Saturday, April 04, 2020

A catalogue of ‘crude’ missives on oil market turmoil

In the nine days that have lapsed since yours truly last wrote a blog post, the crude oil market has gone crude and cruder, peppered with barmy ideas, suggestions of strange alliances, tariffs, and of course tweets. For all of that, two things haven't materially changed – crude demand collapse continues as the coronavirus or Covid-19 pandemic spreads, and oversupply in the face of demand destruction is already here.

So here are few of The Oilholic’s missives via Forbes and Rigzone tackling various market slants between March 26-Apr 2:

  • With whole countries in lockdown mode, forecasters now reckon a fifth of global crude demand could be wiped out - Forbes, Mar 26, 2020
  • The Oilholic's thoughts on why a resurrection of OPEC+ would be too little, too late for the oil market - Forbes, Mar 27, 2020.
  • Oil futures are in record contango - Forbes, Mar 29,2020
  • Oil benchmarks ended Q1 2020 around 66% lower and lack of storage space is becoming apparent - Forbes, Mar 31, 2020
  • US shale explorer Whiting Petroleum becomes the first casualty of the current oil price slump as it files for bankruptcy - Forbes Apr 1, 2020
  • Moody's announces series of predictable negative outlooks on major oil and gas companies - Forbes, Apr 1, 2020
  • How Saudi belligerence has pushed VLCC rates to comedic highs - Rigzone, Apr 1, 2020
  • And finally, how a Donald Trump tweet sent oil futures soaring but the gains are unlikely to last - Forbes, Apr 2, 2020

And that's about it for the moment folks! Stay safe, keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2020. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Coronavirus lockdowns & crude oversupply

What a week it has been for humankind in general, let alone the commodities and equities market. Since the Oilholic arrived back to London from Houston on March 14, in a matter of days whole towns, cities, metropolitan areas, regions and countries have gone into lockdown mode around the world, with the coronavirus or Covid-19 having spread to over 100 countries.

After China, where the outbreak originated at the start of the year, now Iran, Italy, Spain and South Korea are in its grip. Heightened alarm about the spread of the coronavirus has seen European Union nations, Canada and the US close borders. Whole airlines are grounded, restaurants, pubs, bars and shops are shut, and workers in many sectors in several nations have been advised to work from home with restrictions slapped on venturing out.

Under similar circumstances and restrictions imposed in London (effective March 23) comes this missive from the Oilholic's living room. The last few weeks have alternated between how much of a demand slump the coronavirus would cause to what impact the collapse of OPEC+ would have over the near-term.

Such conjecture misses the wider point. Events have overtaken OPEC+ and are now largely beyond its control, and what we are witnessing is not just a demand slump but a total near-term collapse. Most oil demand forecasters are now predicting a 2020 demand shrinkage of around 155,000 barrels per day (bpd) instead of demand growth. Under the circumstances, that might be too optimistic.

From where the Oilholic sits, we could see a shrinkage of 250,000 bpd instead of a projected demand growth of 1.2 million bpd prior to the outbreak. Consider this - of the big five crude importers, China, which imports on average a whopping 14 million bpd, has had a lousy first quarter, and is likely to have disappointing or muted second and third quarters. Japan and South Korea are likely to import less, as will the US.

India, the one economy many were pinning their hopes, as a demand driver for 2020 prior to the coronavirus outbreak has also just gone into a lockdown effective Tuesday (March 24) for 21 days.

The country imports an average of 5 million bpd. So in three weeks alone, India won't be needing around ~ 100 million barrels with the negative impact spread over parts of the first and second quarters. Away from the big five, OECD demand remains as low as ever and is likely to head lower on temporary lockdowns from Poland to Australia.

And in the face of this demand crisis, is the issue of oversupply that has arisen in the wake of the collapse of the OPEC+ with Saudi Arabia, Russia and other OPEC and non-OPEC producers vowing to pump more. For now, after posting declines of 20-30% week-over-week, Brent and WTI futures have settled in the $20-30 range following US stimulus measures to combat the coronavirus.

That may well prove to be a temporary reprieve after the extent of the supply glut, somewhere in the region of 10 million bpd in unwanted crude oil, becomes clearer. As for what it means for oil and gas companies large and small - here is the Oilholic's take via Forbes, as players bunker down for $20 oil prices and prepare to write of 2020. That's all for the moment folks! Stay safe! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2020. Photo © Royal Dutch Shell, Oman.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

On Tankers, Travel Bans & Turbulence

The Oilholic is about to wrap up a week in Houston, Texas, gauging the oil market mood and related industry matters in the age of the coronavirus and the collapse of OPEC+, penning his thoughts by the banks of a rather calm Buffalo Bayou. 

Following on from the carnage of an oil price war, in the time yours truly has been in America's oil and gas capital, US President Donald Trump has announced a travel ban from Europe to the US; several countries are in lock-down mode or restricting access to foreigners; hoteliers, airliners, restaurateurs are all gearing up for a massive hit and with general gloom lurking in the air along with the virus - the equity and oil markets are down. 

In fact, in this blogger's latest weekly oil price assessment, Brent and WTI front month contracts closed down a massive 25.23% and 23.14% on today (Friday, March 13) on the Friday before (March 6). In over ten years of running this blog, that is the biggest weekly drop the Oilholic has logged and given that weekly assessments are supposed to wipe out daily volatility; the figures are telling. 

And the contango plays have begun yet again coming to the aid of a beleaguered oil shipping industry that must surely think Christmas has come early. More so because Saudi Aramco's bid to flood the market with its crude has sent VLCC tanker rates rising further, in some cases by as much as 678% when it comes to the lucrative Middle East to Asia maritime routes, as yours truly noted in his latest Forbes missive

Many in Houston expect an imminent prompt price decline to $25 per barrel, with limited upside as Russia and Saudi Arabia continue their oil price and market share war at a time of lacklustre demand. General consensus is that when oil hits $20, OPEC will come its senses. However, it doesn't look like that right now with other Gulf producers including the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait upping production in step with Saudi Arabia. 

And while Saudi discounts are the talk of H-Town trading circles, Trump's plans to purchase "American made crude-oil" for the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is providing yet more chatter. The SPR holds 713.5 million barrels at four primary oil storage sites. 

According to survey data, that level is currently at 635 million. So even if Trump goes for the maximum effect, the reserve can take another 78.5 million. The "American made" caveat means it could take that much primarily US light crude spread over the next 100-120 days from next week. 

While such a volume is not negligible, how much of a difference it will make is anyone's guess. Supply side is as complicated as ever and so is the demand side until the full impact of the virus is clearer. This turbulence will last a while and might rock most of 2020 at the very least in the opinion of many. And on that worrying note, its time for the flight home to London! Q1 has been a write-off; let's see what Q2 brings, stay strong, stay safe.

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© Gaurav Sharma 2020. Photo: Buffalo Bayou river, Houston, US © Gaurav Sharma, Friday March 13, 2020

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

View on a 'crude' few days from Houston

The Oilholic is glad to be back in Houston, Texas, US for yet another visit. However, in many ways the latest outing marks several first instances. It is this blogger's first instance of arriving in America's oil and gas capital right after an OPEC summit, the first immediately following a mammoth oil price crash, and the first when several events yours truly was planning on attending, including IHS CERAWeek have been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak that is wrecking the global economy. 

Yours truly promised some considered viewpoints 'to follow' while scrambling out of Vienna, to get here via London following the collapse of OPEC+, and here they are - thoughts on why $30 oil prices could be the short-term norm, and in fact $20 could follow via Forbes, thoughts on the shocking but inevitable collapse of OPEC+ via Rigzone, and why the recovery since Monday's (March 9) oil price slump is not a profound change to where the market stands, again via Forbes

Interspersed will penning thoughts for publications, the Oilholic met some familiar trading contacts in H-Town (you all know who you are), and met two new crude souls via mutual contacts too. Most seem surprised by the level of Aramco's discounts for April cargoes, and opined that they were three times over their expectations. 

The Saudis certainly mean business, and what was a crisis of demand following the coronavirus outbreak that has crippled China; has Iran, Italy and South Korea in its grip; and has seen emergency protocols being activated from California, US to Hokkaido, Japan now has a new dimension. It is now a crisis of demand coupled with a supply glut as OPEC and non-OPEC producers tough it out in a race to the bottom of the barrel. That's all from Houston, for the moment folks! More soon. For now, keep reading! Keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2020. Photo: Downtown Houston, Texas, US © Gaurav Sharma, March 10, 2020.

Friday, March 06, 2020

OPEC+ talks collapse; oil futures tank

The Oilholic had to leave OPEC HQ prior to the conclusion of a rather fractious OPEC+ meeting which resulted in no agreement being reached among OPEC and its non-OPEC partners. Following are the key takeaways, from Vienna Airport:

  • Russia blocked OPEC efforts aimed at deepening ongoing OPEC+ cuts by 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) raising the output cut level to 3.2 million bpd to the end of 2020.
  • Stalemate means current level of cuts are set to expire as of April 1, 2020.
  • Russian Oil Minister Alexander Novak even refused name/set date for next OPEC+ meeting; technical committee to meet on March 18.
  • Senior OPEC sources tell this blogger “There is no plan B”.
  • Oil benchmarks slump by as much as 8% in the immediate aftermath of the development and trading down by ~10% at the time of writing; Brent/WTI front-month contract at levels last seen in August 2016, and recorded largest intraday drop since the financial crisis. 

More considered viewpoints/analysis to follow once yours truly has arrived in Houston. Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’! 

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© Gaurav Sharma 2020.

Contact:

For comments or for professional queries, please email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

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