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Texas economist warns against exuberance

Year-on-year declines in Texas oil production lagged behind the drop in crude oil prices.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Texas economist warns against exuberance
Texas economist warns against too much optimism about a recovery in the energy sector. Photo by Lilac Mountain/Shutterstock

DALLAS, July 26 (UPI) -- Moderation in crude oil prices during the second quarter of the year shouldn't translate to an overwhelming sense of optimism, a Texas economist said.

Crude oil prices are off about 80 percent from their recent peak in July 2014. After dropping below $30 per barrel in early 2016, prices have been steady at around $45 per barrel more or less since May.

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Karr Ingham, an economist who created a metric gauging the health of the Texas energy sector, said state oil production is lagging behind trends in crude oil prices. Last year, as crude oil prices plummeted, crude oil output in Texas increased 11.5 percent compared with 2015. The first year-on-year decline in Texas crude oil production didn't occur until January 2016, when crude oil prices hit $36 per barrel.

The number of rigs in service in Texas, a number that provides a loose gauge for sector confidence, is on the rise and the six month average in state crude oil production is down only 5 percent from the same period last year. Ingham said he was cautioning against a heightened sense of optimism.

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"There is every chance that the recovery ahead will be frustratingly slow," he said in an emailed report.

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According to Inham's estimates, the number of people working in the exploration and production side of the energy sector in Texas is down more than 20 percent year-on-year.

A report, meanwhile, from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas finds the state manufacturing sector is stable. A production index measuring manufacturing activity came in at zero, after two straight months of negative readings.

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The manufacturing sector in Texas is the second largest in the country, behind California, and represents 11 percent of all manufacturing activity in the United States. The state is the No. 1 oil producer in the country.

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