Oil Market Review

Monthly Review

  • October 2019

    In September 2019, Brent North Sea quality opened the quotations at $58.65/b and closed at $60.78/b, while West Texas Intermediate grade started the listings at $54.65/b, closing at $54.30/b.

    As a direct consequence of the military drone attacks, which occurred on September 14th, both the European-Asian benchmark and the American blend reached their monthly high, respectively pricing $69.18/b on September 17th and $63.07/b on September 16th. In particular, drone strikes hit the Khurais field and the Abqaiq plant lowering Saudi’s production by 5,700,000 b/d. Moreover, U.S. commercial stocks decreased by 6,912,000 barrels from August 30th to September 6th.

    In the second half of the month, barrel prices decreased due to the following factors:

    1. In accordance to Reuters, Saudi Aramco, which is the State-owned oil company, restored its pre level attacks output capacity to 11,300,000 b/d on September 25th. However, that news was not confirmed by the Wall Street Journal. Instead, it was confirmed that the repairs at the Khurais field and the Abqaiq processing facility may take several months and not weeks;

    2. U.S. inventories increased from 416,068,000 barrels on September 6th to 419,538,000 barrels on September 20th (+3,470,000 barrels), instead of a predicted decline of 6,500,000 barrels;

    3. Despite the United States of America accusing Iran of being the perpetrator of the attacks towards Saudi Arabia, Washington did not respond to Teheran with a direct retaliation (war). Meanwhile, Iran announced on September 23rd that the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which was previously seized, was released;

    4. On September 27th, Saudi Arabia agreed to a partial ceasefire against the Houthi fighters in Yemen.

    In the short term, the barrel prices trend will depend on the results of the upcoming U.S.-China talks that will resume in October, as was decided by China’s vice President, Liu He, U.S. Secretary of State, Steven Mnuchin, and the U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, on September 5th. Actually, the commercial dispute between the two super powers is also affecting global economy and oil demand.

    by Demostenes Floros
  • September 2019

    In August 2019, oil prices decreased due to both economic and geopolitical factors. In particular, Brent North Sea quality started the quotations at $64.01/b and closed at $60.36/b, while West Texas Intermediate opened the negotiations at $57.69/b, closing at $55.08/b.

    On August 7th, both the European and Asian benchmark Brent and the American reference WTI lowered to their monthly minimum, respectively pricing $56.41/b and $50.93/b, as the commercial war between the United States of America and China intensified, slowing global economy and oil demand too. Moreover, from July 26th to August 9th, U.S. oil stocks increased from 436,545,000 barrels to 440,510,000 barrels.

    During the second part of the month, oil prices recovered part of the ground previously lost due to the following factors.

    On August 19th, the Shaybah Saudi plant, which approximately produces 1,000,000 b/d, less than 10% of the entire Petromonarchy output, was hit by Yemeni fighters drone.

    In addition, on August 23rd, U.S. commercial inventories dropped to 427,751,000 barrels.

    Last, but not least, on August 26th President Donald Trump said that China wanted to restart trade talks, potentially easing tensions between the two countries.

    Since April 2019, barrel prices have dropped more than 15%. However, currently listings are still higher than prices listed on January 1st 2019 when OPEC+ producers have started to reduce their output by 1,200,000 b/d.

    by Demostenes Floros
  • August 2019

    In July 2019, barrel prices slightly decreased. In particular, Brent North Sea quality opened the listings at $65.93/b and closed at $65.18/b, while West Texas Intermediate started the quotations at $59.60/b, closing at $57.89/b.

    On July 11th, both qualities reached their monthly high – respectively pricing $67.58/b and $60.84/b – due to the fall in U.S. inventories, which dropped from 468,491,000 barrels on June 28th to 458,992,000 barrels on July 5th. Furthermore, hurricane Barry hit the Mexican Gulf simultaneously, decreasing the oil output in the region by more than 600,000 b/d, approximately one third of the entire Gulf production.

    On July 18th, both the European and Asian benchmark, and the American grade lowered to their monthly minimum, respectively trading at $61.66/b and at $54.79/b, due to fears that global oil demand growth will slow down in the second half of the current year.

    During the last ten days of July, barrel prices increased again as a consequence of three concomitant factors:

    1. The rising tension in the Persian Gulf, from which transit 18,500,000 b/d of oil and petroleum liquids;

    2. A further fall in U.S. commercial oil stocks, which diminished from 455,876,000 barrels on July 12th to 445,041,000 barrels on July 19th;

    3. On July 31st, for the first time since 2008, U.S. Federal Reserve cut its interest rates by 25 basis points, bringing them in the range 2-2.25%, with the aim of supporting U.S. economy thus, global oil demand too.

    In June 2019, despite U.S. sanctions, China imported 208,205 b/d from Iran, almost 60% less in comparison with the previous. However, especially from a geopolitical point of view, the fact that the Sino-Iranian energy cooperation is still in place represents a fundamental issue in order to maintain the current barrel price stability.

    by Demostenes Floros
  • July 2019

    In June 2019, barrel prices strongly increased at around $5.5/b. In particular, Brent North Sea quality started the negotiations at $61.21/b and closed at $66.71/b, while West Texas Intermediate opened the quotations at $52.97/b, closing at $58.20/b.

    Both the European and Asian benchmark and the American grade rose due to the following economic and geopolitical factors:

    1. After having reached their lowest level since 1990 at 485,470,000 barrels on June 7th, U.S. stocks further decreased to 469,576,000 barrels on June 21st (-15,890,400 barrels), the biggest decline that has occurred in American supplies since September 2016. In the wake of this data published by the Energy Information Administration on June 26th, WTI gained its monthly high, trading at $59.70/b;

    2. After having reached its record output at 12,400,000 b/d on May 31st, U.S. extractions decreased to 12,100,000 b/d on June 21st;

    3. On June 20th, the Iranian military shot down a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz, in the Persian Gulf. According to Tehran, the drone violated Iran’s airspace. On the contrary, Washington claimed it was in international air space;

    4. In May 2019, the Russian Federation decreased its extractions to 11,110,000 b/d, bringing its output under the level agreed on with the OPEC+ in December 2018 (11,180,000 b/d). To be more precise, Russian supplies transported through the Druzhba pipeline, which connects Russia with central Europe, have reduced since April 2019 because of the contaminated oil.

    On June 29th, U.S. President, Donald Trump, met his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping during the G20 in Tokyo. With regard to the trade deal between the two economic superpowers, Trump and Xi decided to reopen the dialogue. If they obtain an agreement in the course of the next weeks, it will certainly have a positive impact on oil demand.

    The positive correlation that also exists between Chinese oil demand trend and Brent prices (estimated at 79%, ceteris paribus), in addition with the OPEC+ cuts roll over established in Vienna on July 1st 2019, will presumably support barrel prices in the second half of the current year.

    by Demostenes Floros
  • June 2019

    In May 2019, oil prices strongly decreased due to the commercial tensions between the United States of America and China, which could affect global oil demand. “It seems like we’re going to be entrenched in a trade war, which is really going to hurt demand for crude oil”, said commodity manager Tariq Zahir. In particular, Brent North Sea quality opened the listings at $72.03/b and closed at $64.47/b (-10% month-over-month), while West Texas Intermediate crude started the quotations at $63.68/b, closing at $53.4/b, the lowest level since February 12th (-16% m-o-m).

    On May 23rd, U.S. stockpiles increased by 4,740,000 barrels to a total of 476,775,000 barrels. According to the U.S. Energy Department data, this is the highest level since July-2017. In addition to the U.S. record output of 12,200,000 b/d, the U.S. crude inventories have been determining the current $11/b Brent/WTI spread.

    The compliance to the OPEC+ agreement signed on December 7th 2018 (-1,200,000 b/d) reached 168% in April 2019 in comparison with 138% gained a month earlier. For this reason, during the next meeting in Vienna on June 30th 2019, oil producers could decide to eliminate the over compliance, maintaining the stipulated output deal levels and prolonging it in the second half of the year.

    In such a case, Saudi Arabia, the OPEC leader, and the Russian Federation, the leading non-OPEC producer, may achieve a viable political balance.

    by Demostenes Floros