Showing posts with label Brent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brent. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Oil market's OPEC meeting tantrum & global LNG

On June 2nd, OPEC+ decided to adopt a pensive position rather than a defensive or offensive one and it promptly sent the oil market into a tizz. Quite frankly, it needn't have. According to data aggregators, OPEC+ members are currently cutting production by 5.86 million barrels per day (bpd). 

The figure includes 3.66 million bpd of group-wide cuts and "voluntary cuts" by eight members of 2.2 million bpd. They include Saudi Arabia, Russia and six others - Algeria, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

The latter cuts were due to expire at the end of June 2024 while the group-wide ones were due to end in December 2024. Following a part-online, part-physical meeting, OPEC+ extended the cuts of 3.66 million bpd until the end of 2025. But it only prolonged the cuts of 2.2 million bpd by three months until the end of September 2024. After which these voluntary cuts will be gradually phased out over the course of a year from October 2024 to September 2025.

As the markets opened for trading the following, a crude carnage ensued with Brent shattering its $80 per barrel floor and heading lower to $77. While the OPEC+ decision can be construed as bearish, it wasn't the only reason for the slide in prices. As this blogger told Reuters, a number of factors came into play and OPEC's mild surprise merely served as a catalyst. Economic uncertainties persist both in US and China - the world's two leading crude consumers. Neither country offered consistently positive data the month before. 

Both the IEA and OPEC have now revised their demand growth forecasts lower, albeit to varying degrees. The IEA's (at 1.1 million bpd) is half of what OPEC now predicts (2.2 million bpd). Traders looked at all that and went net short for the week.   

However, all things being equal, Brent under $80 did appear to be oversold, as yours truly wrote on Forbes. That's why merely a calendar week later, prices are back above $80 and about right too. What OPEC did (or didn't) matters, but only to a point.

And now from oil to LNG, where yours truly has been doing a deep dive into the state of affairs and the general direction of the global market. 

That's after the latest outages in Norway and Australia triggered yet another spike in prices. As the Oilholic said in a recent CGTN interview, only high levels of storage in Europe have stopped prices from overshooting. It all bottles down to Asia (the world's largest LNG importing region) regularly competing with Europe (the second-largest) for cargoes. This year, Dutch TTF gas prices have risen by 40% over the past three months to trade at around $11 per million British thermal units (mmbtu) levels. 

However, here's the Oilholic's latest market analysis via Forbes on why a change may be on the horizon. Overall, future Asian demand, pace of the energy transition and new supply coming onstream (in the US and Qatar) will likely influence a calmer direction of near-term travel as the end of the current decade approaches. (Full report here). 

That's a wrap for now. More musings to follow soon. Keep reading, keep it here, keep it 'crude'! 

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Motley Fool click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2024. Photo I: OPEC logo at its Secretariat in Vienna, Austria. © Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo II: Gaurav Sharma on CGTN Europe for commentary on the natural gas market. © CGTN, June 2024. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The mad first month of crude trading year 2024

As the first month of the current oil trading year nears its end, the Oilholic's thoughts on the direction of crude prices hasn't materially altered. We're likely to see prices oscillate in the range of $70 and $85 per barrel in 2024, using Brent as a benchmark. And that's because the bearish bias in wider market fundamentals remains the same in a different trading year, despite all the geopolitical flare-ups we've seen October. We'll touch on those later in this blog. However, admittedly it has been the maddest possible start to trading. 

Feeling the pulse of the market and tepid demand, the Saudis made two profound short- and medium-term decisions. The first came early in the month after Aramco - the Saudi state-owned behemoth - announced a cut to official selling prices (OSPs) for all regions, including lucrative Asian markets, for several crude grades. These included Aramco's flagship Arab Light crude oil. Aramco said cuts in Asia would be as high as $2 per barrel versus the Dubai Oman regional crude benchmark from January levels. 

Prices for Europe would be down by $1.50-$2 per barrel versus Brent January prices, while North American exports would see a drop of $2 per barrel versus the Argus Sour Crude Index (ASCI) used to benchmark U.S. Gulf Coast sour grades. The move weighed on oil prices and seemed like a logical one. 

The Saudis, having voluntarily cut their headline production down to 9 million barrels per day (bpd), want to make sure every single drop of it gets sold in a competitive market receiving plenty of barrels, especially of US light crude. 

The second move came late-January, after Aramco said it was stopping its expansion plans and concentrating on a maximum sustained capacity of 12 million bpd. This immediately generated headlines along the lines of the Saudis acknowledging the end of oil, which, as the Oilholic said via market commentary on several broadcasters, is a load of rubbish. 

Aramco plans to finish the oilfields it has started - namely Berri (250,000 bpd), Dammam (75,000 bpd), Marjan (300,000 bpd) and Zuluf (600,000 bpd). There's only one project cancellation and the company intends to let some other existing fields decline. So with respect, it is nothing more than a pragmatic business move faced with changing medium- to long-term demand in a market the Saudis hope to tap with aplomb for as long as they can.

Away from Saudi moves there were geopolitical flash points aplenty. But none of these managed to move the oil price quite like they used to back when US crude barrels weren't keeping the global markets honest. Following weeks of attacks by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels on energy and commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the US and UK pounded Houthi positions and infrastructure. The Houthis vowed a response and their sporadic attacks on shipping continued. 

Then on January 28, after over 170 drone and missile attacks on US bases in Syria, Jordan and Iraq since October by Iran-backed proxies in the Middle East, one got through and killed three service personnel. The US' imminent response is to be expected and could mark a dangerous escalation. Where this goes is anybody's guess. But an attack by the US on Iranian soil appears unlikely. (Should it happen, and its hasn't since the 1980s, we could see crude prices around the $90s).

As things stand, crude prices remain range bound. January offered precious little to alter this despite it being one of the most volatile starts to a trading year. Well that's all for now folks. More market thoughts to follow. Keep reading, keep it here, keep it 'crude'! 

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Motley Fool click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Rigzone click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2024. Photo: Gaurav Sharma on Asharq Business with Bloomberg TV in January 2024 © Asharq Business with Bloomberg TV.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

'Crude' chat with Afentra Plc CEO Paul McDade

Crude oil benchmarks have been bouncing up and down for over 10 days in the wake of geopolitical tension in the Middle East. Predictably, much of the market analysis community is obsessing over where the risk premium might go, and how to square it against the wider crude oil supply and demand dynamic. 

Here are some thoughts via Forbes on what may or may not move the risk premium needle, and it must be noted that crude benchmarks are still way short of the perma-bull pipedream level of $100 per barrel. 

As volatility bites, what do industry operators do to cut out the noise? The Oilholic recently turned to one industry stalwart for his thoughts on the near to medium-term direction of the crude market and approach to a volatile pricing environment - Paul McDade, CEO of West Africa focussed Afentra Plc (LON: AET), and former boss of Tullow Oil.

According to McDade there's no such thing as an optimum or ideal oil price. "I often get asked what is the right oil price assumption for my business, and my answer is wherever our carefully considered hedging strategy takes us. I place a lot of faith in hedging because we operate in a cyclical industry. 

"We see hedging [or shall I say our hedging program] not as a tool for market bets but rather as a form of business insurance, and it all depends on the payback period. If the payback period is a year, you are OK to assume a base of $80 per barrel. But if its five years you would be crazy not to be a little bit conservative, workout what does the downside looks like and be prudent."

More generally speaking, McDade is bullish on the oil price for 2024 and indeed the next five years. "However, there will always be market noise and volatility that's typically associated with our industry. So if you ask me, could oil slip down to $60 per barrel at some point in 2024? Yes that's likely, but the upside would ultimately go further." 

To read the Oilholic's full interview with McDade for Forbes, and learn more about Afentra's journey please click here. More on market developments to follow over the weekend, but that's all for now folks. Keep reading, keep it here, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Rigzone click here.
To email: journalist_gsharma@yahoo.co.uk  

© Gaurav Sharma 2023. Photo: Paul McDade, CEO of Afentra Plc (left) with Gaurav Sharma, September 2023.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Oil in the $90s, Reimagining BP without Looney & more

What a difference a fortnight makes - for this blogger was musing end-August on how oil benchmarks were pretty much staying rangebound in the absence of drivers and looking for direction. That driver arrived in the shape of an extension of Saudi-Russian output cuts till the end of 2023 merely a few weeks later. 

Whatever their motivation might be, Riyadh and Moscow have decided that they will not let the market go into surplus mode as the Northern Hemisphere's winter approaches. End result - even the WTI front-month futures contract is finding support above $90 per barrel, and for its part Brent is flirting with $94/95 levels. 

Should we therefore conclude that a return of $100 oil prices is imminent for the first time since July 2022 despite a high interest rate climate, tepid economic activity in China and wider consumer anxiety? The short answer is - yes (barring an unforeseen macroeconomic upheaval), and particularly so, for global proxy benchmark Brent.

In fact, the question right now shouldn't be whether oil will get to $100 levels, but rather whether it would stay there? Of that, one is not too sure. Current price levels of futures contracts six month out point to a different story, and different a demand (and supply) dynamic for Q2 2024. Here are the Oilholic's thoughts on market direction via Forbes

Away from the direction of the oil price, the market for blue chip energy stocks got a shock after BP's social media loving CEO Bernard Looney suddenly resigned late on Sept 12 over his failure to fully disclose details of "past relationships" with colleagues! What might follow next for BP could be pivotal - will it continue down the path set by Looney or mark a return in focus to core oil and gas operations? (More here.)

Finally, this blogger also found the chance for two exclusive Forbes interviews earlier this month with Jim Johnson, CEO of engineering group Hunting Plc, and Christopher Hudson, President of dmg events. Click on the hyperlinks above should you wish to read these. But that’s all for now, for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it crude!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Rigzone click here.
To email: journalist_gsharma@yahoo.co.uk  
© Gaurav Sharma 2023. Photo: Kristina KasputienÄ— from Pixabay2

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Crude oil stuck in the $80s, Europe's LNG woes & more

We're four months from the end of crude trading year 2023 and oil prices appear to be stuck at $80+ per barrel levels. And for all the market chatter of $100 per barrel oil prices, a July and early August rally, tightness in the physical market and all else in between - there seems to be no convincing bullish or bearish pattern either way. So here are one's musings on the direction of travel and what hedge funds are up to via Forbes

The global crude market for all intents and purposes remains challenging. Tight physical supply in the wake of Saudi and Russian cuts, unexpected industry outages and summer demand can only do so much to support higher prices when the wider economic climate remains dicey in a high interest setting. Simply put, as long as global central banks remain hawkish, the crude market is unlikely to fire up to levels (shall we say three figures) the perma-bulls hope for. 

Away from crude prices, here are some thoughts on the Europe's LNG woes, the jet fuel market and the rapidly dwindling 'war windfall' of oil and gas majors. Away from musings on Forbes, the Oilholic is busy getting back on the speaking circuit, resuming dialogues with energy industry movers and shakers for market insights, offering analysis on international broadcasts, and more. All in all - it's been a hectic four weeks. But fear not, blogging here will also pick up pace shortly. Just getting a few things on track for the exciting road ahead. That's all for now folks! More soon! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here
To follow The Oilholic on Rigzone click here

© Gaurav Sharma 2023. Photo © Image by Terry McGraw from Pixabay

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Oil will rally in 2021 but joy would be short-lived

Oh what a 'crude' year 2020 turned out to be as the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the global economy and our lives, and even briefly created the aberration of negative oil prices back in April. Few would be unhappy to see the back of 2020, and the Oilholic is most certainly among them.

However, as a new trading year beckons, it is best cut out the din, and trade both the direction of the oil market as well as energy stocks with a level head. First off, all the doomsday oil demand decline scenarios from earlier in the year, of as much as 20 million barrels per day (bpd) on 2019 levels, simply did not materialise.

The actual figure is likely to be shy of 9 million bpd, which, while wiping out nearly a decade's worth of demand growth on an annualised basis, is nowhere near as catastrophic. Economic signals point to a rebound in post-pandemic demand when human mobility, consumption and core economic activity, especially in East Asia and the Indian subcontinent begin a rapid bounce back in 2021.

So what of the oil price? Using Brent as a benchmark, the Oilholic envisages a short-lived bounce to $60 per barrel before/by the midway point of the year, and on the slightest nudge that civil aviation is limping back to normal. However, yours truly firmly believes it won't last.

That's because the uptick would create a crude producers' pile-on regardless of what OPEC+ does or doesn't. Say what people might, US shale isn't dead and there remains a competitive market for American crude, especially light sweet crude, that will perk up in 2021.

Other non-OPEC producers will continue to up production on firmer oil prices as well. And finally, a Joe Biden White House would bring incremental Iranian barrels into play even if the return of the Islamic Republic's barrels is more likely to be a trickle rather than a waterfall. All of the above factors will combine to create a sub-$60/bbl median for the demand recovery year that 2021 will be. And the said price range of $50-60 will be just fine for many producers.

As for energy stocks, who can escape the battering they took in 2020. By the Oilholic's calculations, valuations on average fell by 35% on an annualised basis, and nearly 50% for some big names in the industry. 

However, based on fundamentals, where the oil price is likely to average in 2021 (~base case $55/bbl), portfolio optimisation and an uptick in demand, yours truly expects at least a third of that valuation decline to be clawed back over the next 12 months. And depending on how China and India perform, we could see a 15-20% uptick.

Of course, not all energy stocks will shine equally, and the Oilholic isn't offering investment advice. But if asked to pick out of the 'crude' lot – the horses yours truly would back in 2021 would be BP and Chevron. That's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'! Here's to 2021!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here
To email: journalist_gsharma@yahoo.co.uk
© Gaurav Sharma 2020. Photo: Terry McGraw/Pixabay

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'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Rigzone click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2020. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Solid crash course on global oil markets & trading

Of late, the global oil market has seen what can aptly be described as range-bound volatility. No matter what the bulls throw at it, movements of both Brent, the global proxy benchmark, and WTI, the main North American benchmark, have flattered to deceive when it comes to price spikes past $70 per barrel. 

Yet at same time, the price floor has largely held at $50 and barring a global slowdown, few are predicting a Q1 2016-esque slump below $30. Market variables are changing too, not least tweets from US President Donald Trump on oil prices and copious amounts of American light sweet crude flooding the market. 

In such a setting, should understanding the market, making calculated guesstimates on price direction and trading black gold tickle your fancy, be it via a position in the market or a spreadbet, then market commentator Simon Watkins' latest book – An Insider’s Guide To Trading The Global Oil Market – would be well worth your while. In a work of just under 360 pages, the author sums ups the runners and riders, speculators and chancers, players and detractors who have a profound impact on a sentiment driven commodity like crude oil. 

There's detailed analysis, fully illustrated charts linked to points made by the author and tips aplenty. The treatment of risk/reward management is great and Watkins has also taken the trouble of covering the history of the oil business in a concise fashion to give readers a sound understanding of key production centres, demand drivers and geopolitics. 

Recent developments in the China, Middle East, Russia and the US, and the cycle oil cartel OPEC finds itself trapped in, have been covered in some detail providing the essential padding to the outlined oil market history. 

Generic trading methodologies, strategies and cross-market opportunities deployed by proprietary traders around the world as outlined by Watkins make for an engaging narrative. Among the allied trades, the author's take on Saudi Aramco following its IPO, chimes with those in the short-sellers' camp, including this blogger, who note the various complications and lack of transparency associated with the so-called mother of all IPOs that promised so much internationally, but ended up a with mere single-digit percentage float on the domestic Saudi market. 

Overall, Watkins' impressive work cuts through market exaggerations designed to shift sentiment one way or another, and makes readers work towards developing their convictions while being cautious of manipulations, e.g. casual dropping of price rallies that lack legs, black swan events that are anything but, and risk premiums that barely last a trading week instead of having a tangible price supporting impact. 

Ultimately, as the author opines: "If the intricacies are understood, the oil market is a trader's nirvana; it offers far and away the most opportunities out of any other market for high returns." And to that effect, he's provided a very solid crash course that could serve both beginners and those with market exposure looking to brush up and refocus. 

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2020. Photo: Front Cover - An Insider’s Guide To Trading The Global Oil Market  © ADVFN Books, 2019.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Various media missives on energy market

The last fortnight has just zipped by with so much going on in the energy market that the Oilholic did not get time to pen his thoughts here (apologies!). However, here are a plethora of thoughts for various publishing outfits on various energy related subjects. 

First off, despite all the geopolitical pressures, worries of an escalating trade war continues to be the dominant bearish sentiment in the market and could turn mildly bullish if resolved. So here are some thoughts on Forbes in defence of those with bearish oil price forecasts who some say are being complacent, alongside a note on the prospects of US Midstream stocks

And a take on why Formula E versus Formula 1 motorsports offer a microcosm of the tussle for human mobility. Away from Forbes here is yours truly's article on the Big Data tsunami that is heading the oil and gas industry's way via Rigzone.

Finally, here's a take on the cybersecurity challenge the energy industry faces on Energy Post (behind paywall). More on this mad, mad crude market soon. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2019.

Friday, May 31, 2019

That over 10% slump in oil price

As the crazy month of May comes to a close, commentators using the supply constriction and geopolitical risk premium pretexts to big up prices have been left scratching their heads. Using Middle Eastern tension and murmurs of OPEC rolling over production cuts as the backdrop for predicting $80+ Brent prices didn't get anywhere fast. 

Instead prices went into reverse as the US-China trade spat, Brexit, Chinese and German slowdown fears weighed on demand sentiment. Here is yours truly's take via Forbes:
For what it is worth, at the time of writing this blog post both oil benchmarks are posting a May decline of +10% in what can only be described as a crude market rout. 

Away from the oil price, it seems rating agency Moody's has withdrawn all the ratings of Venezuela's beleaguered oil firm PDVSA including the senior unsecured and senior secured ratings due to "insufficient information." At the time of withdrawal, the ratings were 'C' and the outlook was 'stable'.

With Venezuela in free-fall and its oil production well below 1 million barrels per day (at 768,000 bpd in April) - not much remains to be said. In any case, the US will be importing less and less crude from Latin America not what happens in Caracas, given uptick in its shale-driven output. 

Away from 'crude' matters, the Oilholic also touched on LNG markets. Here is yours truly's take for Forbes on how the US-China trade spat will serve to dampen offtake for US LNG Projects; and here is a missive for Rigzone on the disconnect between US President Donald Trump's rhetoric on American LNG exports to the Baltics versus the ground reality

That's all for the moment for mad May folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2019. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

New avenues for 'crude' analysis

The Oilholic has had a hectic start to 2019 for sure, even though the crude market has behaved pretty predictably in January, having recovered ground it lost towards the end of 2019.

That's because yours truly has started providing insight on a regular basis to three more avenues alongside Forbes. These include The Energy Post and Energy Post Weekly, industry recruitment and insight portal Rigzone, and London-based financial start-up ReachX.

Here are a few snippets:
  • Energy Post: Commentary on energy sector investment in blockchain - January 23, 2019 (Behind Paywall / Subscribers' login)
  • Rigzone: Commentary on direction of the oil price in 2019 - January 28, 2019
  • ReachX: Podcast with Paul Welch, CEO of North Africa focussed independent upstart SDX Energy - January 22, 2019

Plenty more to follow. But that's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it crude!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.


© Gaurav Sharma 2019. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Year-end benchmark Friday closing levels chart

Here's how the 2018 oil market shaped up (click to enlarge chart below), and some thoughts on what OPEC's shale dilemma means for this crude world via Forbes (click here).


That's all for 2018 folks, lets see what 2019 brings. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

Chart: 2018 Friday closing levels of oil benchmarks © Gaurav Sharma 2018. 

Friday, December 07, 2018

OPEC/Non-OPEC cut at 1.2m bpd; Iran's smiling

In case you haven't heard dear readers, which the Oilholic doubts or you wouldn't be reading an oil market blog - OPEC has calmed the crude market with a 1.2 million barrels per day cut, in concert with 10 non-OPEC producers led by Russia.

Both Brent and WTI are up by over 4% at the time of writing, and Iran is smiling all the way to the bank having secured an "exemption" before US sanctions start biting more meaningfully. 

Will provide some more composed thoughts upon return to London from Vienna, as one has to scoot to the airport. That's all from Vienna folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2018.  

Thursday, December 06, 2018

OPEC's 'Crude' Basket & Last Friday's close

Two charts real quick while waiting for OPEC to make an announcement - (1) Direction of the OPEC price basket (including Qatar) and (2) Where the oil benchmarks ended last week (Friday, 30 November)! Let's see what the movement is like by the time this week is done! (Click to enlarge both charts)!




















To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Graph 1: OPEC Crude Oil Price Basket (YTD December 2018), Graph 2: Friday benchmark closes to November 30, 2018 © Gaurav Sharma 2018.

First quips & intraday soundbites from OPEC 175


It's the usual manic start to the 175th OPEC Ministers' Meeting here in Vienna, Austria. For those unfamiliar with the drill, here we go - a long queue of analysts and journalists, the Oilholic included, waiting to get in, followed a long queue to go up to see the ministers in the summit's conference room, followed by a mad dash to see them, followed by a media gang b..., I, er media scrum, and the security chucking everyone out! True to form manic wires and tweets follow, and Thursday (6 December) was no different.

Here are some highlights from the Oilholic's attendance and questioning of ministers in two media scrums - that of Saudi Oil Minister Khalid Al-Falih and UAE Oil Minister and current OPEC President Suhail Al Mazrouei - embedded below via his twitter account:


Putting it altogether, some summary points:

1) The Saudis are still denying any discussions were held with the Americans with regard to oil production levels. 
2) Data suggests Riyadh is pumping in excess of 11 million barrels per day (bpd).
3) An OPEC cut of 1 million bpd is likely (which would be below market expectations). 
4) All rather mum and diplomatic about Qatar's decision to quit OPEC
5) Saudi Arabia wants "all" participants to contribute to cut, Iran is against it, while Libya and Nigeria are exempt from it (as things stand). 

More from Vienna soon! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo: Start of the 175th OPEC Ministers' Meeting in Vienna, Austria on December 6, 2018 © Gaurav Sharma 2018. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

A ‘Qatarstrophe’, Saudi-Russian bromance & Tariff Man

The Oilholic arrived for visit number 25 to Vienna, Austria, for the 175th Meeting of OPEC Ministers on Wednesday (December 5) with a 'Qatarstrophe' in the background, rumblings over the Saudi-Russian oil market bromance, and of course US President Donald Trump declaring himself to be a ‘Tariff man’ after declaring a temporary truce with China.

The view in (see above left, click to enlarge) – of wind farms in the foreground and mountains in the background – on a clear Austrian day was quite a sight, and on the ground, yours truly's early morning flight from Heathrow (BA696) pulled up right next to Russian Oil Minister Alexander Novak's plane. Surely that's a 'crude' sign of things to come over the next few days.

Right, first to the Qatarstrophe, in case you haven’t heard – Qatar, which has been a member of OPEC since 1961, has decided to quit the cartel to "renew and redouble" its national focus on natural gas. Away from the official version, Doha feels cornered in a cartel that no longer serves its interests and is dominated by Saudi Arabia, a country that has slapped economic and diplomatic sanctions on it.

While Qatar's announcement created an intraday kerfuffle and a mini shock, it should hardly come as a surprise. Here is the Oilholic's detailed take on the development for Forbes. Unlike others, this blogger believes the development is not a fatal blow for OPEC, since members come and go, quit and rejoin. However, it is worth noting that Qatar is the first Middle Eastern member to quit, and Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates must shoulder much of the blame.

And there are other rumblings – many other OPEC member delegations are briefing in Vienna that they are not particularly impressed by the bonhomie (or more appropriately a crude bromance) between Saudi Arabia's oil minister Khalid Al-Falih and his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak; the two architects of the OPEC/non-OPEC production cut agreement, first inked in 2016. While others are voicing their concerns guardedly, Iran is doing so quite vocally. 

Finally, there's Tariff Man – a.k.a. US President Donald Trump, who has, well, made some peace with the Chinese, leading to a temporary suspension of trade hostilities. Parking trade wars to the side, he's been firing tweets at OPEC. Bring in the noise! More from Vienna soon, but that's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo: View of Austrian landscape from BA696 to Vienna on December 5, 2018 © Gaurav Sharma 2018.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Three -7% crude slumps & a WEC engagement

As the Oilholic headed for a splash and dash visit to the familiar surroundings of Vienna on another early morning British Airways flight to the Austrian capital on Friday (November 23), one couldn't but help notice that yet another oil futures selloff was underway in Asia, with regional closing trends indicative of 2% declines. 

By the time this blogger landed at Vienna International Airport at half past noon, the decline had become more pronounced in European trading hours. And a few hours later in the US, the intraday rout was complete with both WTI and Brent front-month contracts registering declines of  tad over 7%. 

What is worth noting here is that the latest drop is the third such decline - not just in the quarter, or on the month, but in the short space of a mere 10 trading sessions. Overall, crude prices have slumped by 30% over the last 7 weeks; quite something given the amount of bullish nonsense that was on the airwaves prior to the slide. 

If this isn't a slump, what is? Especially, as Brent also slid below $60 per barrel. Not so long ago, the global proxy benchmark was approaching $85, leading to typical exaggerated market forecasts in some quarters that the benchmark would hit $100 over Q1 2019.

Those who never believed such predictions, including this blogger, and expressed a net-short position ought to feel vindicated. The froth has gone out of the market, and sentiment remains largely bearish. However, there is such a thing as an 'over-correction'. The Oilholic thinks the slide has been too steep, too fast because the macroeconomic dynamic on the supply side has not undergone a similar sentimental slump. 

The Trump-China face-off, global growth rate (which is steady but not quite firing up), possibility of European upheavals (Brexit, Italy, Greece, Spain, etc), and an unimpressive oil demand growth range of 1.1 to 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd), were all priced in when the WTI was lurking in the $60s and Brent in $70s.

That for the Oilholic was the optimal range/level for both contracts, before the so-called false prophets exaggerated the impact of Iranian sanctions slapped unilaterally by the US on Tehran. Hedge Funds and money managers then piled in, as they tend to with jumped up net-long calls, in the hope of extending the rally and Brent hit thoroughly unmerited $80+ intraday levels.

Therefore, when the initial correction hit, dragging Brent first down to $70, and subsequently below, it was merited. However, the Oilholic believes we are in an over-correction patch now. The market is in a real danger of swapping one extreme for another, and as usual the false prophets are it again, with some predicting a slump to $40 and below. The volatility of the last few weeks has delivered a classic lesson on why not to trust them.


Moving on from 'crude' rants, the Oilholic was delighted to speak at the World Energy Council's (WEC) Vienna Energy Summit, which is what the early morning departure from Heathrow and earlier than usual scrutiny of oil prices in East Asia - should you follow one on Twitter - was all about.


The summit addressed a number of crucial subjects, and gave due weight to the macroeconomic and sociopolitical climate beyond current and future permutations in the energy markets.

Fellow panellists and yours truly deliberated, Saudi Arabia's transformation (at least on paper) to renewable energy, impact of regulations on the oil price and world order, petro-yuan hypothesis, those inimitable Donald Trump tweets and diplomacy by social media, Iran sanctions and much more.

It was a great industry dialogue, and a pleasure finally connecting with Dr Robert Kobau, Secretary General of WEC Austria (above right). With so much ground to cover, the session just flew by and animated, good spirited discussions spilled over to the after event reception, as how industry dialogues should be. All the remains, is to say it's time for the big flying bus home! Keeping reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo: Gaurav Sharma with Dr Robert Kobau, © Gaurav Sharma 2018.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Crude froth goes before a fall?

What a commotion we had in the oil markets last week, when Tuesday's (November 13) session saw an intraday decline of 8% for the West Texas Intermediate, and a near similar drop for the Brent front-month contract. 

Long calls unravelled in higher numbers as the market increasingly came to the realisation that there was still plenty of crude oil in the market regardless of the Trump versus Iran situation. Of course, as it tends to happen, when the market oversells or overcorrects, a recovery run follows. As it were, come Friday, Brent was down by 4.87% and WTI was down 6.19% on the previous week’s closing position. 

If nothing else, what the selloff did was ensure a puncturing of bullish illusions and flag up the fact (again!) that three crude oil producers alone – US, Saudi Arabia and Russia – were pumping more than all of OPEC, albeit with very different geopolitical agendas of their own. The sudden decline also makes for an interesting OPEC meeting scheduled for December 6. 

Nonetheless, the proof is in the 'crude' pudding – i.e. the latest CFTC and ICE data which points to a decline in global net-long positions. Starting with Brent contracts – for the week ending November 13, money managers' net long positions fell 17% to 214,832 contracts; the lowest level on record in nearly 18 months. 

Concurrently, WTI net-long positions fell 5.2% to 151,984 futures; the lowest since August 2017. Anyone for $100? That's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo © Cairn Energy 

Monday, November 12, 2018

On crude 'slumps', 'spikes' & predictable ranges

Over the last 12 months we've heard of oil price spikes and slumps, ups and downs, four-year highs and six-week losing streaks, and exaggerated predictions of $100 per barrel crude prices, being made by those prone to making them and then getting them spectacularly wrong. 

Yet, as the Oilholic hears Saudi Oil Minister Khalid Al-Falih [suggest a 2019 OPEC production cut might be on the horizon] on TV while sitting in a hotel room in Altanta stateside, the inescapable fact is that Brent, WTI and OPEC's own basket price of crude oil(s) exported by its members remains as range-bound as ever (see graph, click to enlarge). 

Whichever way you look at it - all year the price has fluctuated within a $60-80 per barrel range. You can come up with all sorts of fancy, creative explanations about it, as both the bulls and bears have, but the market is where it is because the physical traders are at peace with the supply demand and dynamic as it stands. 

While speculators and money managers, especially hedge funds, might pile into the market at the slightest sign of an uptick in the hope of extending the rally, physical traders (at least the ones the Oilholic is in contact with in Amsterdam and Shanghai) aren't exactly sweating while looking at their solver models that point to no scarcity of supply. 

Given that dynamic, paper market panics don't last long as recent weeks and months have proven. End result - everyone from Morgan Stanley to RBC Capital Markets, and all the so-called price prophets in between, are scrambling to downgrade their oil price forecasts. Some have even gone to the other extreme predicting $40 per barrel oil prices, and that won't happen either. 

Using an aggregate of global demand growth from various data sources (OPEC, EIA, IEA) and squaring it against global supply (as it stands) - the oil price will likely remain range-bound in the $60-80 bracket. So keep calm and carry on! That's all for the moment folks. The Oilholic needs to head out and brave the rain in Altanta, more from here later. 

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Graph: Friday closes of oil benchmarks (Jan to YTD 2018) © Gaurav Sharma 2018 

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Oil to touch $300/bbl? Are you having a laugh Pierre?

You have to hand it to hedge fund managers. At the sight of the slightest uptick in crude prices, whether driven by geopolitics, OPEC's shenanigans or dare we say – actual supply and demand dynamics – hedge funds and money managers tend to pile in with long calls in the hope of extending the rally. 

However, when it's a case of all of the above market factors, some tend to get overexcited. Pierre Andurand, whose Andurand Capital Management is often bullish on oil and has been down on its luck for the first quarter of 2018 (according to Bloomberg), is certainly among the excitable creatures.

Earlier this week, in a succession of now deleted tweets, Andurand quipped that concerns over the rise of electric vehicles was keeping investment in upstream oil projects muted thereby extending their lead times over fears of peak demand. 

"So paradoxically these peak demand fears might bring the largest supply shock ever. If oil prices do not rise fast enough, $300 oil in a few years is not impossible," he added. 

Having grabbed the attention of the crude markets, the tweets, of course, were subsequently deleted with no explanation. The Oilholic has an explanation – perhaps rational thinking returned? 

Perhaps a realisation that OPEC's lowering of output has to end at some point? Or perhaps a realisation that the US rig count continues to rise in tandem with American barrels? Or even perhaps a realisation that much of oil demand – as the International Energy Agency notes – is driven by petrochemicals and aviation. In fact, even if one in every two cars is electric, oil demand would still rise. 

Anyway, why should rationality get in the way of a provocative tweet. Or make that a deleted provocative tweet. 

For the record, the Oilholic reiterates his average oil forecast range of $65-75/bbl for Brent for 2018, which is a tad higher than that of many fellow bears in the range of $60-70/bbl, given there still is plenty of oil in the market, and the crude mix of light and heavy is keep the global pool well supplied.

To provide, some content the Brent front month contract closed just shy of $75/bbl on Friday (see chart above, click to enlarge), still in its painfully dull range, albeit lurking near the highest level since November 2014. So only another $225 to stack up in a matter of years Pierre, if the bears get your bullish fever! That's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.