$315B: Forex Reserves Vaporized by Oil Crash

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/20/2016 06:30:00 PM

The Doha meeting of oil producers was such a non-event that I did not even bother posting about it despite its obvious political economy connections. In the run-up to that event, Bloomberg presented data on just how much oil exporters had used from their rainy-day funds as the price of oil fell earlier this year to nearly a third of what it was in 2013. True, prices have recovered somewhat these past few weeks, but not to the level necessary to stabilize any number of marginal petro-states.

In the meantime, those forex reserves are disappearing faster than sane people at a Donald Trump rally:
The world’s top oil exporters are burning through their petrodollar assets at an accelerating pace, increasing the pressure to reach a deal to freeze production to bolster prices. The 18 nations set to gather in Doha on Sunday to discuss a production freeze have spent $315 billion of their foreign-exchange reserves -- about a fifth of their total -- since the oil slump started in November 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In the last three months of 2015, reserves fell nearly $54 billion, the largest quarterly drop since the crisis started.

The petrodollar burn has consequences beyond the oil nations, affecting international fund managers like Aberdeen Asset Management Plc and global currencies markets. Oil nations have traditionally held their reserves in U.S. Treasuries and other liquid securities. Nonetheless, the impact in credit markets has been muted as central banks continue to buy debt.
The bulk of these reserves have been used by Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Arabia accounts for nearly half of the decline in foreign-exchange reserves among oil producers, with $138 billion -- or 23 percent of its total -- followed by Russia, Algeria, Libya and Nigeria. In the final three months of last year, Saudi Arabia burned through $38.1 billion, the biggest quarterly reduction in data going back to 1962.
The oil slump started in November 2014 when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, led by the Saudis, decided to fight for market share -- and bury U.S. producers -- rather than cut production to support prices as it had done in the past. The policy sent Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, down from an annual average of $111 a barrel in 2013 to an average of just $35 so far this year. The plunge forced producers to tap their rainy day funds.
It is said that rivalry with Shia Iran is what caused Sunni Saudi Arabia to scotch the Doha oil meeting where no agreement was reached due to its insistence that Iran sign on to the pledge to freeze production. This begs the question of why Saudi Arabia agreed to participate in this meeting when it knew that it would leave others empty-handed anyway since Iran had indicated it wouldn't participate early on. The real question going forward is how much more reserves Saudi Arabia can go through before it finally cries "uncle," regardless of what the Iranians do.