Oil prices fall as US inventory build-up heightens oversupply concerns

CNBC

Reuters
KEY POINTS
  • As of 0345 GMT, Brent crude was down by 47 cents, or 1.8%, at $25.88 a barrel.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was up 12 cents, or 0.6%, at $20.6 a barrel, an uptick analysts said was driven by position building at the start of a the new quarter.
GP: Oil production as sun sets
Oil production in Azerbaijan
Vostok

Global crude oil prices slid further on Wednesday, following their biggest-ever quarterly and monthly losses, as a bigger-than-expected rise in U.S. inventories and a widening rift within OPEC heightened oversupply fears.

Oil prices are near their lowest since 2002 amid the global coronavirus crisis that has brought a worldwide economic slowdown and slashed oil demand.

Crude futures ended the quarter down nearly 70% after record losses in March.

As of 0345 GMT, Brent crude was down by 47 cents, or 1.8%, at $25.88 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was up 12 cents, or 0.6%, at $20.6 a barrel, an uptick analysts said was driven by position building at the start of a the new quarter.

U.S. crude inventories rose by 10.5 million barrels last week, far exceeding forecasts for a 4 million barrel build-up, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed.

“The market sentiment remains bleak as there is no clarity on how long the pandemic will continue,” said Hiroyuki Kikukawa, general manager of research at Nissan Securities.

Nearly 800,000 people have been infected across the world and more than 38,800 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

The bearish mood in the market wasn’t improved by a rift within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Saudi Arabia and other members of OPEC were unable to come to an agreement on Tuesday to meet in April to discuss sliding prices.

“It is very unlikely that OPEC, with or without Russia or the United States, will agree a sufficient volumetric solution to offset oil demand losses,” BNP Paribas analyst Harry Tchilinguirian said in a report issued on Tuesday.

Adding to the downward pressure, sources told Reuters that top U.S. officials have for now put aside a proposal for an alliance with Saudi Arabia to manage the global oil market.

The Trump administration plans to lease out space for energy companies to store oil in the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, after a previous effort to buy millions of barrels for the emergency stockpile was cancelled over a lack of funding.

A Reuters survey of 40 analysts forecast Brent would average $38.76 a barrel in 2020, 36% lower than the $60.63 forecast in a February survey.

Oil prices plunge more than 26% after OPEC deal failure sparks price war

GP: Oil rig 180102
Oil pumpjacks in silhouette at sunset.
Oil prices plunged after OPEC’s failure to strike a deal with its allies regarding production cuts caused Saudi Arabia to slash its prices as it reportedly gets set to ramp up production, leading to fears of an all-out price war.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped 27.62% to $29.88 per barrel as of 06:33 GMT Monday, having earlier tumbled to a low of $27.34 per barrel. International benchmark Brent crude futures also plummeted 26.4% to $33.32 per barrel. Brent futures were down more than 30% at their lows.

“This has turned into a scorched Earth approach by Saudi Arabia, in particular, to deal with the problem of chronic overproduction,” Again Capital’s John Kilduff said. “The Saudis are the lowest cost producer by far. There is a reckoning ahead for all other producers, especially those companies operating in the U.S shale patch.”

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia announced massive discounts to its official selling prices for April, and the nation is reportedly preparing to increase its production above the 10 million barrel per day mark, according to a Reuters report. The kingdom currently pumps 9.7 million barrels per day, but has the capacity to ramp up to 12.5 million barrels per day.

“We believe the OPEC and Russia oil price war unequivocally started this weekend when Saudi Arabia aggressively cut the relative price at which it sells its crude by the most in at least 20 years,” Goldman Sachs analyst Damien Courvalin said in a note to clients Sunday. “The prognosis for the oil market is even more dire than in November 2014, when such a price war last started, as it comes to a head with the significant collapse in oil demand due to the coronavirus,” the firm added.

Goldman cut its second and third quarter Brent forecast to $30 per barrel, and said that prices could dip into the $20s.

Saudi Arabia’s price cut followed a breakdown of talks in Vienna last week. On Thursday, OPEC recommended additional production cuts of 1.5 million barrels per day starting in April and extending until the end of the year. But OPEC ally Russia rejected the additional cuts when the 14-member cartel and its allies, known as OPEC+, met on Friday.

The meeting also concluded with no directive about the production cuts that are currently in place but set to expire at the end of the month. This effectively means that nations will soon have free rein over how much they pump.

“As from 1 April we are starting to work without minding the quotas or reductions which were in place earlier,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters Friday at the OPEC+ meeting in Vienna, adding, “but this does not mean that each country would not monitor and analyze market developments.”

Oil prices have already moved sharply lower this year as the coronavirus outbreak has led to softer demand for crude. A potential supply glut could pressure prices further.

“Both events – coronavirus and OPEC+ falling apart were not expected or priced into the market a month ago,” said Rebecca Babin, senior equity trader for CIBC Private Wealth Management. She said the key things to watch going forward are whether or not Saudi Arabia and Russia reach a “Hail Mary” deal, and if not, how quickly U.S. supply is shut in to support prices.

“There is still significant uncertainty, but the commodity market is not waiting around to find out if miracles can happen,” she added.

The unfolding of events is reminiscent of 2014 when Saudi Arabia, Russia and the U.S. competed for market share in the oil industry. As production escalated, prices plummeted. Some see prices heading back to those lows.

″$20 oil in 2020 is coming,” Ali Khedery, formerly Exxon’s senior Middle East advisor and now CEO of U.S.-based strategy firm Dragoman Ventures, wrote Sunday on Twitter. “Huge geopolitical implications. Timely stimulus for net consumers. Catastrophic for failed/failing petro-kleptocracies Iraq, Iran, etc – may prove existential 1-2 punch when paired with COVID19.”

But others, including Eurasia Group, believe that Saudi Arabia and Russia will eventually come to an agreement.

“The most likely outcome of the failure of the Vienna talks is a limited oil price war before the two sides agree on a new deal,” analysts led by Ayham Kamel said in a note to clients Sunday. The firm puts the chances of an eventual agreement at 60%.

Vital Knowledge founder Adam Crisafulli said Sunday that oil “has become a bigger problem for markets than the coronavirus,” but also said that he does not foresee prices falling to the Jan. 2016 lows.

“Saudi Arabia can’t tolerate an oil depression – the country’s fiscal breakeven oil prices remains very high, Saudi Aramco is now a public company, and MBS’s grip on power isn’t yet absolute. As a result, the [government] won’t be so cavalier in sending oil back into the $30s (or even lower),” he said in a note to clients Sunday.

— CNBC’s Michael Bloom and Natasha Turak contributed reporting.

Oil comes off lows as hopes of OPEC cut, stimulus counter virus gloom

CNBC

Reuters
KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude was at $51.31 a barrel, up $1.64 or 3.3%, by 0502 GMT, off $48.40, the lowest since July 2017.
  • Across the Atlantic, U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude hit a 14-month low of $43.32, before recovering to $46.11, up $1.35, or 3%.
GP: Oil production facilities 200205 ASIA
A kayaker passes in front of an offshore oil platform in the Guanabara Bay in Niteroi, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020.
Dado Galdieri | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Oil prices rebounded more than $1 a barrel after earlier hitting multi-year lows on Monday, as hopes of a deeper cut in output by OPEC and stimulus from central banks countered worries about damage to demand from the coronavirus outbreak.

Brent crude was at $51.31 a barrel, up $1.64 or 3.3%, by 0502 GMT, off $48.40, the lowest since July 2017.

Across the Atlantic, U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude hit a 14-month low of $43.32, before recovering to $46.11, up $1.35, or 3%.

Both marked their first gain after six sessions of losses amid virus worries. The coronavirus, which originated in China, has killed nearly 3,000 and roiled global markets as investors brace for a steep knock to world growth. Equities marked their biggest rout since the 2008 financial crisis last week.

Dragging on oil prices earlier in the day was data unveiled over the weekend by China, the world’s top energy consumer.

Factory activity in the country shrank at the fastest pace ever in February, underscoring the colossal damage from the outbreak on its economy.

“On the one hand, it’s pretty negative on worldwide crude oil and product demand,” said Lachlan Shaw, head of commodity research at the National Australia Bank.

But then there is news Saudi Arabia is pushing for a million barrels per day cut to be agreed this week, while central banks are increasingly signalling an appetite to intervene and support markets by cutting interest rates, he said.

“So it’s a balance and it’s going to be pretty volatile.”

Several key members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are mulling the additional production cut in the second quarter amid fears the virus outbreak will erode oil demand. The previous proposal was for an additional output cut of 600,000 bpd.

Oil prices are down more than 20% since the start of the year despite OPEC and its allies including Russia, a grouping known as OPEC+, curbing oil output by 1.7 million bpd under a deal that runs to the end of March.

“Inaction by OPEC+ would likely trigger another potentially severe bout of selling,” analysts at Fitch Solutions have said.

Also, current prices would incentivize Russia to agree to further output cuts although “any cut will likely be of a short duration, for example, three months, with the barrels brought immediately back to market thereafter,” Fitch analysts said.

Oil rises on short-covering despite growing fears over coronavirus

CNBC

Reuters
KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude rose 42 cents, or 0.8%, to $55.37 a barrel by 0154 GMT.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude gained 43 cents, or 0.9%, to $50.33 a barrel.
  • Still, both benchmarks are down nearly 7% since last Thursday’s close.
GP: Oil production as sun sets
Oil production in Azerbaijan
Vostok

Crude prices edged up on Wednesday as investors covered short positions after three sessions of losses, even as fears deepened that the rapid spread of the coronavirus will lead to a global pandemic.

Brent crude rose 42 cents, or 0.8%, to $55.37 a barrel by 0154 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude gained 43 cents, or 0.9%, to $50.33 a barrel. Still, both benchmarks are down nearly 7% since last Thursday’s close.

Fears of a pandemic escalated after the coronavirus spread to more countries, while Iran’s virus death toll rose to 16, the highest outside China, and infections worsened in South Korea and Italy.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans should prepare for possible community spread of the virus.

“Investors unwound short positions after WTI dipped below a key support level of $50, as they have done a few times earlier this month,” said Hideshi Matsunaga, analyst at Sunward Trading.

“The reduction in Libya’s output and expectations for additional production cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and OPEC+ are also lending support,” he said.

Oil output in Libya has fallen sharply since Jan. 18 because of a blockade of ports and oil fields by groups loyal to eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar.

OPEC and its allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, are due to meet in Vienna over March 5-6.

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Tuesday he was confident that OPEC and its partners would respond responsibly to the spread of the coronavirus.

Still, lingering worries that the rapidly spreading coronavirus will dent the global economy and oil demand are weighing on investor sentiment.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) outlook on global oil demand growth has fallen to its lowest level in a decade, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said on Tuesday, adding it could be reduced further due to the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. crude inventories are expected to rise for a fifth week running. The American Petroleum Institute (API) said late Tuesday that crude stockpiles rose 1.3 million barrels last week. Government data due at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) on Wednesday was expected to show a 2 million-barrel rise, according to a Reuters poll.

Meanwhile, the United States is preparing to impose more sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, in an attempt to choke financing to President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

Oil prices fall as market weighs coronavirus demand impact

CNBC

Reuters
KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude was at $57.07 a barrel, down 60 cents, or 1%, by 0348 GMT.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fell 38 cents, or 0.7%, to $51.67 a barrel.
GP: Oil rig 180102
Oil pumpjacks in silhouette at sunset.

Oil prices fell on Tuesday, tracking losses in financial markets on lingering concerns over the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak in China and its effect on oil demand.

Brent crude was at $57.07 a barrel, down 60 cents, or 1%, by 0348 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fell 38 cents, or 0.7%, to $51.67 a barrel.

“Oil prices remain heavy as energy traders may have been overly optimistic as to the crude demand impact of the coronavirus, and in fading optimism that OPEC + will come through with deeper production cuts in March,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

“Optimism that China would see a return to normalcy in travel and trade next quarter was probably wrong… The rest of world is exercising caution on virus spreading fears and that will do no favors for crude’s demand outlook.”

U.S. stock futures slipped from record levels on Tuesday after Apple Inc, the most valuable company in the United States, said it will not meet its revenue guidance for the March quarter as the coronavirus outbreak slowed production and weakened demand in China.

The number of new coronavirus infections in mainland China fell below 2,000 on Tuesday for the first time since January, Chinese health officials said, although global experts warn it is too early to say the outbreak is being contained.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said last week the virus was set to cause oil demand to fall by 435,000 barrels per day (bpd) year-on-year in the first quarter, in what would be the first quarterly drop since the financial crisis in 2009.

Still, with some Chinese independent refineries snapping up crude supplies after being absent from the market for weeks, traders held out hopes that China’s demand could recover in coming months.

Investors are also anticipating that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, including Russia, will approve a proposal to deepen production cuts to tighten global supplies and support prices.

The group, known as OPEC+, has an agreement to cut oil output by 1.7 million bpd until the end of March.

Oil output from Libya has fallen sharply since Jan. 18 because of a blockade of ports and oil fields by groups loyal to eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar.

Libya’s national oil corporation, NOC, said on Monday that oil production was at 135,745 barrels per day as of Monday, compared with 1.2 million bpd before the stoppage.