Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Gulf Intelligence’s EMF 2018 and $80/bbl oil

The Oilholic is back in the UAE for Gulf Intelligence's 2018 Energy Markets Forum with the great and good of the Port of Fujairah and 'crude' shores beyond in attendance. The event, as this blogger has previously noted, continues to grow bigger by the year. 

The latest edition was graced by none other than OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo who, in a nutshell, told gathered delegates the OPEC and non-OPEC association - that has taken 1.8 million barrels per day of oil production out of the market - was "here to stay."

Of course, most most analysts here in Fujairah reckon the upcoming Algiers meeting would be a testy affair to say the least, and well test the relationship. It would be surprising if Iran versus US President Donald Trump doesn't appear on the agenda, along with the whole kit and caboodle of the Iranian delegation in tow. However, for his part Barkindo said Iran remains an "integral" part of OPEC as a founding partner but ventured to say little beyond a show of solidarity.

Right after the Secretary General's quotes came a regular feature of the event – a spot of poll of delegates on a variety of issues dominating the crude market – hosted this year by yours truly. Gulf Intelligence would be publishing the details shortly.

But to give the readers of this blog a snippet - invariably the direction of the oil price came up. While some kindred souls were in agreement with the Oilholic of an average $70-75 per barrel Brent price over the short-term, EMF 2018 attendees, in the main, sounded incredibly bullish predicting $80+ prices for 2019. 

This blogger's issue is that there are just too many variables to be that bullish – Trumpet politics, US-China tussles, plenty of crude in the global pool, geopolitics, you name it. Not all variables are bullish and are tugging each other. Guess time will tell! But that's all from Fujairah folks! Keep reading, keep it crude!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo: OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo talks to John Defterios of CNN at Gulf Intelligence's 2018 Energy Markets Forum in Fujairah, UAE © Gaurav Sharma, September 2018.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Just boring variation not a crude rally or slump

Week-on-week, the picture remains one of a crude oil market in which benchmark prices are firming up, yet both Brent and WTI futures remain within that very predictable range of $60-80 per barrel (see chart left, click to enlarge). 

A fortnight ago, bolstered largely by the tightening of US sanctions on Iran or rather the perception of tightening, Brent began a two-week climb towards $80 per barrel, as the WTI strengthened above $70. 

Yet again, bullish prophets hit the airwaves suggesting a $90 per barrel Brent price in light of tightening of a crude market with "very little spare capacity." In some market quarters it is being debated that global spare capacity is now less than 1 million barrels per day (bpd). 

The Oilholic thinks the bulls ought to calm down a bit. Agreed, US President Donald Trump's squeeze on Iranian oil exports is making buyers nervous, particularly India and Japan. And in 2019, it would be reasonable to expect Tehran's production to be well below its current 3.6 million bpd+ production mark to around 2.4 million bpd. 

However, Saudi attempts to compensate (or over-compensate) for a decline in Iranian output would not go unnoticed in Moscow. Russia has already indicated that it would like to raise production, and amicable as things might be with OPEC, if they want to, they would increase production. 

The market's problem right now is that it is missing strong breakout factors - both bearish and bullish ones. Bearish threats of global trade wars, direction of emerging markets, and an unraveling of the OPEC and non-OPEC agreement continue to lurk around. Similarly, bullish factors such as the industry under-investing (a very visible concern) and running out of spare capacity to mitigate supply shocks also persist. 

So price positive as well as negative sentiments are still not strong enough to decisively pull oil futures one way or another, with US turning less and less to the global supply pool courtesy of rising domestic production. Therefore smart money says what we've seen over the last two weeks was not a rally and nor has there been any noticeable slump. All that has transpired is variation within a predictable floor and ceiling. That's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Graph: © Gaurav Sharma, September 2018.

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