Oil Market Review

Monthly Review

  • 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
  • May 2019

    In April 2019, barrel prices rose, reaching a six-month-high. In particular, Brent North Sea quality opened the listings at $69.22/b and closed at $71.68/b, while West Texas Intermediate crude started the quotations at $61.74/b, closing at $63.56/b.

    On April 24th, the European and Asian benchmark gained its maximum at $74.59/b, whereas the day before the American grade topped its record at $66.09/b. Oil prices increased because U.S. President, Donald Trump did not roll over Iran sanction waivers before they expired on May 2nd 2019. The waivers were granted on November 5th 2018 to eight countries: China, India, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Italy, Turkey and Greece.

    Moreover, the oil market was characterized by other bullish factors such as:

    1. The escalation of the Libyan war;

    2. The OPEC+ cuts established at the end of 2018 (-1,200,000 b/d);

    3. The U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela;

    4. The temporary reduction of the U.S. tight oil output by 100,000 b/d in mid-April.

    The slight fall in oil prices occurred at the end of the month was due to the surge in U.S. commercial stocks from 455,154,000 barrels to 460,633,000 barrels (+ 6,860,000 barrels).

    In the wake of this latest data publication, Carsten Fritsch, financial analyst at Commerzbank, said, “The situation in the oil market has calmed down. Apparently, the global oil market is sufficiently supplied”. However, as was previously stated by Olivier Jakob, market strategist at Petromatrix, the decision to let the waivers expired was a “bullish surprise for the market”.

    by Demostenes Floros
  • April 2019

    In March 2019, barrel prices increased by approximately $3.5/b. In particular, Brent North Sea quality opened the listings at $64.99/b and closed at $68.36/b, while West Texas Intermediate crude started the quotations at $56.2/b and closed at $60.22/b. Both oil closing prices traded near their four-month high.

    Brent and WTI rose steadily until March 20th 2019 – respectively quoting $68.3/b and $60/b – due to U.S. oil stocks decreasing from 449,072,000 barrels on March 8th 2019 to 439,483,000 barrels on March 15th 2019. They then slightly retreated in response to the dollar appreciation (€/$ 1.1218 on March 28th), before increasing again in the wake of Alexander Novak’s statements. Particularly, Russia Energy Minister said that his country would have reached its share of cuts by early April (-228,000 b/d).

    Since the beginning of 2019, the European and Asian benchmark and the American blend have respectively rose by 25% and 30%, as a consequence of the OPEC+ cuts, as well as supply disruptions in Venezuela (-142,000 b/d in February 2019) and Iran, which have countered the growing American tight oil production (12,100,000 b/d since February 2019).

    According to Goldman Sachs bank, “the latest Brent rally has brought prices to our peak forecast of $67.5/b, three months early. Resilient demand growth [estimated to surge by 1,450,000 b/d in 2019] and supply outages could push prices up to $70/b in the near future. Supply loses are exceeding our expectations, demand growth is beating low consensus expectations with […] net long positioning still depressed”.

    This situation may potentially be a perfect bullish storm unless next May U.S. President, Donald Trump, prolongs purchase waivers over the Iranian oil, which is currently under U.S. sanctions.

    by Demostenes Floros
  • March 2019

    In February, oil prices rose. In particular, Brent North Sea quality started the negotiations at $62.91/b and closed at $66.45/b, while West Texas Intermediate opened the transactions at $55.67/b, closing at $57.25/b. Since the beginning of 2019, barrel prices have surged by approximately 26%.

    On February 11th, both crude qualities lowered to their monthly minimum, Brent pricing at $61.97/b and WTI trading at $52.82/b, because U.S. commercial stocks increased from 445,944,000 barrels on January 25th to 454,512,000 barrels on February 15th.

    On February 20th, both the European and Asian benchmark, and the American grade reached their monthly high, respectively quoting at $67.14/b (the highest in three months) and $57.27/b, due to the following reasons:

    1. In January 2019, Saudi Arabia extracted 10,200,000 b/d (it was 11,090,000 b/d in November 2018), cutting its output by an amount that was higher than that decided during the OPEC Plus meeting in Vienna at the end of 2018;

    2. The signals of a thaw in U.S.-China trade tensions that would have a positive impact on global oil demand.

    During the last week of February, barrel prices firstly decreased, because U.S. oil production topped the record of 12,100,000 b/d, while President, Donald Trump, tweeted “Oil prices getting too high. OPEC, please relax and take it easy. World cannot take a price hike - fragile!” However, Saudis oil Minister, Khalid Al Falih, stated on February 12th that his country would have decreased its output to 9,800,000 b/d in March. At the same time, the Minister added that Saudi Arabia would reduce its exports to 6,900,000 b/d (they were 8,200,000 b/d in November 2018).

    “OPEC Again Faces Choice Between Trump’s Wrath and Oil Slump”, entitled Bloomberg on February 26th.

    Finally, barrel prices closed on the rise, because U.S. stocks dropped by 8,647,000 barrels to 445,860,000 barrels.

    by Demostenes Floros
  • February 2019

    In January, barrel prices strongly increased because OPEC+ members have been starting to implement the Vienna agreement reached on November 30th 2018.  During the meeting, oil producers decided to cut production by 1,200,000 b/d in the first half of 2018, with the aim of removing the oversupply in the oil market.

    In the first month of 2019, Brent North Sea quality opened the quotations at $54.75/b and closed at $61.06/b, while West Texas Intermediate opened the listings at $46.6/b, closing at $54.15/b. Both the European and Asian benchmark and the American grade reached their monthly high on January 21st – respectively, quoting $62.83/b and $54.19/b – even in the wake of the political crisis, which has sparked in Venezuela, where the world’s biggest crude reserves are held.

    In addition to the OPEC+ deal and the turmoil in the Latin American country, another bullish factor was a slight depreciation of the dollar and the impression that the Federal Reserve will not implement a strong tightening monetary policy in 2019 as it was previously supposed.

    At the same time, it has to be taken into account that the oil market has been characterized by bearish factors too. Especially, as follows:

    1. On January 11th 2019, the U.S. producers extracted the record of 11,900,000 b/d. Nevertheless, there are signs – especially, the active rigs trend – that U.S. tight and shale output will slow its growth in 2019;

    2. In 2018, China’s economy is estimated to expand by 6.6%, which would be the slowest annual pace since 1990.

    According to a report published by the International Monetary Fund on January 21st, world economy is estimated to grow by 3.5% in 2019 and by 3.6% in 2020. Those are respectively, 0.2% and 0.1% points below the previous forecasts issued in October 2018 and the second downturn revision in three months. “Global growth is expanding at a healthy rate, but we are seeing a slowing momentum”, the IMF’s head of research Gita Gopinath said, adding that there were “many important downside risks to the global economy”.

    If global growth pose a threat to the oil demand, the new U.S. sanctions imposed against Petroleos de Venezuela SA on January 29th will bring another supply risk to the market, increasing its volatility.

    by Demostenes Floros