Falling oil prices have never correctly predicted an economic downturn. On all recent occasions when the price of oil was halved – 1982-1983, 1985-1986, 1992-1993, 1997-1998, and 2001-2002 – faster global growth followed.
Conversely, every global recession in the past 50 years has been preceded by a sharp increase in oil prices. Most recently, the price of oil almost tripled, from $50 to $140, in the year leading up to the 2008 crash; it then plunged to $40 in the six months immediately before the economic recovery that started in April 2009, Kaletsky wrote.
A powerful economic mechanism underlies the inverse correlation between oil prices and global growth. Because the world burns 34 billion barrels of oil every year, a $10 fall in the price of oil shifts $340 billion from oil producers to consumers.
Thus, the $60 price decline since last August will redistribute more than $2 trillion annually to oil consumers, providing a bigger income boost than the combined US and Chinese fiscal stimulus in 2009.
So, if you want to understand falling oil prices forget about Chinese consumption and focus on Middle East production. And if you want to understand the world economy, forget about stock markets and focus on the fact that cheap oil always boosts global growth, Anatole Kaletsky concluded.