As the Oilholic prepares to bid goodbye to Dubai, the G7 group of finance ministers have griped about rising oil prices and called on oil producing nations to up their production. They would rather have Dubai Mall’s Waterfall with Divers enclosure (pictured left) act as a metaphor for market direction! It is causing some consternation in this OPEC member jurisdiction and so it should.
First the facts – in a communiqué released on the US Treasury’s website yesterday, the G7 ministers say they are concerned about the impact of rising oil prices on the global economy and were prepared to act. Going one step further the ministers called on producing nations, most read OPEC, to act and now.
"We encourage oil producing countries to increase their output to meet demand. We stand ready to call upon the International Energy Agency (IEA) to take appropriate action to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied," the statement notes. We have been here before back in March when American motorists were worried about prices at the pump and President Barack Obama was in a political quandary.
Now of course he is barely months away from a US Presidential election and here we are again. In fact the Canadians aside, all leaders elsewhere in the G7 are facing political pressure of some kind or the other related to the crude stuff too. Cue the statement and sabre rattling of releasing strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs)!
OPEC and non-OPEC producers' viewpoint, and with some reason, is that the market remains well supplied. Unfortunately plays around paper barrels and actual availability of physical barrels have both combined to create uncertainty in recent months.
On the face of it, at its last meeting OPEC – largely due to Saudi assertiveness – was seen producing above its set quota. Oil prices have spiked and dived, as the Oilholic noted earlier, but producers’ ability to change that is limited. Fear of the unknown is driving oil prices. As Saadallah Al Fathi, a former OPEC Secretariat staff member, notes in his recent Gulf News column, “prices seem to move against expectations, one way or another.”
Al Fathi further notes that the (West/Israel’s) confrontation with Iran is still on, but it is not expected to flare up. “Even the embargo on Iranian oil is slow to show in numbers, but may become more visible later,” he adds. While an oil shock following an Israeli attack on Iran could be made up by spare capacity, the room for another chance geopolitical complication or natural disaster would stretch the market. This is what spooks politicians, a US President in an election year and the market alike.
However, rather than talk of releasing SPRs for political ends now and as was the case in June 2011, the Oilholic has always advocated waiting for precisely such an emergency! While it has happened in the past, it is not as if producers have taken their foot off the production pedal to cash in on the prevailing bullish market trends at this particular juncture.
Away from G7’s gripe, regional oil futures benchmark – the Dubai Mercantile Exchange (DME) Oman Crude (OQD) – has caught this blogger’s eye. Oman’s production is roughly below 925,000 barrels per day (bpd) at present. For instance, in June it came in at 923,339 bpd. However, this relatively new benchmark is as much about Oman as Brent is about the UK. It is fast acquiring pan-regional acceptance and the November futures contract is seen mirroring Brent and OPEC basket crude prices. Its why the DME created the contract in the first place. Question is will it have global prowess as a 'third alternative' one day?
Elsewhere, the UAE has begun using the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline (ADCOP). It will ultimately enable Abu Dhabi to export 70% of its crude stuff from Fujairah which is located on the Gulf of Oman bypassing the Strait of Hormuz and Iranian threats to close the passage in the process. However the 400km long pipeline, capable of transporting 1.5 million bpd, comes at a steep price of US$4 billion.
Sticking with the region, it seems Beirut is now the most expensive city to live in the Middle East according to Mercer’s 2012 Worldwide Cost of Living survey. It is followed by Abu Dhabi, Dubai (UAE), Amman (Jordan) and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). On a global footing, Tokyo (Japan) tops the list followed by Luanda (Angola), Osaka (Japan), Moscow (Russia) and Geneva (Switzerland).
Meanwhile unlike the ambiguity over Dubai’s ratings status, Kuwait has maintained its AA rating from Fitch with a ‘stable’ outlook supported by rising oil prices and strong sovereign net foreign assets estimated by the agency in the region of US$323 billion in 2011.
Finally, on a day when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Iran has doubled production capacity at the Fordo nuclear site, Tehran has called for ridding the world of nuclear weapons at the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit claiming it has none and plans none. Yeah right! And the Oilholic is dating Cindy Crawford! That’s all from Dubai folks; it’s time for the big flying bus home to London! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!
© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: Waterfall at the Dubai Mall, UAE © Gaurav Sharma