Yesterday's plan for an afternoon of golf with Sue and Charlie ended suddenly when the lightening siren went off before we finished the second hole. Not wanting to leave Florida without playing golf, I showed up at my local course this morning hoping for an opening.
The starter got me out with a couple from Switzerland. Liz is a hospital administrator and Bruno just retired after trading oil for more than 40 years from offices in Singapore, Japan and Switzerland. Much as I dislike talking business on the golf course, this was an opportunity I could not pass up.
Here's what Bruno had to say:
JH: Do you miss trading?
BB: I never thought we would see oil over $100.
JH: How much of that is due to the weak dollar?
BB: A majority. That plus speculation. You have increased demand from places like China and India. But speculators have pushed prices past what demand can support.
JH: What about supply?
BB: There are some refinery bottlenecks, but we don't have an immediate crude shortage.
JH: What do you think about the new interest in global warming and conservation?
BB: Actually, I feel a little guilty. I spent my career helping to put all that carbon in the air.
JH: Do you think we can sustain the current interest in clean energy?
BB: I hope so. We'll see what happens when energy prices drop again.
JH: You sound pretty certain that will happen.
BB: Prices will drop suddenly when speculators realize that they have gone beyond what the fundamentals will support. Over time the dollar will get stronger too. It doesn't deserve to get stronger, but it will.
JH: How much will prices drop?
BB: That is difficult to calculate. There are too many variables. You have subjective variables like the panic of speculators caught on the wrong side of the trades, and a lot of other variables like inflation.
JH: The government statistics still show relatively low inflation numbers.
BB: The government must not buy milk or bread.
JH: When will oil prices drop?
BB: Do you think this putt will break to the right?
I took the hint. My interview was starting to distract Bruno from his game. He had been straight off the tee all morning, and now he was pushing everything to the right. Liz noticed too, and she stepped in to get Bruno focused back on golf.
She began by saying something in German that sounded a little harsh. Bruno straightened his spine. Then she switched to English to give him the most basic golf advice, but in the sweetest way. "I'll watch where the ball goes, darling," she said. "You can keep your head down."