Pleasure at the Gas Pump – Pain in Your Portfolio

February 16th 2016, by Charles D. Keller

Over the past year and a half, we’ve watched the price per gallon of gas steadily decline. If you’re like me, you may have smiled as you filled up your vehicle recently for less than $2 a gallon. However, over this same period of time, you’ve probably noticed your investment portfolio struggling through unusually high volatility and some sharp declines in value.

Let’s take a look at some historical data to gain perspective. Oil is our best measure of fuel & energy prices, and is priced as “dollars per barrel.” In June of 2008, just over 7½ years ago, oil hit its all-time high of $144.78 a barrel. As recent as 20 months ago, in June of 2014, oil was priced at $105.22 a barrel. Fast forward to early January 2016, and oil was priced below $28 a barrel. That represents a staggering 74% decline in oil prices in just over 1½ years.

The free-fall of oil prices has sent some shock waves through the economy and the investment markets. The decline was simply “too much, too fast.” The markets like predictability and oil’s drastic reduction in price brought uncertainty and corresponding volatility. I’m not implying that falling oil prices are the only factor in this period of negative market volatility. There’s additional issues such as China, global uncertainty, ISIS & terrorism, and a U.S. presidential election, just to name a few other factors that have caused uncertainty in the markets. That being said, the most recent market downturn certainly appears to have been directly affected by plunging oil prices.

To encourage all of us to put this in perspective, I am going to refer to a recent blog article written by my associate, Garry North. He reminded us to simply focus on the things we can control & influence and not to obsess over what we can’t control. Plummeting oil prices, global uncertainty and market volatility certainly all fall into the latter category.

So, the next time you’re at the gas pump, enjoy the current low prices, but understand they will change. Perhaps this would be a good time to take that road trip you’ve been thinking about. In 2016, let’s try to spend our time and energy thinking about & taking action on the things we can affect and change.

Happy Motoring, and remember to wear your seat belt!