Oil declines as market surplus forecast counters Libya worries

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KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude was down 24 cents, or 0.4%, at $64.35 a barrel at 0309 GMT, after dropping 0.3% on Tuesday.
  • U.S. oil fell 29 cents, or 0.5%, to $58.09 a barrel, having declined 0.3% the day before.
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Jean-Paul Pelissier | Reuters

Oil prices eased on Wednesday, extending declines as the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast a market surplus in the first half, helping ease concerns about disruptions that have slashed Libya’s crude output.

Brent crude was down 24 cents, or 0.4%, at $64.35 a barrel at 0309 GMT, after dropping 0.3% on Tuesday. U.S. oil fell 29 cents, or 0.5%, to $58.09 a barrel, having declined 0.3% the day before.

The head of the IEA, Fatih Birol, said on Tuesday he expects the market to be in surplus by a million barrels per day (bpd) in the first half of this year.

“I see an abundance of energy supply in terms of oil and gas,” Birol told the Reuters Global Markets Forum, while he was attending World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

“It’s the reason that recent incidents we have seen – with the Iranian general killed, Libya unrest – didn’t boost international oil prices,” Birol said, referring to the U.S. killing of an Iranian commander and retaliation by Tehran that sent prices briefly soaring earlier this month.

Libya’s National Oil Corp on Monday declared force majeure on the loading of oil from two major oil fields after the latest development in a long-running military conflict.

“Market participants are already starting to fade this story – believing that this is a transitory outage,” said Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

However, Croft warned that the “multi-year proxy war leaves Libyan production at high risk for extended outages and there are no indications that the country is close to turning the corner.”

Unless oil facilities quickly return to operation Libya’s oil output will be reduced from about 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) to just 72,000 bpd.

Still, U.S. crude production in large shale deposits is expected to rise to record highs in February, although the pace of increase is likely to be the lowest in about year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Tuesday.

Away from oil fundamentals, markets have been roiled by the emergence of a new strain of a coronavirus out of China amid concern about the impact of a possible pandemic on economic growth.

Oil prices ease as supply risk concerns fade

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KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude was trading down 30 cents, or 0.5%, at $64.90 per barrel by 0318 GMT, after rising to their highest in more than a week on Monday.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 14 cents, or 0.2%, at $58.40 a barrel.
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A Petrobras oil platform floats in the Atlantic Ocean near Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro.
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Oil prices eased on Tuesday as investors appeared to shrug off earlier supply concerns following a force majeure declared by Libya on two major oilfields amid a military blockade.

Brent crude was trading down 30 cents, or 0.5%, at $64.90 per barrel by 0318 GMT, after rising to their highest in more than a week on Monday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 14 cents, or 0.2%, at $58.40 a barrel.

“Every time we get a big geopolitical event, the market spikes up but everybody looks at that as a chance of a selling opportunity,” said Tony Nunan, oil risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo.

Two major oilfields in southwest Libya began shutting down on Sunday after a pipeline was closed off, potentially reducing national output to a fraction of its normal level, the country’s National Oil Corp (NOC) said.

A document sent to oil traders and seen by Reuters on Monday said the NOC had declared force majeure – a waiver on contractual obligations – on crude loadings from El Sharara and El Feel oilfields in Libya’s southwest.

If Libyan exports are halted for any sustained period, storage tanks will fill within days and production will slow to 72,000 barrels per day (bpd), an NOC spokesman said. Libya has been producing around 1.2 million bpd recently.

Anti-government unrest in Iraq, another major oil producer, also had initially supported oil prices, but officials later said production in southern oilfields has not been affected by the unrest.

Any supply disruptions could be offset by increased output from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which could limit the impact on global oil markets, the head of Japan’s petroleum industry body said.

“We are caught in this ($65 per barrel) trading range,” Nunan said. “Anything below and OPEC is going to have a tough time balancing their budgets … and anything above, shale (output) will rebound.”

Another factor reassuring the market is OPEC spare capacity, which stands in excess of 3 million bpd, of which the bulk sits in Saudi Arabia, analysts from ING Economics said in a note.

Adding to supply, Guyana exported its first-ever shipment of crude on Monday, marking the tiny South American nation’s debut as an oil exporter.

Meanwhile, Bank of America Global Research raised its 2020 oil price forecasts on Monday, citing risks to supply from the Middle East, an improving demand outlook and higher OPEC+ compliance to deepen output cuts.

Oil jumps to highest in more than a week after Libyan shutdowns

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KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude futures were up by 74 cents, or 1.1%, to $65.59 by 0331 GMT, having earlier reached $66.00 a barrel, the highest since Jan. 9.
  • The West Texas Intermediate contract was up by 58 cents, or 1%, at $59.12 a barrel, after rising to $59.73, the highest since Jan. 10.
  • In the latest development in a long-running conflict in Libya, where two rival factions have claimed the right to rule the country for more than five years, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) on Sunday said two big oilfields in the southwest had begun shutting down after forces loyal to the Libyan National Army closed a pipeline.
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An Iraqi worker gauges gas emissions from an oil pipe at the Daura oil refiner
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Oil prices rose to their highest in more than week on Monday after two large crude production bases in Libya began shutting down amid a military blockade, setting the stage for crude flows from the OPEC member to be cut to a trickle.

Brent crude futures were up by 74 cents, or 1.1%, to $65.59 by 0331 GMT, having earlier reached $66.00 a barrel, the highest since Jan. 9. The West Texas Intermediate contract was up by 58 cents, or 1%, at $59.12 a barrel, after rising to $59.73, the highest since Jan. 10.

In the latest development in a long-running conflict in Libya, where two rival factions have claimed the right to rule the country for more than five years, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) on Sunday said two big oilfields in the southwest had begun shutting down after forces loyal to the Libyan National Army closed a pipeline.

“If this sort of disruption endures, it’s meaningful … the market is right to be reacting with a bullish tone,” said Lachlan Shaw, head of commodity research, at National Australia Bank in Melbourne.

“It just continues to emphasise, notwithstanding that the world market is clearly in surplus and there are plenty of stocks, the fact is the market still depends on a number of key regions that have heightened geopolitical risk.”

Oil prices had fallen back in the last two weeks. After the outbreak of hostilities between the United States and Iran at the beginning of the year triggered a jump, both sides took steps to pull back from conflict, calming the market’s mood.

If exports are halted for any sustained period, tanks for storage will fill within days and production will slow to 72,000 barrels per day (bpd), an NOC spokesman said. Libya has been producing around 1.2 million bpd recently.

Also on Sunday, foreign countries agreed at a summit in Berlin on Sunday to shore up a shaky truce in Libya, even as the talks were overshadowed by the latest blockade.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that the Berlin summit, attended by the main backers of the rival Libyan factions, had agreed that a tentative truce in Tripoli over the past week should be turned into a permanent ceasefire to allow a political process to take place.

Oil gains after US-China trade deal and a rise in crude inventories

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KEY POINTS
  • Oil prices rose on Thursday after the signing of an initial trade deal that sets the stage for a surge in Chinese purchases of American energy products, while U.S. crude inventories fell more than expected.
  • Brent was 45 cents, or 0.7%, higher at $64.45 a barrel by 0310 GMT.
  • U.S. crude was up by 39 cents, or 0.7%, at $58.20 a barrel.
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A drilling crew secures a stand of drill pipe into the mouse hole on a drilling rig near Midland, Texas February 12, 2019.
Nick Oxford | Reuters

Oil prices rose on Thursday after the signing of an initial Sino-U.S. trade deal that sets the stage for a surge in Chinese purchases of American energy products, while U.S. crude inventories fell more than expected.

Brent was 45 cents, or 0.7%, higher at $64.45 a barrel by 0310 GMT, while U.S. crude was up by 39 cents, or 0.7%, at $58.20 a barrel.

Under the so-called Phase 1 deal to call a truce in a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies, China committed to buying over $50 billion more of U.S. oil, liquefied natural gas and other energy products over two years.

“It was a formal signing of something which had already been agreed, but that has certainly boosted sentiment,” said Virendra Chauhan, oil analyst at Energy Aspects.

Trade sources and analysts said China could struggle to meet the target and gains in oil are likely to be limited ahead of more detail on how the commitments will be achieved.

Official U.S. data showing a much bigger than expected drop in crude oil inventories, also helped underpin prices, Chauhan said.

“They were slightly constructive. We saw a counter-seasonal draw in U.S.crude stocks and that generally is supportive,” he said.

Oil inventories fell by 2.5 million barrels, compared with analyst expectations of a drop of 500,000 barrels, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Nonetheless, gasoline stocks rose by 6.7 million barrels and distillate stocks were up by 8.2 million barrels, according to the EIA.

U.S. crude production also rose to a record 13 million barrels per day, the agency said.

Oil prices are returning to range trading, analysts said, as the threat of conflict between Iran and the U.S. receded further after they traded missile and drone attacks earlier this month.

That sent Brent to highs above $71 a barrel, before prices touched more than one-month lows in advance of the signing of the U.S.-China deal.

Oil drops on concerns that US-China trade deal may not stoke demand

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KEY POINTS
  • Oil prices slipped on Wednesday on concerns that the pending Phase 1 trade deal between the United States and China, the world’s biggest oil users, may not boost demand.
  • Brent crude was down 19 cents, or 0.3%, at $64.30 per barrel by 0428 GMT.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 19 cents, or 0.3%, at $58.04 a barrel.
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A policeman is seen at West Qurna-1 oil field, which is operated by ExxonMobil, in Basra, Iraq January 9, 2020.
Essam al-Sudani | Reuters

Oil prices slipped on Wednesday on concerns that the pending Phase 1 trade deal between the United States and China, the world’s biggest oil users, may not boost demand as the U.S. intends to keep tariffs on Chinese goods until a second phase.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said late on Tuesday that tariffs on Chinese goods will remain in place until the completion of a second phase of a U.S.-China trade agreement, even as both sides are expected to sign an interim deal later on Wednesday.

Brent crude was down 19 cents, or 0.3%, at $64.30 per barrel by 0428 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 19 cents, or 0.3%, at $58.04 a barrel.

“A pickup with global demand for crude may struggle as U.S.-Chinese tensions linger after some hardline stances from the Trump administration,” said Edward Moya, analyst at brokerage OANDA.

“Financial markets are disappointed that the Trump administration … signalled tariffs will remain in place until after the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, depending on whether China comes through on their promises with the phase-one agreement.”

U.S. President Donald Trump is slated to sign the Phase 1 agreement with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House on Wednesday. That agreement is expected to include provisions for China to buy up to $50 billion more in U.S. energy supplies.

Adding to worries over U.S.-China trade relations, the U.S. government is nearing publication of a rule that would vastly expand its powers to block shipments of foreign-made goods to Chinese technology giant Huawei, according to two sources.

Meanwhile, U.S. crude inventories rose by 1.1 million barrels, data from the American Petroleum Institute showed, countering expectations for a draw.

U.S. oil production is expected to rise to a record of 13.30 million barrels per day in 2020, mainly driven by higher output in the Permian region of Texas and New Mexico, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.