US likely to slap tough oil sanctions on Venezuela — and that’s a ‘game changer’ for Maduro

CNBC

  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro won re-election to another six-year term on Sunday, despite widespread anger over the South American country’s crushing economic and social crises.
  • “The next step is sanctions against the oil sector,” Diego Moya-Ocampos, principal political analyst for Latin America at IHS Markit, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Monday.
  • Maduro’s leftist administration is almost entirely dependent on crude sales in order to try to decelerate its spiraling crises.

Nicolas Maduro re-elected president for fresh 6-year term  

The U.S. is almost certainly preparing to impose targeted crude sanctions against Venezuela, analysts told CNBC on Monday, in a move likely to constitute a “devastating” blow for the oil-dependent state.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro won re-election to another six-year term on Sunday, despite widespread anger over the South American country’s crushing economic and social crises. The vote was marred by low voter turnout, allegations of vote-rigging and an opposition boycott.

“The next step is sanctions against the oil sector,” Diego Moya-Ocampos, principal political analyst for Latin America at IHS Markit, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Monday.

“This is crucial because (Venezuela’s) oil sector represents 25 percent of GDP (gross domestic product), 50 percent of fiscal revenues and 97 percent of revenue from foreign exchange… So, obviously, sanctions on the oil sector in Venezuela will be a game changer.”

Oil sanctions would be ‘devastating’

Amid widespread food shortages, the collapse of the country’s traditional currency and relentless hyperinflation, Maduro was widely expected to emerge victorious on Sunday. The socialist leader is now set to serve as Venezuela’s premier until at least 2024.

Officials from the United Nations, the U.S., the European Union and Venezuela’s regional neighbors have all denounced the presidential election as a sham.

Venezuelan President and presidential candidate Nicolas Maduro attends the closing rally of his campaign ahead of the weekend's presidential election, in Caracas, on May 17, 2018.

JUAN BARRETO | AFP | Getty Images
Venezuelan President and presidential candidate Nicolas Maduro attends the closing rally of his campaign ahead of the weekend’s presidential election, in Caracas, on May 17, 2018.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of Maduro’s disputed success, all eyes have turned to see whether President Donald Trump‘s administration will impose sanctions on the country’s all-important oil sector — as it has repeatedly threatened to do.

Alongside the EU, surrounding Latin American countries have also warned Caracas they would be prepared to take additional measures against Maduro’s government if it went ahead with the election.

“Oil sanctions would be devastating to the Venezuelan economy and to the regime’s internal stability as they would very strongly impact the revenues that flow through the patronage regime,” Fernando Freijedo, Latin America analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC via email.

‘Epic story of economic mismanagement’

Maduro’s leftist administration is almost entirely dependent on crude sales in order to try to decelerate its spiraling crises.

Yet, the country’s production collapse has seen its crude output drop to around 1.4 million barrels a day (bpd) in recent months — a spectacular fall of nearly 40 percent since 2015.

“The sharp decline in oil prices has nothing to do with the dire state of the economy… (Instead) it is an epic story of economic mismanagement and indeed widespread corruption,” IHS Markit’s Moya-Ocampos said.

Protesters seen marching toward the OEA while holding the Venezuelan flag at the demonstration.

Roman Camacho | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images
Protesters seen marching toward the OEA while holding the Venezuelan flag at the demonstration.

The price of oil collapsed from near $120 a barrel in June 2014 due to weak demand, a strong dollar and booming U.S. shale production. Brent crude futures have since rebounded to multi-year highs of nearly $80 a barrel, amid a tightening energy market and ongoing OPEC-led production cuts.

U.S. opposes the planned Nord Stream

U.S.’s Tillerson says Nord Stream 2 pipeline would undermine Europe’s energy security

WARSAW (Reuters) – The United States opposes the planned Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline that would connect Russia and Germany, believing it would undermine Europe’s energy security, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Saturday.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the Warsaw Ghetto monument in Warsaw, Poland January 27, 2018. 

“Like Poland, the United States opposes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. We see it as undermining Europe’s overall energy security and stability,” he said at a press conference in Warsaw.

‘Relentless’ growth could see the US topple Russia, Saudi Arabia as world’s largest oil producer, IEA says

CNBC

  • “This year promises to be a record-setting one for the U.S.,” the IEA said in its closely-watched report published Friday
  • The latest monthly report from the IEA comes at a time when crude futures have climbed to highs not seen since the early days of a slump in December 2014
  • One of the main beneficiaries of OPEC-led production cuts is the producers’ major competitor, U.S. shale oil. U.S. oil producers are staging a dramatic comeback amid a recovering oil price that has allowed many of them to restart operations.

IEA’s Atkinson: Low Venezuelan oil production hastens market rebalancing

IEA: Expect a volatile year for oil prices  

The U.S. is well-placed to overtake the likes of Saudi Arabia and Russiaas the world’s leading energy producer over the next 12 months, according to the latest monthly report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“This year promises to be a record-setting one for the U.S.,” the IEA said in its closely-watched report published Friday.

“Relentless growth should see the U.S. hit historic highs above 10 million barrels a day (in production), overtaking Saudi Arabia and rivaling Russia during the course of 2018 — provided OPEC and non-OPEC restraints remain in place,” the Paris-based organization added.

‘Unchartered waters’

The latest monthly report from the IEA comes at a time when crude futures have climbed to highs not seen since the early days of a slump in December 2014. Brent crude futures hit a peak of $70.37 a barrel on Monday, with the global benchmark since paring some of its recent gains to trade at $68.69 on Friday morning.

“What we are trying to understand is the responsiveness of the U.S. shale producers. And because of the dynamism of the industry, the innovation and the vast number of players in that space … to some extent, we are in unchartered waters,” Neil Atkinson, head of the oil industry and markets division at the IEA, told CNBC on Friday.

Atkinson said that given the recent rally in oil prices, the IEA was expecting a “wave of new production” from the U.S. in the coming months. He added OPEC would then need to “accommodate” for that and make its own judgment at its next meeting in June as to what its response should be.

IEA predicts a slowdown in crude demand growth in 2018

IEA’s Atkinson: Low Venezuelan oil production hastens market rebalancing  

The main price driver has been a supply cut from major oil producing group OPEC and Russia, who started to withhold output in January last year. The production cuts by OPEC and 10 other allied producers, which are scheduled to last throughout 2018, are aimed at clearing a supply overhang and propping up prices.

One of the main beneficiaries of these cuts is the producers’ major competitor, U.S. shale oil. U.S. oil producers are staging a dramatic comeback amid a recovering oil price that has allowed many of them to restart operations.

US ‘beat all expectations’ in 2017

U.S. crude production stands at 9.9 million barrels a day, according to the IEA, which is the country’s highest level in almost 50 years. That level of supply puts the U.S. neck-and-neck with OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia — the world’s second-largest producer after Russia.

“The stage was set for a strong expansion last year, when non-OPEC supply, led by the U.S., returned to growth of 0.7 million barrels a day and pushed up world production despite OPEC and non-OPEC cuts,” the IEA said.

“U.S. growth of 0.6 million barrels a day in 2017 beat all expectations, even with a moderate price response to the output deal as the shale industry bounced back — profiting from cost cuts, stepped up drilling activity and efficiency measures enforced during the downturn,” the group said.

A worker prepares to lift drills by pulley in the Permian basin outside of Midland, Texas.

Brittany Sowacke | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A worker prepares to lift drills by pulley in the Permian basin outside of Midland, Texas.

In recent years, America’s unprecedented oil and gas boom has been driven by one factor above all others — and that’s shale. The so-called shale revolution could help to alleviate Washington’s reliance on foreign oil, including from turbulent Middle Eastern states, while also supporting a bid to export to more countries around the world.

The IEA’s estimates of global oil product demand in 2017 and 2018 were left roughly unchanged at 97.8 million barrels a day and 99.1 million barrels a day, respectively.

The price of oil collapsed from near $120 a barrel in June 2014 due to weak demand, a strong dollar and booming U.S. shale production. OPEC’s reluctance to cut output was also seen as a key reason behind the fall. But, the oil cartel soon moved to curb production — along with other oil producing nations — in late 2016.