Oil rises 1 percent on supply cuts, but economic slowdown weighs on outlook

CNBC

  • Oil prices rose 1 percent on Tuesday amid supply cuts led by producer club OPEC and Russia, although a darkening economic outlook capped gains.
  • International Brent crude oil futures were at $59.64 per barrel at 0257 GMT, up 65 cents, or 1.1 percent, from their last close.
  • While OPEC and Russia cut supply and Iran is restrained by sanctions, crude oil production in the United States hit a record 11.7 million barrels per day late last year.

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 rose 1 percent on Tuesday amid supply cuts led by producer club OPEC and Russia, although a darkening economic outlook capped gains.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $59.64 per barrel at 0257 GMT, up 65 cents, or 1.1 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $51.09 per barrel, up 58 cents, or 1.2 percent.

“The impact of OPEC+ (OPEC and others including Russia) cuts, Iran sanctions and lower month-on-month growth in U.S. production should help to support oil prices from current levels,” U.S. bank J.P. Morgan said in a note.

The Middle East-dominated producer club of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some non-OPEC allies, including Russia, agreed in late 2018 to cut supply to rein in a global glut.

Meanwhile, the United States last November re-imposed sanctions against Iran’s oil exports. Although Washington granted sanctions waivers to Iran’s biggest oil customers, mostly in Asia, the Middle Eastern country’s exports have plummeted since.

“Iranian exports have already fallen sharply and are likely to remain at around 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2019, 1.3 million bpd down vs their 1H18 average,” HSBC said in its 2019 oil market outlook.

While OPEC and Russia cut supply and Iran is restrained by sanctions, crude oil production in the United States hit a record 11.7 million bpd late last year.

The surging output increasingly allows U.S. oil producers to export crude, including to top importer China.

Three cargoes of U.S. crude are currently heading to China from the U.S.

Gulf Coast, the first departures since late September and a 90-day pause in the two countries’ trade war that began last month.

The tankers are scheduled to arrive at Chinese ports between late January and early March, according to shipbrokers and vessel tracking data.

Looming over oil and financial markets, however, is an economic slowdown.

Tuesday’s oil price increases came after crude futures fell by more than 2 percent the previous session, dragged down by weak Chinese trade data which pointed to a global economic slowdown.

“The outlook for the global economy continues to be highly uncertain,” HSBC said.

The bank said it had cut its average 2019 Brent crude oil price forecast by $16 per barrel, to $64 per barrel, citing surging U.S. production and an “increasingly uncertain demand backdrop”.

Brent crude prices fall below $60 on weak China trade data

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  • Brent crude oil prices fell below $60 per barrel on Monday after Chinese data showed weakening imports and exports in the world’s biggest trading nation.
  • China’s December exports fell by 4.4 percent from a year earlier, the biggest monthly drop in two years, official data showed on Monday, pointing to further weakening in the world’s second-largest economy. Imports also contracted, falling 7.6 percent, the biggest decline since July 2016.
  • Traders said the data pulled down crude oil futures and Asian stock markets alike, which had both posted modest gains earlier on Monday.

Brent crude oil prices fell below $60 per barrel on Monday after Chinese data showed weakening imports and exports in the world’s biggest trading nation.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $59.78 per barrel at 0312 GMT, down 70 cents, or 1.2 percent from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 63 cents, or 1.2 percent, $50.96 a barrel.

China’s December exports fell by 4.4 percent from a year earlier, the biggest monthly drop in two years, official data showed on Monday, pointing to further weakening in the world’s second-largest economy. Imports also contracted, falling 7.6 percent, the biggest decline since July 2016.

Traders said the data pulled down crude oil futures and Asian stock markets alike, which had both posted modest gains earlier on Monday.

Economic research firm TS Lombard said oil prices were capped as “the world economy is now slowing … limiting the scope for positive surprises in oil demand and hampering inventory reduction.”

Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Denmark’s Saxo Bank, said “the deterioration seen recently in forward-looking economic data from the U.S. to Europe and China” meant that the upside for crude oil futures was likely limited to $64 per barrel for Brent and for $55 for WTI.

The weak Chinese data countered general support that oil markets have been receiving since the start of the year from supply cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some non-OPEC allies, including Russia.

In the United States, drillers cut four oil rigs in the week to Jan. 11, bringing the total count down to 873, energy services firm Baker Hughes said in a weekly report on Friday.

Oil weighed down by record Saudi output; markets await G20, OPEC meetings

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  • Record Saudi oil production pulled down crude prices on Tuesday amid cautious trading ahead of the G20 gathering that starts in Argentina on Friday and next week’s OPEC meeting in Austria.
  • International Brent crude oil futures briefly dipped below $60 per barrel before edging back to $60.10 per barrel at 0147 GMT, still down 38 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their last close.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $51.21 per barrel, down 42 cents, or 0.8 percent.

The Khurais oilfield operated by oil giant Saudi Aramco, about 160 km (99 miles) from Riyadh.

Ali Jarekji | Reuters
The Khurais oilfield operated by oil giant Saudi Aramco, about 160 km (99 miles) from Riyadh.

Record Saudi oil production pulled down crude prices on Tuesday amid cautious trading ahead of the G20 gathering that starts in Argentina on Friday and next week’s OPEC meeting in Austria.

International Brent crude oil futures briefly dipped below $60 per barrel before edging back to $60.10 per barrel at 0147 GMT, still down 38 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $51.21 per barrel, down 42 cents, or 0.8 percent.

Saudi Arabia raised oil production to an all-time high in November, an industry source said on Monday, pumping 11.1 million to 11.3 million barrels per day (bpd) during the month.

Since their most recent peaks in early October, oil prices have lost almost a third of their value, weighed down by an emerging supply overhang and by widespread weakness in financial markets.

“The recent weakness seems … to have been driven by a wider impending sense of doom amidst weak equities, geopolitics, subsequent softening demand and increasing supply,” said Jack Allardyce, oil analyst at financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald Europe.

Looking ahead, Allardyce said “a lot depends” on the outcome of the Group of 20 (G20) meeting in Buenos Aires where the United States and China are expected to address their trade disputes, and on a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The leaders of the G20 countries, which make up the world’s biggest economies, meet on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, with the trade war between Washington and Beijing top of the agenda.

OPEC will gather for its annual meeting at its headquarters in Vienna on Dec. 6, and the group will discuss its output policy together with some non-OPEC producers, including Russia.

In favour of low oil prices for consumers, U.S. President Donald Trump has put pressure on his political ally Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de-facto leader, not to cut production.

Despite this, most analysts expect OPEC to start withholding supply again soon.

“Our base case is for OPEC+ members to see through the pressure from President Trump and concentrate efforts on curbing the current oversupply in the market by conforming to a new production cut agreement next month in Vienna,” said Japan’s MUFG Bank.

“If OPEC plus Russia cannot send a very strong message to the market, prices are poised to fall further, perhaps to Brent $50 per barrel and WTI of $40 per barrel or less,” Fereidun Fesharaki, chairman of energy consultancy FGE, wrote in a note to clients.

“The message must be decisive, firm, and the front must look fully united, to have any chance of slowly reversing the trend,” it added.

Oil prices fall amid supplied market, Iran sanction exemptions

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  • Oil prices fell on Wednesday, extending losses from the previous session, with markets well supplied amid rising production and U.S. sanction waivers that allow Iran’s biggest customers to continue buying its crude.
  • Front-month Brent crude oil futures were at $71.85 per barrel at 0115 GMT, down 28 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $61.76 per barrel, down 45 cents, or 0.7 percent, from their last settlement.

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David McNew | Getty Images

Oil prices fell on Wednesday, extending losses from the previous session, with markets well supplied amid rising production and U.S. sanction waivers that allow Iran’s biggest customers to continue buying its crude.

Front-month Brent crude oil futures were at $71.85 per barrel at 0115 GMT, down 28 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $61.76 per barrel, down 45 cents, or 0.7 percent, from their last settlement.

The increasingly well supplied market has turned sentiment, which until early October was largely bullish, pushing Brent to four-year highs of more than $86 per barrel ahead of the Iran sanctions.

Brent and WTI have lost 17.4 and 19.7 percent in value respectively from their most recent peaks in early October.

U.S. bank J.P. Morgan said “part of the recent sell-off in oil was due to excessive crude in the physical markets…from elevated production from OPEC whilst Iranian supply was still in the market despite reduction in reported exports.”

Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at futures brokerage Forex.com, said he had become “quite bearish on oil prices” due to lower demand growth forecasts, higher supply and Iran sanctions waivers.

According to Refinitiv Eikon data, Iranian crude exports have fallen to 1 million barrels per day (bpd) so far in November, down from almost 2 million bpd in October and around 3 million bpd in mid-2018.

U.S. bank Morgan Stanley said “oil market fundamentals have softened (as) supply continues to come in higher-than-expected, particularly from the U.S., Middle East OPEC, Russia and Libya.”

Output from the world’s top-3 producers Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia, broke through 33 million bpd for the first time in October, meaning these three countries alone now meet more than a third of the almost 100 million bpd of global consumption.

Iraq, the second-largest producer within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) behind Saudi Arabia, is targeting production capacity of 5 million bpd in 2019, up from 4.6 million bpd currently, Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said on Tuesday.

“The market is well supplied, and we see a balanced rather than tight market ahead. This no longer supports our $85 per barrel year-end and 1H19 forecast,” Morgan Stanley said.

Instead, the bank said it expected Brent to average around $77.5 per barrel to mid-2019.

With production rising, inventories are swelling.

U.S. crude stocks climbed by 7.8 million barrels in the week ending Nov. 2 to 432 million, data from the American Petroleum Institute showed on Tuesday.

Despite the well supplied market, Razaqzada warned that it would be “increasingly costly for inefficient producers to maintain output at current levels”.

Venezuela’s crude production was in “free-fall” and could soon drop below 1 million bpd, the International Energy Agency’s Executive Director Fatih Birol warned on Tuesday, down from the more than 2 million bpd it averaged last year.

Oil markets mixed as US crude, Brent move in opposite directions

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  • Oil markets were split on Tuesday, with U.S. crude pushed up by reduced flows from Canada.
  • Traders said the higher WTI prices were a result of reduced flows from Canada’s Keystone pipeline.
  • Brent crude prices eased on Tuesday.

Getty Images

Oil markets were split on Tuesday, with U.S. crude pushed up by reduced flows from Canada while international Brent prices eased.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $62.38 a barrel at 0518 GMT, up 70 cents, or 1.1 percent, from their last settlement.

Traders said the higher WTI prices were a result of reduced flows from Canada’s Keystone pipeline, which has been operating below capacity since late last year due to a leak, cutting Canadian supplies into the United States.

Outside North America, Brent crude eased on the back of a dip in Asian stocks and a stronger dollar, which potentially curbs demand as it makes fuel more expensive for countries using other currencies domestically.

Brent crude futures were at $65.48 per barrel, down 19 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their last close.

The opposing price direction of the two main crude benchmarks has sharply reduced WTI’s discount to Brent, to around $3.22 per barrel on Tuesday, down from over $7 in late 2017.

Overall, oil markets remain well supported due to supply restraint by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which started last year in order to draw down excess global inventories.

OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said on Monday the organisation registered 133 percent compliance with agreed output reduction targets in January.

Barkindo said compliance last year stood at 107 percent.

Global oil demand for 2018 is estimated to grow 1.6 million barrels per day due to an “encouraging environment”, Barkindo added.

Geopolitical risk has heightened as a factor in crude oil prices

Geopolitical risk has heightened as a factor in crude oil prices  

“OPEC and Russia continue to support the production cuts that are due to expire at the end of this year, and they assure markets that there will be an orderly ramp up of production once the cuts expire,” said William O’Loughlin, investment analyst at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.

While most of OPEC, especially its de-facto leader Saudi Arabia, is showing strong support for the production restraint, non-OPEC producer Russia has shown signs it may at some stage gradually start to increase output again.

Saudi Arabia – not least in an attempt to give the planned listing of its state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco – a boost, is keen for Russia and other producers to keep withholding supplies to prop up prices.

But soaring U.S. production is threatening to erode OPEC’s efforts.

Last week, the amount of U.S. oil rigs drilling for new production rose for a fourth straight week to 798, in an indication that U.S. crude output, already at a record 10.27 million bpd, may rise further.

The United States late last year became the world’s second biggest oil producers, only slightly behind Russia and ahead of top exporter Saudi Arabia.