Oil prices hover close to 2019 highs on OPEC output cuts, U.S. sanctions

REUTERS

U.S. sanctions against oil producers Iran and Venezuela are also boosting prices, although traders said the market may be capped by rising U.S. output.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were at $59.14 per barrel at 0746 GMT, up 5 cents from their last settlement and close to the 2019 high of $59.23 reached the previous day.

Brent crude oil futures were up 20 cents at $67.74 per barrel, also close to this year’s peak of $68.14 marked late last week.

In China, Shanghai crude futures, launched in March last year, bounced 4.5 percent from their last close to 468.2 yuan ($69.71) per barrel, also near 2019 highs of 475.7 yuan a barrel hit during a brief spike in February.

In dollar-terms, this pushed Shanghai crude into a premium over Brent.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Monday scrapped its planned meeting in April, effectively extending supply cuts that have been in place since January until at least June, when the next meeting is scheduled.

OPEC and a group of non-affiliated producers including Russia, known as OPEC+, started withholding supply to halt a sharp price drop in the second-half of 2018, when markets came under pressure from surging output as well as an economic slowdown.

“The OPEC+ deal has brought stability to crude prices and signs of an extension have taken crude higher,” said Alfonso Esparza, senior market analyst at futures brokerage OANDA.

Prices have been further supported by U.S. sanctions against oil exports from Iran and Venezuela, traders said.

Because of the tighter supply outlook for the coming months, the Brent forward curve has gone into backwardation since the start of the year, meaning that prices for immediate delivery are more expensive than those for dispatch further in the future, with May Brent prices currently around $1.20 per barrel more expensive than December delivery Brent.

Outside OPEC, analysts are eyeing U.S. crude oil production, which has soared by more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) since early 2018, to around 12 million bpd, making the United States the world’s biggest producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Weekly output and storage data will be published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday.

On the demand-side, there is concern that an economic slowdown will erode oil consumption.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a note that economic “risks are skewed to the downside” and that “we forecast global demand growth of 1.2 million bpd year-on-year in 2019 and 1.15 million bpd during 2020”.

The bank said it expected “Brent and WTI to average $70 per barrel and $59 per barrel respectively in 2019, and $65 per barrel and $60 per barrel in 2020.”

Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Richard Pullin and Joseph Radford

Oil slips on economic slowdown, but OPEC-led cuts still support

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Reuters

KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude oil futures were at $67.03 per barrel at 0231 GMT, down 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last close, but not far off the $68.14 per barrel 2019-high reached last week.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were at $58.32 per barrel, down 20 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their last settlement, and also not far off their 2019-high of $58.95 from the previous week.
  • Despite the lower prices, crude markets remain broadly supported by supply cuts led by producer group OPEC and U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela.
Reusable: Texas oil production fracking worker cleans off truck 150204
A truck used to carry sand for fracking is washed in a truck stop in Odessa, Texas.
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Oil prices dipped on Monday amid concerns that an economic downturn may dent fuel consumption, but crude markets remain broadly supported by supply cuts led by producer group OPEC and U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela.

Brent crude oil futures were at $67.03 per barrel at 0231 GMT, down 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last close, but not far off the $68.14 per barrel 2019-high reached last week.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were at $58.32 per barrel, down 20 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their last settlement, and also not far off their 2019-high of $58.95 from the previous week.

“The greatest downside risk to our oil price view is demand weakness on slower economic growth. Our base case is that global oil demand will increase by 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2019… A synchronized global slowdown in growth could push global demand growth to below 1 million bpd,” Bernstein Energy said on Monday.

U.S. manufacturing output fell for a second straight month in February, in a sign that the world’s biggest economy has been slowing down in the first quarter.

In Asia, Japan’s exports fell for a third straight month in February in a sign of growing strain from slowing global demand.

Despite this, oil prices have gained around a quarter since the start of the year amid U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, and as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-affiliated allies like Russia — known as OPEC+ — have pledged to withhold 1.2 million bpd in supply to prop up prices.

OPEC’s de-facto leader Saudi Arabia said on Sunday that balancing oil markets was far from done as inventories were still high.

Russia also said production cuts would stay in place at least until June.

As a result, Bernstein forecast an inventory draw of 37 million barrels in the first quarter for the 36 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which comprises most industrialized nations.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Friday it expected oil markets to be in a modest deficit from the second quarter of 2019.

Key for the supply and demand balance will be the United States, where crude production has soared by around 2 million bpd over the past year, thanks largely to an onshore boom in shale formation drilling.

The number of rigs drilling for new oil production in the United States has been falling in 2019, and hit its lowest level since April 2018 last week, at 833 operating rigs.

However, U.S. crude oil production still increased at the start of 2019, hitting a record 12.1 million barrels per day (bpd) in February, data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed.

Output has since dipped back to 12 million bpd, but that still makes America the world’s biggest crude oil producer.

Oil prices firm as supply deficit emerges amid disruptions

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KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude oil futures were at $67.27 per barrel at 0425 GMT, 4 cents above their last close, and within a dollar of the $68.14 2019-high reached the previous day.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $58.63 per barrel, 2 cents above their last settlement, and not far off their 2019-high of $58.74 from the previous day.
  • Despite Friday’s dips, oil has rallied around a quarter since the start of the year.
Reusable: Oil pump jack and pipes California
A pump jack and pipes at an oil field near Bakersfield, California.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Oil prices were firm on Friday amid production cuts led by OPEC and as U.S.sanctions against Venezuela and Iran likely created a slight deficit in global supply in the first quarter of 2019.

But oil prices have been capped by concerns that an economic slowdown will soon start denting growth in fuel demand.

Brent crude oil futures were at $67.27 per barrel at 0425 GMT, 4 cents above their last close, and within a dollar of the $68.14 2019-high reached the previous day.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $58.63 per barrel, 2 cents above their last settlement, and not far off their 2019-high of $58.74 from the previous day.

Despite Friday’s dips, oil has rallied around a quarter since the start of the year.

“Crude oil continues to grind higher…in response to ongoing production cuts from the OPEC+ group of producers as well as another (output) slump from a blacked-out Venezuela,” said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Denmark’s Saxo Bank.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-affiliated allies such as Russia — known as the OPEC+ alliance — pledged to withhold 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in crude supply from the start of the year to tighten markets and prop up prices.

OPEC+ will meet in Baku, Azerbaijan, over the weekend to review its output policy, although most expect the cuts to continue for now.

“We don’t think anything will be agreed this weekend. But, we suspect the group will make noise about the ongoing effort to keep this market in balance,” ANZ bank said on Friday.

Meanwhile, U.S. sanctions against Venezuela as well as Iran have further tightened oil markets.

With OPEC voluntarily withholding supply and U.S. sanctions preventing Iranian and Venezuelan oil from entering markets, global crude flow data in Refinitiv showed a slight supply deficit likely appeared in the first quarter.

Will demand hold up?

Preventing oil from rising further have been concerns that a economic slowdown that has gripped large parts of Asia and Europe, and which is showing signs of spilling into North America, will soon dent fuel demand growth.

But oil demand has held up well so far.

Crude oil use in China, the world’s biggest importer, in the first two months of 2019 rose 6.1 percent from a year earlier to a record 12.68 million bpd, official data showed this week.

“Oil demand concerns are overdone,” Goldman Sachs said in a note on Friday.

The U.S. bank said January global crude oil demand growth was “nearly 2.0 million barrels per day, with strength visible in both emerging markets and developed economies”.

Goldman said “current fundamentals will tighten physical markets further”, driving up spot Brent crude futures above $70 per barrel “as supply losses continue (and) demand growth beats low consensus expectations”.

Oil prices slide on economic slowdown, surging US supply

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Reuters

KEY POINTS
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $56.32 per barrel, down 34 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their last settlement.
  • Brent crude oil futures were at $65.83 per barrel at 0358 GMT, down 47 cents, or 0.7 percent from their last close.
  • Financial markets, including crude oil futures, took a hit after ECB President Mario Draghi said on Thursday the economy was in “a period of continued weakness and pervasive uncertainty”.
  • China’s February dollar-denominated exports fell 21 percent from a year earlier, coming in far worse than analysts’ expectations, while imports dropped 5.2 percent, official data showed on Friday.
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An oil well owned an operated by Apache Corporation in the Permian Basin is shown in Garden City, Texas, Feb. 5, 2015.
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Oil prices fell on Friday amid growing investor jitters over the global economy, after the European Central Bank (ECB) warned overnight of continued weakness and as fresh data showed Chinese exports and imports slumped last month.

With surging U.S. supply also unsettling markets, international benchmark Brent crude oil futures were at $65.83 per barrel at 0358 GMT, down 47 cents, or 0.7 percent from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $56.32 per barrel, down 34 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their last settlement.

Financial markets, including crude oil futures, took a hit after ECB President Mario Draghi said on Thursday the economy was in “a period of continued weakness and pervasive uncertainty”. Europe’s economic weakness comes as growth in Asia is also slowing down.

A slowdown in economic growth would also likely result in stalling fuel demand, putting pressure prices.

China’s February dollar-denominated exports fell 21 percent from a year earlier, coming in far worse than analysts’ expectations, while imports dropped 5.2 percent, official data showed on Friday.

On the supply side, prices have been receiving support this year from output cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Together with some non-affiliated producers like Russia, the producer group has pledged to withhold around 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of supply to tighten markets and prop up prices.

But these efforts are being undermined by soaring U.S. crude oil production, which has increased by more than 2 million bpd since early 2018, to an unprecedented 12.1 million bpd. That makes America the world’s biggest producer, ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

US to become top oil exporter?

As a result, U.S. crude exports have also been chasing new records, reaching 3.6 million bpd in February – more than OPEC members like the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait or Iran produce.

Some analysts even expect the United States to soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil exporter.

“In a pivotal geopolitical shift, the United States will soon export more oil and liquids than Saudi Arabia,” consultancy Rystad Energy said this week. Liquids include non-crude oil products like natural gas liquids (NGLs).

“The (Saudi) kingdom currently exports some 7 million bpd of crude oil plus about 2 million bpd of NGLs and petroleum products, compared with the U.S. now exporting approximately 3 million bpd of crude oil and 5 million barrels of NGLs and petroleum products,” Rystad said.

The consultancy “forecasts that U.S. oil production…will grow by close to another 1 million bpd in 2019.”

Beyond added supply to global markets and likely downward pressure on crude prices, Rystad said this export surge would have huge benefits for the U.S. economy.

“The U.S. trade deficit will evaporate, and its foreign debt will be paid quickly thanks to the swift rise of American oil and gas net exports,” said Rystad Energy senior partner Per Magnus Nysveen.

Oil prices firm on hopes for US-China trade deal

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Reuters

KEY POINTS
  • President Donald Trump said on Sunday he would delay an increase in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods originally scheduled for later this week thanks to progress in trade talks and said if progress continued, he and Chinese President Xi Jinping would seal a deal.
  • Both the international benchmark Brent and U.S. crude futures contracts saw gains.

Oil prices rose on Monday as Washington and China appeared to edge closer to a trade deal, dampening fears over the outlook for global economic growth.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $67.26 a barrel at 0005 GMT, up 14 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last close. They ended Friday little changed after touching their highest since Nov. 16 at $67.73 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $57.38 per barrel, up 11 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last settlement. WTI futures climbed 0.5 percent on Friday, having marked their highest since Nov. 16 at $57.81 a barrel.

“Crude prices continue to be supported on optimism a trade deal will be reached in the coming days by the world’s two largest economies, said Edward Moya, senior market analyst, OANDA.

President Donald Trump said on Sunday he would delay an increase in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods scheduled for later this week thanks to progress in trade talks and said if progress continued, he and Chinese President Xi Jinping would seal a deal.

Signs of reduced global oil supply also supported crude prices.

U.S. energy firms this week cut the number of oil rigs operating for the first time in three weeks week after U.S. crude production hit an all-time high, boosting exports to a record-peak and stockpiles to their highest in over a year.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s Pemex produced 1.62 million barrels of crude per day in January, less than any month in almost three decades, the state-owned oil company said on Friday, underscoring the challenges facing a government that vows to pump far more in a few years.