Oil slips on rising US rig count, China industrial slowdown

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  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures slipped.
  • U.S. energy firms last week raised the number of rigs looking for new oil for the first time in 2019 to 862, an additional 10 rigs, Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its weekly report on Friday.
  • Beyond oil supply, a key question for this year will be demand growth, with concerns over a slowing economy in China. the world’s second-largest oil user.

Oil refinery and storage Australia

Jason Reed | Reuters

Oil prices fell on Monday after U.S. energy firms added rigs for the first time this year in a sign that crude production there may rise further, and as China, the world’s second-largest oil user, reported additional signs of an economic slowdown.

U.S. crude oil futures were at $53.43 per barrel at 0253 GMT, down 26 cents, or 0.5 percent, from their last settlement.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $61.50 a barrel, down 14 cents, or 0.2 percent.

High U.S. crude oil production, which rose to a record 11.9 million barrels per day (bpd) late last year, has been weighing on oil markets, traders said.

In a sign that output could rise further, U.S. energy firms last week raised the number of rigs looking for new oil for the first time in 2019 to 862, an additional 10 rigs, Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its weekly report on Friday.

Beyond oil supply, a key question for this year will be demand growth.

Oil consumption has been increasing steadily, likely averaging above 100 million bpd for the first time ever in 2019, driven largely by a boom in China.

However, an economic slowdown amid a trade dispute between Washington and Beijing is weighing on fuel demand-growth expectations.

Earnings at China’s industrial firms shrank for a second straight month in December on falling prices and sluggish factory activity, piling more pressure on the world’s second-largest economy, which reported the slowest pace of growth last year since 1990.

China is trying to stem the slowdown with aggressive fiscal stimulus measures.

But there are concerns that these measures may not have the desired effect as China’s economy is already laden with massive debt and some of the bigger government spending measures may be of little real use.

The increased U.S. supply, the country is now the world’s largest producer, and the economic slowdown are weighing on the oil price outlook.

“We expect U.S. crude oil prices to range between $50-$60 per barrel in 2019 and about $10 more per barrel for Brent,” Tortoise Capital Advisors said in its 2019 oil market outlook.

However, Tortoise added that oil prices would be supported above $50 per barrel as it was “very clear that Saudi Arabia will no longer be willing to accept these lower oil prices”.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), de-facto led by Saudi Arabia, started supply cuts late last year to tighten markets and buoy prices.

Oil slips on economic worries, but still set for strong weekly gain

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  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures slipped.
  • Despite Friday’s price falls, Brent and WTI are set for weekly gains of more than 7 and 8 percent respectively.

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 slipped on Friday amid concerns over the outlook for the global economy, but output cuts agreed by major exporters underpinned crude prices and kept markets on track for a strong weekly climb.

International Brent crude futures were at $61.55 per barrel at 0333 GMT, down 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dropped 7 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $52.52 per barrel.

Traders said the declines came on lingering concerns over the health of the global economy.

“If we experience an economic slowdown, crude will underperform due to its correlation to growth,” said Hue Frame, portfolio manager at Frame Funds in Sydney.

Most analysts have downgraded their global economic growth forecasts below 3 percent for 2019, with some even fearing a looming recession amid trade disputes and spiralling debt.

For now, however, there is hope that the trade war between Washington and Beijing may be resolved as global markets, including oil, took heart from talks between the two sides this week.

Despite Friday’s price falls, Brent and WTI are set for weekly gains of more than 7 and 8 percent respectively.

Beyond global economics, oil markets are receiving support from supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) aimed at reining in a glut that emerged in the second-half of 2018.

A key reason for the emerging glut was the United States where crude oil production soared by more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2018 to a record 11.7 million bpd.

Consultancy JBC Energy this week said it was likely that U.S. crude oil production was already “significantly above 12 million bpd” by January 2019.

Given the overall supply and demand balance, Swiss bank Julius Baer said it was “price neutral” in its oil forecast.

“We see the oil market as well balanced into the foreseeable future, as the petro-nations make space for further U.S. shale production growth,” said Norbert Ruecker, head of commodity research at the bank.

Oil prices surge on hopes of successful US-China trade talks

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  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures saw gains.
  • Both crude price benchmarks had already gained more than 2 percent in the previous session.

Oil tanker

Jean-Paul Pelissier | Reuters

Oil prices rose on Wednesday, extending gains from the previous session on hopes that Washington and Beijing can resolve a trade dispute that has triggered a global economic slowdown.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $50.29 per barrel as at 0131, up 51 cents, or 1 percent from their last settlement. It was the first time this year that WTI has topped $50 a barrel.

International Brent crude futures were up 42 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $59.14 per barrel.

Both crude price benchmarks had already gained more than 2 percent in the previous session.

“Crude continues to extend gains as early reports from Beijing regarding trade negotiations are fueling optimism around successful trade talks between the U.S. and China,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.

“After a dreadful December for risk markets, Crude oil continues to catch a positive vibe,” he added.

The world’s two biggest economies will continue trade talks in Beijing for an unscheduled third day on Wednesday, U.S. officials said, amid signs of progress on issues including purchases of U.S. farm and energy commodities and increased U.S. access to China’s markets.

State newspaper China Daily said on Wednesday that Beijing is keen to put an end to its trade dispute with the United States, but that it will not make any “unreasonable concessions” and that any agreement must involve compromise on both sides.

If no deal is reached by March 2, Trump has said he will proceed with raising tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports at a time when China’s economy is slowing significantly.

Oil prices have also been receiving support from supply cuts started at the end of 2018 by a group of producers around the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as non-OPEC member Russia.

“Crude oil prices continued to march higher, with investors becoming increasingly confident that the OPEC cuts would tighten the market,” ANZ bank said.

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

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  • 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.

US oil prices rebound after tumbling to lowest since June 2017 on economy fears

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  • U.S. crude futures gained 0.68 percent, at $42.82 per barrel, at 0355 GMT.
  • Meanwhile, Brent crude oil futures slipped 0.22 percent at $50.36 per barrel.
  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures plunged to their weakest levels in more than a year in the previous session.

174362712AB024_OIL_BOOM_SHI

Andrew Burton | Getty Images

Oil prices were mixed in thin trading on Wednesday as the U.S. benchmark rebounded from steep losses in the previous session, even though concern over the health of the global economy continued to overshadow the market in the longer term.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures, were up 29 cents, or 0.68 percent, at $42.82 per barrel, at 0355 GMT, having at one point risen as high as 2 percent from the last close. They had slumped 6.7 percent in the previous session to $42.53 a barrel – the lowest since June 2017.

Meanwhile Brent crude oil futures were down 11 cents or 0.22 percent at $50.36 a barrel, having skidded 6.2 percent in the previous session to $50.47 a barrel, the weakest since August 2017.

“$50 is a psychological support level (for Brent),” said Margaret Yang, market analyst for CMC Markets in Singapore.

“But market confidence needs to be restored for oil price…that include an equity market rebound and/or a bigger production cut from major oil exporters,” Yang said, referring to an OPEC-led agreement to lower output from next month.

Broader financial markets have been under pressure on worries about a global economic slowdown amid higher U.S. interest rates and the U.S.-China trade dispute.

“U.S. equity futures are trading a bit firmer this morning triggering some little buying interest in the oil markets,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.

But Innes added macroeconomics fears will continue unless the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) “reassures markets the viability of their supply cuts and even impose deeper ones as some members have suggested”. OPEC and allies led by Russia agreed this month to cut oil production by 1.2 million barrels per day from January.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Tuesday that oil prices would become more stable in the first half of 2019, supported by OPEC and non-OPEC countries’ joint efforts to cut output.

Elsewhere, U.S. political turmoil triggered by the partial shutdown of the federal government is also adding to market concerns. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that shutdown could last until his demand for U.S.-Mexico border wall money is met.