Oil prices fall on worries fuel demand to stall amid slowing global growth

CNBC

  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures slipped from their last settlement.

Oil tanker

Jean-Paul Pelissier | Reuters

Oil prices declined on Thursday amid lingering concerns over slowing global economic growth that may limit fuel demand and after a surprise build in U.S. crude inventories.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $60.89 a barrel at 0352 GMT, down 25 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last settlement, having closed down 0.6 percent in the previous session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52.40 per barrel, 22 cents lower from their last settlement.

“Crude oil came under further pressure as concerns of faltering global growth remained at the forefront in investor’s minds,” ANZ Bank said.

The prospects of future oil demand are getting clouded by the global growth worries, analysts said.

“With the IMF downgrading 2019/20 and the continued rhetoric from Davos reiterating that they expect global growth to slow down over the next two years, is providing selling pressure in oil,” said Hue Frame, portfolio manager at Frame Funds in Sydney.

Earlier this week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its world economic growth forecasts for 2019 and 2020, due to weakness in Europe and some emerging markets.

Meanwhile, world leaders and top executives are meeting in Davos, Switzerland, this week to discuss how to steer policy amid worries of slowing economic growth, damaging trade wars and Brexit.

Oil market sentiment was also weakened by an increase in U.S. crude inventories after refineries cut output, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed on Wednesday.

Crude inventories rose by 6.6 million barrels in the week ended Jan. 18 to 443.6 million, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 42,000 barrels, the API said. Refinery runs fell by 152,000 barrels per day.

“Sharp production cuts by OPEC+ have kept crude oil futures supported however as market reports indicate for a marked output reduction in Dec 2018,” said Benjamin Lu, analyst at Phillip Futures.

“Though oil prices have demonstrated for higher upside potential in the first quarter of 2019, mounting economic challenges will continue to impede exponential gains in the longer term,” Lu added.

Record U.S. crude production weighs on oil prices

CNBC

  • Oil prices dipped on Thursday as U.S. crude production quickly approached an unprecedented 12 million barrels per day (bpd) just as worries about weakening demand emerge.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52 per barrel at 0140 GMT, down 31 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their last settlement.
  • International Brent crude oil futures were down 34 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $60.98 per barrel.

Men work for Iraqi Drilling Company at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, Iraq,

Essam Al-Sudani | Reuters
Men work for Iraqi Drilling Company at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, Iraq,

Oil prices dipped on Thursday as U.S. crude production quickly approached an unprecedented 12 million barrels per day (bpd) just as worries about weakening demand emerge.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52 per barrel at 0140 GMT, down 31 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their last settlement.

International Brent crude oil futures were down 34 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $60.98 per barrel.

American crude oil production reached a record 11.9 million bpd in the week ending Jan. 11, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday, up from 11.7 million bpd last week, which was already the highest national output in the world.

U.S. output has soared by 2.4 million bpd since January 2018, stoking fears of a supply glut.

The EIA also said gasoline stockpiles climbed 7.5 million barrels last week, far exceeding analyst expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.8 million-barrel gain. At 255.6 million barrels, gasoline stocks were at their highest weekly level since February, 2017.

“While (U.S. crude) inventories fell slightly more than expected, there was a large build in gasoline inventories. This stoked fears of weak demand in the U.S.,” ANZ Bank said in a note.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 3.0 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.6 million-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.

U.S. exports surge, OPEC cuts

Along with the surge in U.S. crude output, exports from the United States are also rising, hitting a record 3.2 million bpd by the end of last year.

“Crude oil exports from the U.S. have strongly increased during the last few years and the trend is expected to remain positive,” shipping brokerage Banchero Costa said in a note.

Norbert Ruecker, head of commodity research at Swiss Julius Baer, said “the United States is moving forward towards energy independence and is set to become a petroleum net exporter next year thanks to rising shale output”.

Soaring U.S. supply comes amid concerns over stuttering demand-growth due to a global economic slowdown, which some analysts believe will turn into a recession.

To stem a lurking petroleum glut, the Middle East-dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producer Russia are leading efforts to cut supply.

This has prevented crude prices from falling much lower despite softening demand and the surge in U.S. output.

Oil torn between economic slowdown concerns, OPEC-led supply cuts

CNBC

  • Oil prices were steady on Wednesday as signs of a global economic slowdown were countered by OPEC-led supply cuts which helped support Brent crude futures above $60 per barrel.
  • International Brent crude oil futures were at $60.66 per barrel at 0444 GMT, 2 cents above their last close.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were flat from their last settlement, at $52.11 a barrel.

Oil operations in the Permian Basin near Midland, Texas

Nick Oxford | Reuters
Oil operations in the Permian Basin near Midland, Texas

Oil prices were steady on Wednesday as signs of a global economic slowdown were countered by OPEC-led supply cuts which helped support Brent crude futures above $60 per barrel.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $60.66 per barrel at 0444 GMT, 2 cents above their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were flat from their last settlement, at $52.11 a barrel.

“Fundamentals offer no clear price direction,” said Norbert Ruecker, head of commodity research at Swiss bank Julius Baer.

Prices were prevented from rising as signs of a global economic slowdown mounted.

China, Asia’s biggest economy, faces rising trade uncertainties this year, a commerce ministry official said on Wednesday, after the government earlier this week reported poor December trade data, with both exports and imports contracting from a year earlier.

In Japan, core machinery orders slowed sharply in November in a sign corporate capital expenditure could lose momentum as a bruising U.S.-China trade war spills into the global economy.

Adding to the trade woes, the U.S. economy is taking a larger-than-expected hit from a partial government shutdown, White House estimates showed on Tuesday, as contractors and even the Coast Guard go without pay and talks to end the impasse seem stalled.

The outlook for the global economy darkened further when British lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal to leave the European Union.

OPEC cuts support crude

Despite this, oil markets are receiving support from supply cuts started late last year by producer group the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and major non-OPEC producer Russia.

However, surging U.S. crude oil production, which hit a record 11.7 million barrels per day (bpd) late last year, threatens to undermine the OPEC-led efforts.

U.S. crude oil output is expected to rise to a record of more than 12 million bpd this year and to climb to nearly 13 million bpd next year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday, in its first 2020 forecast.

With so much uncertainty around demand and supply, the outlook for oil markets is unclear.

Oil prices are expected to oscillate close to current levels, according to a large annual survey of energy professionals conducted by Reuters between Jan. 8 and 11, with Brent prices in 2019 expected to average $65 per barrel, unchanged from surveys in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“The oil market remains amply supplied and prices are set to trade rangebound,” Ruecker said. “Softening demand makes too-high prices short-lived … Similarly, (supply) cuts and slowing shale output make too-low prices short-lived.”

Oil drops nearly 2 percent, breaking 9-day win streak amid global growth concern

CNBC

  • Oil prices fall nearly 2 percent on Friday, but post solid weekly gains.
  • Investors remain concerned about a slew of recent economic data that has raised worries about a global economic slowdown.
  • Hopes the United States and China may soon resolve their trade dispute and tightened supply following OPEC-led crude production cuts are supporting oil prices.

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 about 2 percent on Friday amid worries about a global economic slowdown, but futures ended the week higher, keeping some gains from a week-long rally spurred by U.S.-China trade hopes.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures ended Friday’s session down $1, or 1.9 percent, at $51.59 a barrel. Brent crude futures fell $1.15, or 1.9 percent, to $60.53 a barrel, around 2:30 p.m. ET.

Friday’s pullback marked the end of a nine-day winning streak for crude futures, the best string of gains since January 2010 for WTI and April 2007 for Brent.

Still, both benchmarks posted their second week of gains, with WTI rising about 7.5 percent and Brent up 6 percent.

Markets were supported earlier this week by hopes that an all-out trade war between Washington and Beijing might be averted. Three days of talks concluded on Wednesday with no concrete announcements, but higher-level discussions may convene later this month.

Paul Sankey on oil's rebound

Paul Sankey on oil’s rebound  

“Some of the strength that we’ve gotten from that seems to be coming out of the market,” Gene McGillian, vice president of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

“Right now I think the market is in a holding pattern above our recent lows and it’s looking for its next driver,” McGillian said.

Investors remained concerned about a slew of recent economic data that has raised worries about a global economic slowdown.

China plans to set a lower economic growth target of 6-6.5 percent in 2019 compared with last year’s target of “around” 6.5 percent, policy sources told Reuters, as Beijing gears up to cope with higher U.S. tariffs and weakening domestic demand.

“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.

On the supply side, oil markets have received support from supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. The deal is aimed at reining in a glut that emerged in the second half of 2018.

Lower oil exports from Iran since November, when U.S. resumed sanctions against the OPEC producer, have also supported crude.

Pick energy names you know, says Stacey Gilbert

Pick energy names you know, says Stacey Gilbert  

Iran will see its crude exports severely curtailed for a third month in January, according to tanker data and industry sources.

Playing a key part in the emerging glut was the United States, where crude oil production has soared to a record 11.7 million barrels per day.

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

U.S. energy firms, however, this week cut four oil rigs, the second week of declines, General Electric Co’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said, as producers turned conservative in their 2019 drilling plans due to uncertainty over a recovery in crude prices.

— CNBC’s Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.

US crude rises 2.2%, settling at $52.61, after OPEC and allies reach deal to cut output

CNBC

  • Oil prices jump after OPEC and its allies reach an agreement to slash production for the first six months of 2019.
  • OPEC producers agreed to cut output by 800,000 barrels per day, while allied nations including Russia will reduce production by 400,000 bpd.
  • The combined cut of 1.2 million bpd is in line with expectations and will take effect in January.

Here's the kind of deal OPEC could make

Here’s the kind of deal OPEC could make  

Oil prices surged higher on Friday after OPEC, Russia and several other producers reached an agreement to cut output next year in order to boost the market.

The new agreement comes at a time when the oil market is near the bottom of its worst price plunge since the 2008 financial crisis. Oil prices have dropped more than 30 percent from their highs in early October, hammered by concerns about oversupply, weakness in global markets and technical trading that exacerbated the slide.

OPEC and its allies agreed to throttle back output by 1.2 million bpd during the first six months of 2019.

The production cut is roughly in line with expectations heading into the meeting. Commodity watchers were expected the alliance to remove 1 million to 1.4 million bpd from the market.

Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil prices, rose $1.61, or 2.7 percent, to $61.67 a barrel. Brent earlier rose more than 5 percent to $63.73.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures ended Friday’s session up $1.12, or 2.2 percent, at $52.61 per barrel, off a session high of $54.22.

Energy research firm Wood Mackenzie forecasts the production cut will tighten markets by the third quarter of 2019 and cause Brent to rise back above $70 a barrel.

“It would help producers contend with the strength of US supply growth in 2019 when we expect a year-on-year increase of 2.4 million b/d in non-OPEC production as US supply continues to gain sharply,” said Ann-Louise Hittle, vice president of macro oils at Wood Mackenzie.

The United States is pumping at all time highs near 11.7 million bpd, according to preliminary government figures. Last week, the country exported more oil and refined fuels than it imported for the first time in decades.

Meanwhile, Russian production hit a post-Soviet era high at 11.4 million bpd this fall, and Saudi oil production rose to a record 11.1 million bpd in November.

The supply surge from the world’s top three oil producers is as forecasters warn oil demand growth will be softer than anticipated next year.

OPEC members agreed on Friday to cut production by 800,000 bpd, while non-OPEC producers aim to shave 400,000 bpd off the market.

Iranian oil minister confirms 1.2 million barrel oil cut

Iranian oil minister confirms 1.2 million barrel oil cut  

Top exporter Saudis Arabia will deliver the lion’s share of the OPEC cuts. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al Falih on Friday said he expects the kingdom’s output to fall to 10.7 million bpd in December and 10.2 million bpd in January.

Russia’s pledge pencils out to a 228,000-230,000 bpd cut, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said. However, Novak warned that Russia would reduce supply gradually due to climate conditions that affect its oil fields in the winter.

OPEC began capping supply in partnership with Russia and several other nations in January 2017 in order to end a punishing downturn in oil prices.

The alliance reversed course and agreed to hike output in June after it removed more barrels from the market than it intended, largely due to the ongoing free fall in Venezuelan output and supply disruptions in Libya.

The Trump administration lobbied for the midyear production increase as it prepared to restore sanctions on Iran, a policy that has pushed up oil prices throughout much of 2018. Trump has sought to blame OPEC for rising oil prices, ordering the cartel to take action to cut the cost of crude several times this year.

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he hoped OPEC would not restrict supply and instead keep oil flowing “as is.”