, unlike other goods traded in the market, are tangible assets compared to something like a share in a company.

In contrast, during the month of April gold prices were at their highest price in nearly seven years[15]. This is because as markets plummeted and fears of a recession came to light, gold was once again seen as a 'safe haven' and was a desirable investment in order to hedge risk.

Regardless of the massive fluctuations that have taken place in these markets, it is important to note that as of June 2020, the prices of gold and oil had already begun to return to their previous levels. Since May, gold prices were starting to decrease, although this change was very minimal[16]. In addition, though a far way from where oil prices were before, when they averaged at $64 per barrel in 2019, the price of oil had rebounded to roughly $40 per barrel by June 2020[29]. This occurred in part due to a market-wide calmness that had finally settled the frenzy of transactions once the acceleration of the Coronavirus Pandemic decreased. However, another reason that oil prices increased was because the UAE's OPEC+ group had decided to decrease oil output[29]. The increase in demand and decrease in supply allowed the market to shift the price back upwards.

The Future of Oil and Gold Pricing

As with anything, it is important to consider the forecasted values of both gold and oil. Will the price go up as each becomes more scarce in the environment? Or will the price go down as we find replacements and substitutes and our dependency decreases? Will price fluctuate, remain stable, or be unpredictable? Will these always be valuable resources, and will the value of one change more than the other? It is not only important to look at the future of these industries, comparing and contrasting their vitality, but also how the pricing of each commodity is likely to change. Another question worth looking at is whether these changes can even be predicted. As seen with the Coronavirus Pandemic, there will always be events that will shake the market. Will this have a long term impact?

Short-term outlook for oil and gold prices

Short-Term Forecast of Gold Prices

In the short-run, the Coronavirus Pandemic will likely be the biggest determinant of price for oil and gold. Unfortunately, the future of the Coronavirus Pandemic is highly unpredictable, meaning that the severity and length of this global event is largely unknown. Regardless of the uncertainty, market experts have predicted that the anticipated second wave will "crush oil markets"[30]. In an attempt to minimize this next downturn of the oil market, Saudi Arabia is set to export the lowest amount of oil to the US in 35 years[31], as a decrease in excess supply will help to keep prices a little higher. However, the International Energy Agency has predicted that oil demand will not return until 2022[32]. Therefore, regardless of any efforts that suppliers make to keep the industry from losing even more, it is clear that oil prices will not return to normal for the near future, at least until 2022.

Global GDP may decrease as much as 3% this year[30], which will likely trigger continued increases in the value of gold. Forecasts predict that gold prices will increase until the end of 2020, at which point prices will start to slowly return to where they were before the Pandemic, as shown by the graph to the right[16]. This means that in the short-run, gold prices will for the most part remain steady with only a slight change.

Long-term outlook for oil and gold prices

If anything has been proven throughout this page, it is that prices are relatively hard to predict. No one can know when the next recession or global event will hit, causing turbulence in the outlook of oil and gold prices. Following the pandemic and the stabilization of prices, the International Energy Agency has predicted that this is "just a short-term blip, and that oil demand will soon return to its previous path."[32]

Unfortunately, other experts are predicting a much more troubling scenario for oil prices in the long-run, showing that this event may have lasting impacts. Standard Chartered Analysts suggested in June that they "think that much of the market is ignoring the downside risks to demand arising from both economic weaknesses and permanent changes in patterns of energy use."[32]

Fossil Fuels are Changing the Carbon Cycle

Oil extraction and oil consumption both have obvious impacts on the environment and even on the health of animals and humans in the biosphere. A scientific journal article posted by the United States National Library of Medicine found that "oil extraction can impact local soil, water, and air, which in turn can influence community health."[33] It also stated that "the current evidence suggests potential health impacts due to exposure to upstream oil extraction, such as cancer, liver damage, immunodeficiency, and neurological symptoms. Adverse impacts to soil, air, and water quality in oil drilling regions were also identified."[33] A 2015 Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel Report on The Behaviour and Environmental Impacts of Crude Oil Released into Aqueous Environments found that "despite the relative infrequency of crude oil spills into aqueous environments in Canada, the consequences of spills into sensitive waterbodies can be substantial, not only economically but also impacting human health, safety and the environment."[34] Another book by Claire Valenti titled Crude Oils : Production, Environmental Impacts and Global Market Challenges found that "pollution and infections attributable to toxic substances from crude oil and its derivatives can have long and short term health implications on animals and humans. Crude oil dependence is also contributory to global warming and its complications from climate change."[35] As seen by the picture on the right, this can also have a tremendous impact on the Global Carbon Cycle, which is what is contributing to Climate Change and Global Warming.

It is curious whether these obvious repercussions of oil extraction and oil consumption will have a negative impact on the long-term vitality of oil prices. As consumer have begun to expect more from large corporations in terms of corporate social responsibility, a trend that has been researched since the late 1990s as documented by the Association for Consumer Research[36], it is possible that this will have an impact on market sentiment and therefore on oil prices over the long-term. The divestment of fossil fuel companies has already begun to take place on the stock market due to a trend called responsible investing with many large investment groups beginning to take part[37], even UBC[38]. It is curious whether a similar response will occur on the oil market over a vast time horizon. An important realization is that the environmental aspects are inherent in the extraction and consumption of oil. Burning the oil in order to create energy has enormous impacts on climate change and global warming, so unlike other industries little can be done to make oil consumption more environmentally friendly.

It is important to note that oil consumption will almost certainly subside within the long-term. This is not only because of these environmental and social factors driving increases in the use of and sentiment toward renewable energy sources, but also because it has been estimated that there is only 53 years worth of oil consumption left before reservoirs run dry. Therefore, oil use will likely decline, making way for these other sources of energy.[8] Oil will likely not be traded on the market forever due to the relatively short supply that is left. It is interesting to wonder exactly how soon this may become apparent in oil prices.

Shifts in Trends of Global Fossil Fuel Consumption

It is also possible that the Coronavirus Pandemic has sparked what experts are calling a terminal decline of the oil industry[31]. This means that in the midst of oil prices being "pushed over the edge," this event may have paved the way for renewable energy sources market to emerge. Specifically, experts anticipate that nuclear power may come to the forefront because of the existing infrastructure that is in place from fossil fuels[31]. The use of liquefied natural gas and wind, solar, and hydro power may also increase. All in all, the increased use of these new resources might be the turning point for the oil industry. Prices would likely not rebound in this scenario as demand decreases. This would be the first major shift in the energy sector since the decline of coal.

In comparison, it is highly probable that the prices of gold will remain at a steady incline over the long-term. Gold will always be seen as the "safe-haven" investment that can withstand recessions, market events, and overall provide extremely stable returns. And, contrary to the oil market, there is less pressure to move away from gold. Gold mining does have environmental repercussions[39] and social issues[40], as explained through scientific journal articles. However, it is shown in a study by Koop and Tole and a book by Ronald Eisler that the environmental inefficiencies are not as extreme as one might assume[41][42]. Recently published journal articles and books have reported that quite a bit of work is being done within the industry to create cleaner and more responsible practices[43][44]. Therefore, it is probable that environmental or social issues will not be determining factors in the long-term outlook of gold prices. In fact, as cleaner and responsible practices develop and improve the sentiment towards mining, it is possible that this may even drive gold prices up.

Conclusion

This page has discussed the volatility of gold and oil pricing in the market. The basis on which gold and oil have value is that each are important commodities, with oil especially being a critical resource for almost everything humans do[1]. The value of gold and oil relates back to concepts discussed in EOSC 311 because of the scarcity of both goods, as well as the expensive process that is required to bring each good to market. Gold and oil were created due to Geological processes, and this needs to be considered in order to know more about their pricing.

This means that both gold and oil have inherent value, as they are tangible commodities, unlike other assets that are traded on the market such as company shares. Gold is not as necessary to our daily lives but is desirable due to its use in jewellery[2] and also because of the stable way in which gold holds value[15]. It is seen as a safe haven investment, meaning that many investors turn to gold in times of crisis or inflation in order to hedge or diversify away risk. Therefore, gold prices increase when the market is not performing well, forming a negative relationship with economic growth and currency value. Contrary, an increase in oil prices can not only influence the severity of a financial crisis[20], but prices of oil tend to plummet when there is a negative market event[19], acting against the negative relationship oil normally has with the market[11]. This means that although gold and oil move in a synchronized fashion in the normal market situations, gold and oil do not react in the same way during a time of crisis.

The Coronavirus Pandemic is a catastrophic example of the impact that a real world event can have on oil and gold prices. Gold prices soared[15] while oil prices reached negative values for the first time in history[17], and the market circuit-breakers were triggered four times in March after they had only been triggered once since their implementation in 1987[25]. The short-term implications of this event will not be significant, as both gold and oil prices are expected to return to their former levels by 2022[16][32]. Gold prices will trend slightly upwards in the long-run but other than this will remain relatively stable. Advancements are being made in the mining industry in order to develop cleaner and more socially responsible practices[43][44] which will likely have a positive impact on gold's price. However, in the long run, it is possible that the Oil industry has now entered into a terminal decline, giving rise to other renewable sources of energy such as nuclear, wind, solar, and hydro power[31]. Not only are oil production and consumption extremely harmful events for the environment, contributing to pollution and climate change[33][34][35], but there is estimated to only be enough oil for 53 more years[8]. As discussed in EOSC 311, it is apparent that the increase in greenhouse gasses is leading to an abundance of carbon dioxide and water vapour in Earth's atmosphere, which is leading to climate change and global warming as the heat from the sun is trapped when it reflects off of Earth's surface. This will have an impact on the gold and oil industries in the long run due to market sentiments and the change in practices to extract and consume these goods. This makes the gold and oil markets extremely well connected to concepts of EOSC 311 and the processes by which gold and oil are collected in the industry. Long-term pricing will not be determined simply by market events: it will also have to do with this innovation.

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