Oil prices down on surging output, but Iran sanctions loom

CNBC

  • Crude output from Russia, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia surged in October.
  • The sharp increase in supply comes ahead of U.S. sanctions on Iran which are due to go into effect next week.

Oil prices fell on Friday as surging output by the world’s three largest producers outweighed supply concerns from the start of U.S. sanctions next week against Iran’s petroleum exports.

Front-month Brent crude futures were at $72.60 per barrel at 0441 GMT on Friday, down 29 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 24 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $63.45 a barrel.

Brent has fallen by over 12 percent since the beginning of October, while WTI has lost more than 13 percent in value.

“More troubling… is the shift in structure towards contango,” U.S. investment bank Jefferies said on Friday.

Contango implies oversupply as it means prices for future delivery are higher than for immediate dispatch.

This makes it attractive for traders to store oil for later sale, although Jefferies said “spreads are still insufficient to encourage physical storage.”

Prices for April 2019 delivery are around 20 cents above January.

Downward pressure on oil is also visible in the physical market, where Saudi Arabia is expected to cut December crude prices amid higher supply and a glut in refined products that has eroded refinery profits.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) boosted oil production in October to 33.31 million barrels per day (bpd), a Reuters survey found this week, up 390,000 bpd from September and the highest by OPEC since December 2016.

In the United States, crude production has established itself well over 11 million bpd, and the U.S. is now running neck and neck with Russia for the title of top producer.

Russian production has risen to record high of 11.41 million bpd in October, up from 11.36 million bpd in September.

With Saudi Arabia pumping 10.65 million bpd in October, combined output from the top-three oil producers is at a record 33.41 million bpd, meaning that Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia meet more than a third of the world’s almost 100 million bpd of consumption.

“This surge has driven the market into oversupply,” Jefferies said.

U.S. sanctions on Iran loom

Despite surging output, concerns lingered ahead of the start of U.S. sanctions against Iran’s petroleum exports from next week.

Iran’s biggest oil customers, all in Asia, are seeking sanction waivers.

“Potential waivers appear targeted at India and South Korea, and they require some reductions over current import volumes while still allowing oil to flow,” said Clayton Allen of Height Securities.

“We think Trump will agree to China importing some volumes, similar to the treatment that India and South Korea receive,” he said.

Japan is seeking a similar deal.

Despite these efforts, analysts said any potential Iranian oil sanction waivers would likely only be temporary.

“The U.S. may use waivers to slow-walk implementation, but these will not apply indefinitely,” he added.

Goldman Sachs said it expects Iran’s crude oil exports to fall to 1.15 million bpd by the end of the year, down from around 2.5 million bpd in mid-2018.

“We still expect that the global oil market will be in deficit in 4Q18,” the U.S. bank said.

By the end of 2019, however, Goldman expects Brent to fall to $65 a barrel, largely due to “the unleashing of Permian (U.S. shale) supply growth once new pipelines come online.”

Oil rises ahead of U.S. sanctions on Iran, but outlook for 2019 less certain

CNBC

  • U.S. sanctions on Iran are set to go into effect in November.
  • Financial markets have built up large long positions in anticipation of more increases in prices.

Oil prices rose on Friday as traders anticipated a tighter market due to U.S. sanctions against Iran’s crude exports, which are set to start next month.

International benchmark Brent crude oil futures were at $84.98 per barrel at 0504 GMT, up 40 cents, or 0.5 percent from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 47 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $74.80 a barrel.

The gains helped claw back some of the losses from the previous session due to rising U.S. inventories and after Saudi Arabia and Russia said they would raise output to at least partly make up for expected disruptions from Iran.

“Brent front-month prices are up 6 percent over the last week as it becomes increasingly apparent that Iranian exports could fall below 1 million barrels per day in November,” said U.S. bank Jefferies on Friday.

U.S. sanctions will start targeting Iran’s crude exports from November 4, and Washington is putting pressure on governments and companies globally to fall in line.

“It now appears that only China and Turkey may be willing to risk U.S. retaliation by transacting with Iran,” Jefferies said.

The investment bank said there was currently enough oil to meet demand, but warned that “global spare capacity is dwindling to the lowest level that we can document … meaning any further supply disruptions would be difficult for the market to manage – and could lead to spiking crude oil prices.”

An expectation of tighter markets is fueling bullish financial oil market sentiment.

Financial traders have accumulated bullish long positions betting on a further rise in prices amounting to almost 1.2 billion barrels of oil.

Meanwhile, the number of short positions in the six most important petroleum futures and options contracts has fallen to the lowest level since before 2013, creating a near-record imbalance between bullish and bearish positions in financial crude markets.

“Bullish bets have increased substantially as markets are moving ahead of an impending shortfall from U.S.-Iran sanctions,” said Benjamin Lu of Singapore-based futures brokerage Phillip Futures on Friday.

There are, however, voices of caution.

“While upside price risks will prevail for now, fundamental data outside of Iran has not turned bullish in our view,” Goldman Sachs said in a note to clients dated Oct. 4.

“We expect fundamentals to gradually become binding by early 2019 as new spare capacity comes online … pointing to the global market eventually returning into a modest surplus in early 2019,” the bank said.

And while Goldman said there was still a “robust demand outlook”, there are increasing signs that high oil prices and declining emerging market currencies like India’s rupee or Indonesia’s rupiah are hitting fuel consumption.

Oil falls as Saudi and Russia quietly agree to output rise, US stocks swell

CNBC

  • Saudi, Russia agreed output rise without telling OPEC, according to sources.
  • On Wednesday, data from the Energy Information Administration showed that U.S. crude inventories rose by nearly 8 million barrels in the previous week to around 404 million barrels.

Oil prices on Thursday fell from four-year highs reached the previous session, pressured by rising U.S. inventories and after sources said Russia and Saudi Arabia struck a private deal in September to raise crude output.

Brent crude oil futures were trading at $85.85 per barrel at 0104 GMT, down 44 cents, or 0.5 percent, from their last close.

Brent on Wednesday hit a four-year high of $86.74 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 30 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $76.11 a barrel.

“Data for last week showed a much more significant than expected … build in U.S. commercial crude (inventories), which generally suggests that oil prices should tumble,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.

U.S. crude oil stocks rose by nearly 8 million barrels last week to about 404 million barrels, the biggest increase since March 2017, Energy Information Administration data showed on Wednesday.

U.S. weekly Midwest refinery utilization rates dropped to 78.9 percent, their lowest since October 2015, according to the data.

Meanwhile, U.S. crude oil production remained at a record-high of 11.1 million barrels per day (bpd).

“This on top of the other big news of the day from Riyadh that … Saudi Arabia and Russia will boost output,” Innes said.

Russia and Saudi Arabia struck a private deal in September to raise oil output to cool rising prices, Reuters reported on Wednesday, before consulting with other producers, including the rest of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Russia’s and Saudi Arabia’s actions come as markets have heated up ahead of U.S. sanctions against Iran’s oil sector, which are set to kick in from Nov. 4, and which many analysts expect to knock around 1.5 million bpd of supply out of markets.

On the demand side, there is increasing concern that high oil prices and weakening emerging market currencies are creating a toxic inflationary mix that could erode fuel demand and economic growth.

“We have been taking a very close look at the demand signals in the market, and what we have been seeing is not good, JBC Energy said on Wednesday in a note to clients.

The energy consultancy said it had revised its oil demand forecast downwards amid Brent prices above $80 and diving currencies in many emerging markets, as well as burgeoning product stocks and the ongoing Sino-U.S. trade dispute.

“We are not talking about cosmetic changes either. We have cut our forecast for 2018 demand growth by a whopping 300,000 bpd to below 1.1 million bpd,” it said.

Oil near 4-yr high as producers resist output rise to offset Iran sanctions

CNBC

  • U.S. sanctions to target Iran’s oil exports from November.
  • OPEC, Russia so far resist calls to raise output.
  • High oil prices threaten emerging market growth.

Oil prices on Tuesday were within reach of four-year highs hit in the previous session, as looming U.S. sanctions against Iran and unwillingness by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to raise output supported the market.

Brent crude futures were at $81.45 per barrel at 0421 GMT, up 25 cents, or 0.3 percent, and close to the intraday peak touched the previous day at $81.48, the highest level since November 2014.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $72.27 a barrel, up 19 cents, or 0.3 percent from their last settlement.

The United States from Nov. 4 will target Iran’s oil exports with sanctions, and Washington is putting pressure on governments and companies around the world to fall in line and cut purchases from Tehran.

“Iran will lose sizeable export volumes, and given OPEC+ reluctance to raise output, the market is ill-equipped to fill the supply gap,” Harry Tchilinguirian, global head of commodity markets strategy at French bank BNP Paribas, told the Reuters Global Oil Forum on Tuesday.

OPEC+ is the name given to the group of oil producers, including non-OPEC supplier Russia, that agreed to curtail output starting in 2017.

While Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and Iran on Tuesday said they were determined to develop payment mechanisms to continue trading despite the sanctions by the United States, most analysts expect Washington’s actions to knock between 1 million and 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil supplies out of markets.

“We view Brent’s rally above $80 per barrel as fundamentally justified,” said Fitch Solutions in a note.

Will OPEC act?

U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded that OPEC and Russia increase their supplies to make up for the expected fall in Iranian exports. Iran is the third-largest producer in OPEC.

OPEC and Russia, however, have so far rebuffed such calls.

“Any formal decision on oil output by the producer group, barring an extraordinary meeting, will only take place at the December meeting. Thus the window period for oil prices to potentially extend gains is quite wide as Iran loses exports and OPEC+ remains on standby,” Tchilinguirian said.

Ashley Kelty, oil analyst at financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald said crude could soon hit $90 per barrel.

“We don’t believe OPEC can actually raise output significantly in the near term, as the physical spare capacity in the system is not that high,” Kelty said.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has lifted its average Brent price forecast for 2019 from $75 per barrel to $80, while it increased its WTI crude oil forecast by $2 to $71 per barrel.

The bank said “the Iran factor may dominate the market near-term and cause a (crude price) spike,” although it added that emerging market “demand concerns could reappear thereafter.”

Indian refiners – struggling from high crude feedstock prices and a sliding rupee – are planning to reduce oil imports in what could be a first sign that high prices are starting to hurt demand.

Despite the bullish sentiment, some traders said current prices already reflected the tighter market, and that more oil would be coming in 2019.

Commodity trading giant Vitol said on Tuesday that non-OPEC producers, especially the United States, may insert up to 2 million bpd of new crude into the market in 2019.

To reflect rising U.S. oil exports, CME Group Inc said on Monday it will launch a WTI Houston crude futures contract in the fourth quarter.

CME’s announcement comes after rival Intercontinental Exchangesaid in July it would offer a Houston crude futures contract.

Oil prices claw back some ground, but demand worries drag

CNBC

  • Oil prices saw a partial recovery on Friday.
  • Worries over emerging markets and the U.S.-China trade dispute continue to weigh on sentiment over future growth in oil demand.

Oil on Friday clawed back some of its losses from the previous session, when prices fell the most in a month, as concerns about oil supply are countering worries that emerging market crises and trade disputes could dent demand.

Brent crude was up 8 cents, or 0.1 percent, at $78.26 a barrel by 0338 GMT, after falling 2 percent on Thursday. The global benchmark rose on Wednesday to its highest since May 22 at $80.13.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were up 18 cents, or 0.2 percent, at 68.76 a barrel, after dropping 2.5 percent on Thursday.

Brent is heading for a 1.8 percent gain this week, while WTI is on track for a 1.5 percent increase.

“Prices remain well supported as the market continues to fret about ongoing structural supply issues elsewhere,” ANZ Research said in a note.

The International Energy Agency on Thursday warned that although the oil market was tightening at the moment and world oil demand would reach 100 million barrels per day (bpd) in the next three months, global economic risks were mounting.

“As we move into 2019, a possible risk to our forecast lies in some key emerging economies, partly due to currency depreciations versus the U.S. dollar, raising the cost of imported energy,” the agency said.

“In addition, there is a risk to growth from an escalation of trade disputes,” the Paris-based agency said.

China will not buckle to U.S. demands in any trade negotiations, the major state-run China Daily newspaper said in an editorial on Friday, after Chinese officials welcomed an invitation from Washington for a new round of talks.

U.S. President Trump said on Twitter on Thursday that the United States holds the upper hand in talks.

“We are under no pressure to make a deal with China, they are under pressure to make a deal with us,” Trump tweeted.

Still, supply concerns are supported by data showing that U.S. crude production fell by 100,000 bpd to 10.9 million barrels per day last week as the industry faces pipeline capacity constraints.

Though weekly output slipped, the United States likely surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia earlier this year to become the world’s largest crude oil producer, based on preliminary estimates from the Energy Information Administration.

Although the EIA does not publish crude production forecasts for Russia and Saudi Arabia in its short term outlook, it expects that U.S. output will continue to exceed Russian and Saudi production for the remaining months of 2018 and through 2019.

The loss of Iranian oil to the market as refiners are cutting or halting purchase ahead of U.S. sanctions in November is also raising concerns about supply.