US crude rises 1.6%, settling at $45.33, but posts third straight weekly loss

CNBC

  • Oil prices rise, recovering slightly from heavy losses this week, but post their third straight weekly loss.
  • Crude futures remain close to the lowest levels in over a year as rising U.S. inventories and concern over global economic growth rattle markets.
  • U.S. crude inventories were down by 46,000 barrels in the week to Dec. 21, the Energy Information Administration said on Friday.

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 ticked were higher on Friday after a week of volatile trading, but shed early gains on profit-taking ahead of the New Year holiday as global crude benchmarks hovered near their lowest levels in more than a year.

U.S. light crude ended Friday’s session up 72 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $45.33, after reaching $46.22 a barrel earlier.

Brent crude oil futures were up 6 cents at $52.22 a barrel by 2:28 p.m. ET, having earlier risen to $53.80 a barrel. It had dropped 4.2 percent on Thursday.

Both benchmarks posted their third straight week of losses, with Brent dropping about 3 percent and WTI falling roughly half a percent.

Critchlow:  It seems unlikely oil will firm up in the first half of 2019

Critchlow: It seems unlikely oil will firm up in the first half of 2019  

Oil prices fell to their lowest levels in a year and a half this week and are down more than 20 percent for the year, depressed by rising supply and concerns about the health of the global economy.

U.S. crude inventories were down by 46,000 barrels in the week to Dec. 21, the Energy Information Administration said on Friday. Gasoline stocks rose by 3 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a gain of 28,000 barrels.

“The report was modestly bearish, as crude oil stocks held steady versus expectations of a sizeable decline,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital Management in New York. “The net effect of the report should keep prices fairly flat ahead of the weekend.”

Traders appeared to be squaring their books ahead of expected light volumes on Monday and a market closure on Tuesday for the New Year’s Day holiday.

“Looks like some people in the U.S. and UK got a nice opportunity to bail out of longs,” Sukrit Vijayakar, principal and trader at Trifecta Consultants in Mumbai, told Reuters Global Oil Forum.

Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore, said crude prices had been pressured by slowing economic growth “coupled with the expectation of strong U.S. production in the new year.”

Trader sees another rally ahead for crude

Trader sees another rally ahead for crude  

The United States has emerged as the world’s biggest crude producer this year, pumping 11.6 million barrels per day, more than both Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Earlier this month, OPEC and its allies, including Russia, agreed to cut output by 1.2 million bpd, or more than 1 percent of global consumption, starting in January.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday that Russia would cut its crude output by between 3 million and 5 million tonnes in the first half of 2019 as part of the deal.

Novak also told reporters the U.S. decision to allow some countries to trade Iranian oil after putting Tehran under sanctions was one of the key factors behind the OPEC deal.

Imports of Iranian crude oil by major buyers in Asia hit their lowest level in more than five years in November as the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports took effect last month, government and ship-tracking data showed.

Brent crude oil rises for a sixth day as supplies tighten amid strong demand

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  • Oil markets have been lifted by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), but the potential of renewed U.S. sanctions against Iran is also pushing prices higher.

Brent crude oil rose for sixth day on Tuesday, passing $75 a barrel, on expectations that supplies will tighten because fuel is rising at the same time the United States may impose sanctions against Iran and OPEC-led output cuts remain in place.

Brent crude oil futures climbed to as high as $75.20 a barrel in early trading on Tuesday, the highest since Nov. 27, 2014. Brent was still at $75 a barrel at 0311 GMT up 29 cents, or 0.4 percent, from its last close.

Brent’s six-day rising streak is the most since a similar string of gains in December and it is up by more than 20 percent from its 2018 low in February.

Oil Russia

Sergei Karpukhin | Reuters

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $68.98 a barrel, up 34 cents, or 0.5 percent from their last settlement. On Thursday, WTI rose to as high as $69.56, the most since Nov. 28, 2014.

Markets have been lifted by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which were introduced in 2017 with the aim of propping up the market.

The potential of renewed U.S. sanctions against Iran is also pushing prices higher.

Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage OANDA said new sanctions against Tehran “could push oil prices up as much as $5 per barrel.”

The United States has until May 12 to decide whether it will leave the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions against OPEC’s third-largest producer, which would further tighten global supplies.

“Crude prices are now sitting at the highest levels in three years, reflecting ongoing concerns around geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, which is the source of nearly half of the world’s oil supply,” ANZ bank said.

OPEC’s efforts to tighten markets are being led by top exporter Saudi Arabia, where state-controlled oil firm Saudi Aramco is pushing for higher prices ahead of a partial listing planned for later this year or 2019.

“Oil strength is coming from Saudi Arabia’s recent commitment to get oil back up to between $70 to $80 per barrel as well as inventory levels that are back in the normal range,” said William O’Loughlin, investment analyst at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.

OPEC’s supply curtailments and the threat of new sanctions are occurring just as demand in Asia, the world’s biggest oil consuming region, has risen to a record as new and expanded refineries start up from China to Vietnam.

One of the few factors that has limited oil prices from surging even more is U.S. production, which has shot up by more than a quarter since mid-2016 to over 10.54 million barrels per day (bpd), taking it past Saudi Arabia’s output of around 10 million bpd.

As a result of its rising output, U.S. crude is increasingly appearing on global markets, from Europe to Asia, undermining OPEC’s efforts to tighten the market.

Oil steady as US drilling tempers bullish sentiment

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  • Oil prices were steady on Monday.
  • A rising U.S. rig count pointed to further increases in the country’s output.
  • Prices are also being supported by the supply cuts led by OPEC that were introduced in 2017.

Getty Images

Oil prices were steady on Monday as a rising U.S. rig count pointed to further increases in American output, marking one of the few factors tamping back crude in an otherwise bullish environment.

Brent crude oil futures were at $74.07 per barrel at 0354 GMT, virtually unchanged from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 3 cents at $68.37 a barrel.

U.S. drillers added five oil rigs drilling for new production in the weekended April 20, bringing the total count to 820, highest since March 2015, according to General Electric’s Baker Hughes energy services firm.

The rising rig numbers point to further increases in U.S. crude production, which is already up a quarter since mid-2016 to a record 10.54 million barrels per day (bpd).

Only Russia produces more at almost 11 million bpd.

Despite the dips in crude oil on Monday, the overall market remains well supported, especially by strong demand in Asia, and Brent prices are up by 20 percent from their 2018 lows in February.

Prices are also being supported by the supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that were introduced in 2017 to prop up the market.

“Added price pressure comes from U.S. sanctions against the key oil exporting nations of Venezuela, Russia and Iran,” said J.P. Morgan Asset Management Global Market Strategist Kerry Craig. He was referring to action the U.S. government has taken on Russian companies and individuals, as well as on potential new measures against struggling Venezuela and especially OPEC-member Iran.

“Stay long oil,” U.S. bank J.P. Morgan said in a separate note to clients. The United States has until May 12 to decide whether it will leave the Iran nuclear deal and instead impose new sanctions against Tehran, including potentially on its oil exports, which would further tighten global supplies.

Trump shouldn't call on OPEC for lower oil

Trump shouldn’t call on OPEC for lower oil  

The U.S. trade action against Russia and, potentially, against Iran has resulted in a slump in Russia’s ruble and Iran’s rial.

This means costs for any imported goods become more expensive for its citizens or companies, but it has also pushed up the value of Russia’s and Iran’s oil sales as all of their production costs are in the local currencies, while foreign sales are virtually all made in the U.S. dollar.

The generally elevated oil prices have also sparked a spat between U.S. President Donald Trump and producer cartel OPEC.

Trump on Friday accused OPEC of “artificially” boosting oil prices, threatening on Twitter that this “will not be accepted”, drawing rebukes from several of the world’s top oil exporters within OPEC.

OPEC who? US oil producers are moving into the Asian market

CNBC

  • In a shakeup to the established order, U.S. crude oil exporters are moving more cargoes toward Asia
  • Exports from U.S. “tight oil” extracted from shale formations alone may swell to over 3 million barrels a day by 2022 — with a third of that volume absorbed by Asia, said one economist

Workers aboard a Shell platform in 2013 as it sails away for the Mars B Field in the Gulf of Mexico.

Eddie Seal | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Workers aboard a Shell platform in 2013 as it sails away for the Mars B Field in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mars and Poseidon are coming to Asia.

That is, those two varieties of U.S.-produced crude oil are spearheading American exporters’ direct challenge to OPEC for market share in Asia.

In a shakeup to the established order, U.S. crude oil exporters are moving more cargoes toward high-growth Asia as they capitalize on favorable price differentials and as supply curbs by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries force Gulf producers to withdraw from their traditional demand heartland.

That’s good news for Asian buyers who benefit from a more diversified basket of crude oil on offer and as competition between suppliers drives down prices.

“See it as a bigger buffet table for Asian refiners who have more supply options and sellers to engage with,” said John Driscoll, director of JTD Energy Services in Singapore and a former oil trader whose career spans nearly 40 years.

India received its first American oil cargo of 1.6 million barrels on Oct. 2, the result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. in June where he negotiated contracts to supply three Indian refineries with nearly 8 million barrels.

‘Markets 101’

All of this change was kicked off when the Obama administration lifted a 40-year-old ban on exporting domestic oil in December 2015.

Now, more U.S. crude is on the way if market economics stay favorable.

One of the decisive factors dictating global oil flows is the price gap between two international benchmarks: Brent crude oil and U.S. counterpart West Texas Intermediate. Typically, the higher Brent’s premium is over WTI, the stronger the pull for lower-priced U.S. crude from outside buyers.

The gap between Brent and WTI hit its widest level in two years in early October at over $6.00 a barrel. That spread “is the one everyone hones in,” said Driscoll, though other differentials are also closely monitored by oil traders for clues generating possible arbitrage leads, as is the gap between U.S. Mars crude oil – increasingly seen as a key export grade – and WTI.

And exporting is an increasingly popular option: U.S. crude exports rose to a record 1.98 million barrels a day in the week ending September 29.

That’s “classic Oil Markets 101,” said Michael Wittner, head of oil research at Societe Generale, “too much crude in the U.S. and too little crude elsewhere means that U.S. prices weaken relative to global prices, and exports increase to address the imbalance.”

OPEC on notice

Exports from U.S. “tight oil” extracted from shale formations alone may swell to over 3 million barrels a day by 2022 — with a third of that volume absorbed by Asia — said Ed Rawle, chief economist at Wood Mackenzie.

That signals a change in the energy world order as OPEC influence wanes. Some energy commentators believe the fracking boom has helped the U.S. take the title of the world’s “swing” producer from Saudi Arabia. The Americans, it’s thought, now possess the capacity to respond to fluctuations in market demand.

As tankers laden with U.S. crude move eastwards, OPEC is sure to take notice.

“Traditional OPEC suppliers will need to watch this space and price their crude competitively as up to 50 percent of incremental crudes into Asia could come from non-OPEC,” Rawle said.

Whether more U.S. crude gets shipped east will hinge on how fast capacity can be added to key U.S. export terminals such as the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, America’s only deep-water tanker port in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The emergence of the U.S. as a significant exporter to Europe or Asia will only be progressive and contingent on the development of Gulf Coast export capacity and crude price differentials remaining favorable,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, global head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas. “For now, these exports remain opportunistic.”