Virtually every analyst has been puzzled by the seeming immunity of stock markets to soaring oil prices this year. In fact, stocks and crude have been tracking almost one to one on the upside. The charts below a friend at JP Morgan sent me go a long way towards explaining this apparent dichotomy. The first shows the number of barrels of oil needed to generate a unit of GDP, which has been steady declining for 30 years. The second reveals the percentage of hourly earnings required to buy a gallon of gasoline in the US, which has been mostly flat for three decades, although it has recently started to spike upwards.
The bottom line is that conservation, the roll out of more fuel efficient vehicles and hybrids, and the growth of alternatives, are all having their desired effect. Developed countries are getting six times more GDP growth per unit of oil than in the past, while emerging economies are getting a fourfold improvement. The world is gradually weaning itself off of the oil economy. But the operative word here is “gradually”, and it will probably take another two decades before we can bid farewell to Texas tea, at least for transportation purposes.