Oil stabilises on China-US trade talks, OPEC cuts

CNBC

  • China and the U.S. are set to hold trade talks at the vice ministerial level on Jan. 7-8.
  • Crude prices had previously fallen after the United States followed most other major economies into a manufacturing downturn.
  • Meanwhile, traders said oil prices are expected to receive some support as supply cuts announced late last year by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) start to kick in.

174362712AB024_OIL_BOOM_SHI

Andrew Burton | Getty Images

Oil prices steadied on Friday after China said it would hold talks with Washington on Jan. 7-8 aimed at solving trade disputes between the two world’s biggest economies.

Crude prices had previously fallen after the United States followed most other major economies into a manufacturing downturn.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $47.15 per barrel at 0345 GMT, 6 cents, or 0.1 percent above their last settlement.

International Brent crude futures were close to their last close, at $55.93 a barrel.

Both crude benchmarks were down earlier in the session on concerns that the Sino-American trade war would lead to a global economic slowdown.

Traders said the firmer prices came after China’s commerce ministry said on Friday that it would hold vice ministerial level trade talks with U.S. counterparts in Beijing on Jan. 7-8, as the two sides look to end a dispute that is inflicting increasing pain on both economies and roiling global financial markets.

The two nations have been locked in a trade war for much of the past year, disrupting the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods and stoking fears of a global economic slowdown.

Data for December from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) on Thursday showed the broadest U.S. slowdown in growth for more than a decade, as the trade conflict with China, falling equity prices and increasing uncertainty started to take a toll on the world’s biggest economy.

Leading economies in Asia and Europe have already reported a fall in manufacturing activity.

“Led by a sharp fall in the U.S. ISM and China’s PMI falling below 50, the global manufacturing PMI fell to 51.5 in December (52.8 previously), a 27-month low,” Morgan Stanley said in a note following the release of the ISM data.

“The recent run of incoming data, coupled with global tightening financial conditions, has increased the downside risks to an already moderating global growth outlook,” the U.S. bank said.

OPEC cuts

Despite the global market turmoil, traders said oil prices are expected to receive some support as supply cuts announced late last year by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) start to kick in.

OPEC oil supply fell by 460,000 barrels per day (bpd) between November and December, to 32.68 million bpd, a Reuters survey found on Thursday, as top exporter Saudi Arabia made an early start to a supply-limiting accord, while Iran and Libya posted involuntary declines.

OPEC, Russia and other non-members – an alliance known as OPEC+ – agreed last December to reduce supply by 1.2 million bpd in 2019 versus October 2018 levels. OPEC’s share of that cut is 800,000 bpd.

“If OPEC is faithful to its agreed output cut together with non-OPEC partners, it would take 3-4 months to mop up the excess inventories,” energy consultancy FGE said.

Considering the planned cuts versus ongoing increases in U.S. crude production, which hit a record 11.7 million bpd by late 2018, FGE said it expected Brent prices to range between $55-$60 per barrel in the first months of 2019.

Oil prices slide on supply surge, global market turmoil scares off investors

CNBC

  • Saudi Arabia is expected to cut February prices for heavier crude grades sold to Asia by up to 50 cents a barrel due to weaker fuel oil margins, according to respondents to a Reuters survey on Thursday.
  • Markets were roiled by a more than 3 percent slump of the U.S. dollar against the Japanese yen overnight, and after tech giant Apple cut its sales forecast.

Oil pumpjacks in the Permian Basin oil field are getting to work as crude oil prices gain.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images
Oil pumpjacks in the Permian Basin oil field are getting to work as crude oil prices gain.

Oil prices fell on Thursday amid volatile currency and stock markets, and as analysts warned of an economic slowdown for 2019 just as crude supply is rising globally.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures dropped by around 2 percent from their last settlement, or 93 cents, to $45.61 by 0404 GMT.

International Brent crude futures were down 1.1 percent, or 60 cents, at $54.31 a barrel.

In physical oil markets, top exporter Saudi Arabia is expected to cut February prices for heavier crude grades sold to Asia by up to 50 cents a barrel due to weaker fuel oil margins, respondents to a Reuters survey said on Thursday.

Markets were roiled by a more than 3 percent slump of the U.S. dollar against the Japanese yen overnight, and after tech giant Applecut its sales forecast.

“We did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said.

The slowdown in China and turmoil in stock and currency markets is making investors nervous, including in oil markets.

Investment bank Jefferies said in a 2019 opening note to clients and employees that the start of the year “doesn’t feel as firm, the future doesn’t feel as certain and optimistic, and the path forward does not seem as clear.”

The U.S. bank added that “markets are extremely volatile and virtually impossible to anticipate or navigate.”

Shipping brokerage Eastport said the turmoil in markets is scaring off investors.

“Falling share prices tend to damage consumer sentiment, which often results in increased caution and reduced spending…Business managers also tend to limit apex, thus weighing on investment as well.”

Supply surge

Oil markets have also come under pressure from a surge in supply.

U.S. crude production stood at a record 11.7 million barrels per day (bpd) in late 2018, making the United States the world’s biggest oil producer.

Others are not sitting idle, with Russian output reaching a record of more than 11 million bpd in 2018.

Supply from Iraq, the number two producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) behind Saudi Arabia, is also up, with December exports at 3.73 million bpd, up from 3.37 million bpd in November.

With production rising and demand growth expected to slow, many analysts expect a global oil supply overhang to build in the first months of 2019.

Oil opens 2019 with losses on surging supply, signs of economic slowdown

CNBC

  • International Brent crude futures for March were at $53.27 per barrel at 0421 GMT
  • West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were at $45.01 per barrel.

A truck used to carry sand for fracking is washed in a truck stop in Odessa, Texas.

Getty Images
A truck used to carry sand for fracking is washed in a truck stop in Odessa, Texas.

Oil markets dropped by around 1 percent in 2019’s first trading on Wednesday, pulled down by surging U.S. output and concerns about an economic slowdown in 2019 as factory activity in China, the world’s biggest oil importer, contracted.

International Brent crude futures for March were at $53.27 per barrel at 0421 GMT, down 53 cents, or 1 percent, from their final close of 2018.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were at $45.01 per barrel, down 40 cents, or 0.9 percent.

In physical oil markets, Dubai crude averaged $57.318 a barrel for December, the lowest since October 2017, two traders who participate in the market said on Wednesday.

Similarly, Malaysia’s Petronas set the official selling price of a basket of December-loading Malaysian crude grades at $62.79 a barrel, the lowest since October 2017, the state oil firm said on Wednesday.

Traders said futures prices fell on expectations of oversupply amid surging U.S. production and concerns about a global economic slowdown.

“We are most likely past the peak of this long economic uptrend,” consultancy JBC Energy said in an analysis of 2018.

Factory activity weakened in December across Asia, including in China, as the Sino-U.S. trade war and a slowdown in Chinese demand hit production in most economies, pointing to a rocky start for the world’s top economic growth region in 2019.

Oil prices ended 2018 lower for the first time since 2015, after a desultory fourth quarter that saw buyers flee the market over growing worries about too much supply and mixed signals related to renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran.

“Oil prices … registered their first yearly decline in three years on fears of a slowing global economy and concerns of an ongoing supply glut,” said Adeel Minhas, a consultant at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.

For the year, WTI futures slumped nearly 25 percent, while Brent tumbled nearly 20 percent.

The outlook for 2019 is riddled with uncertainty, analysts said, including the U.S.-China trade concerns and Brexit, as well as political instability and conflict in the Middle East.

A Reuters poll showed oil prices are expected to trade below $70 per barrel in 2019 as surplus production, much of it from the United States, and slowing economic growth undermine efforts led by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut supply and prop up prices.

On the production side, all eyes will be on the ongoing surge in U.S. output and on OPEC’s and Russia’s supply discipline.

“Don’t underestimate shale producers and the wider U.S. oil industry in general. Too often this year the market pushed stories … bottlenecks(pipelines, frack crews, truck drivers, etc.), yet U.S. oil production will have grown by a massive 2+ million barrels per day between 1.1.2018 and 1.1.2019,” JBC Energy said.

U.S. crude output rose to an all-time high of 11.537 million barrels per day (bpd) in October, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Monday. That makes the U.S. the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Weekly data, which is more open to revisions, was reported last week at 11.7 million bpd in late December by the EIA.

Brent crude edges up, but concern over demand limits gains

CNBC

  • Brent fell 11 percent last week and hit its lowest since September 2017, while U.S. futures slid to their lowest since July 2017, bringing the decline in the two contracts to 35 percent so far this quarter.
  • The price drop has caused U.S. shale oil producers to curtail drilling plans for next year.

Oil tanker

Jean-Paul Pelissier | Reuters

Oil prices edged up on Monday after evidence that a recent fall to 15-month lows may be affecting output in the United States, the world’s largest producer, although concern about the outlook for demand tempered gains.

Brent crude futures were up 12 cents at $53.94 a barrel by 0858 GMT, while U.S. crude futures lost 3 cents to $45.56.

Brent fell 11 percent last week and hit its lowest since September 2017, while U.S. futures slid to their lowest since July 2017, bringing the decline in the two contracts to 35 percent so far this quarter.

The price drop has caused U.S. shale oil producers to curtail drilling plans for next year.

The boom in shale output has made the United States the world’s largest oil producer, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Physical prices for Brent have also fallen in the last six weeks, driven by a drop in demand from Chinese refiners in particular, which has weighed on the value of barrels of anything from North Sea to Nigerian crude.

“The recent weakness in the physical Brent structure can be attributed to a broader easing of purchases by Asian refiners at this point, with lower end-Q1 intake weighing on spot assessments, and we can expect this pressure to carry through over the coming weeks,” consultancy JBC Energy said in a report.

Still, the macroeconomic picture and its impact on oil demand continue to pressure prices. Global equities have fallen nearly 9.5 percent so far in December, their biggest one-month slide since September 2011, when the euro zone debt crisis was unfolding.

The trade dispute between the United States and China and the prospect of a rapid rise in U.S. interest rates have brought global stocks down from this year’s record highs and ignited concern that oil demand will be insufficient to soak up any excess supply.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia agreed this month to cut oil production by 1.2 million barrels per day from January.

Should that fail to balance the market, OPEC and its allies will hold an extraordinary meeting, United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei said on Sunday.

“Oil ministers are already taking to the airwaves with a ‘price stability at all cost’ mantra,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.

Oil prices rise as OPEC output cuts seen to be deeper than previously expected

CNBC

  • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) plans to publish details of output cut quotas, OPEC’s secretary-general Mohammad Barkindo said in a letter reviewed by Reuters on Thursday.
  • WTI and Brent futures have declined more than 30 percent from their peak in October.

Oil pumpjacks in the Permian Basin oil field are getting to work as crude oil prices gain.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images
Oil pumpjacks in the Permian Basin oil field are getting to work as crude oil prices gain.

Oil prices climbed on Friday after tumbling 5 percent in the previous session on signs OPEC’s production cuts that start next month will be deeper than expected.

Benchmark Brent crude futures were up 27 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $54.62 per barrel at 0448 GMT, after dropping $2.89 in the previous session. Brent is set to drop 9.4 percent for the week.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 33 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $46.22 per barrel. WTI is set to decline about 9.5 percent for the week.

Crude prices have fallen along with major equity markets as investors fret about the strength of the global economy heading into next year. Further concerns were raised as the United States, the world’s biggest oil consumer, may have a government shutdown later on Friday.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) plans to release a table detailing output cut quotas for its members and allies such as Russia in an effort to shore up the price of crude, OPEC’s secretary-general Mohammad Barkindo said in a letter reviewed by Reuters on Thursday.

Barkindo said to reach the proposed cut of 1.2 million barrels per day, the effective reduction for member countries was 3.02 percent.

That is higher than the initially discussed 2.5 percent as OPEC seeks to accommodate Iran, Libya and Venezuela, which are exempt from any requirement to cut.

“The current oil prices will force OPEC to increase compliance with the production cut deals, supporting Brent prices,” said Wang Xiao, head of crude research at Guotai Junan futures.

“The temporary recovery in prices has been driven by short- sellers buying back,” said Wang, referring to investors buying futures to close out positions that profit from falling oil prices.

WTI and Brent futures are down more than 30 percent from their peak in October on concerns of oil demand will drop because of a slowing global economy and signs of a supply glut.

Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at OANDA said in a note that market volatility was “getting exaggerated by immensely thin liquidity conditions, risk sentiment, and holiday market participation”.