Showing posts with label G20. Show all posts
Showing posts with label G20. Show all posts

Friday, April 17, 2020

OPEC+ G20 = 'Crude' potpourri + V-shaped recovery

There have been umpteen developments over the last fortnight in the crude saga of oil producers scrambling to curtail production in light of the unprecedented drop in demand triggered by the coronavirus or Covid-19 outbreak.

That oil prices would have fallen regardless was a given, but the current desperate market situation was largely of Saudi Arabia and Russia's own making following the collapse of OPEC+ on March 6. 

Marking a reversal, frantic talks over the Easter weekend saw Moscow and Riyadh underpin a 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) production cut, with feverish diplomacy by U.S. President Donald Trump and the promise of 1.5 million bpd in cuts by G20 oil producers serving as an accompaniment. Overall, the crude potpourri smelt better than it actually was. 

For the expected near-term oil demand decline is likely to be two to three times the production cut level. The deal itself doesn't look rock solid. As the Oilholic discussed with Mary-Ann Russon of the BBC, around 2.5 million bpd of cuts have been promised by Russia, an OPEC+ participant with a very poor record of compliance with the OPEC+ framework. 

The Saudis meanwhile would be cutting 2.5 million bpd from an inflated level of 11 million bpd. Prior to OPEC+'s December meeting, their production stood at 9.744 million bpd, which means in actual fact their compromise is closer to 1.25 million bpd on average. 

Yet for all of this, if oil demand is dire, any supply cut is only likely to have a very limited impact. We are flying, consuming and driving less (despite 99c/gallon prices in some US states) - so if we aren't going out that much, it won't matter one bit what OPEC+ does or doesn't. 


The deal is supposed to run from May to July and it won't avert short-term pain. It's come too late to rescue April, and it's too little for May and June. Hopes are pinned on a V-shaped recovery in oil prices come the middle of July. But how steep that 'V' might be is the question, and in the Oilholic's opinion it'll be steeper than where we are. 

As for The Donald, here is this blogger's take in a discussion with Marco Werman on PRI / BBC joint radio production The World. Phenomenal diplomacy it was by the President but more hot air was generated than tangible results. 

Additionally, the Oilholic also discussed various other market permutations, facets and shenanigans plus direction of oil and gas stocks, fuel prices, and several other energy topics with a host of industry colleagues including Richard Hunter of Interactive InvestorFreya Cole of BBC, Juliet Mann of CGTN, Victoria Scholar of IG Markets, Auskar Surbakti of TRT World, Sean Evers of Gulf Intelligence, Garima Gayatri of Energy Dias and scribbled half a dozen Forbes missives in what can only be described as the most manic of all manic fortnights for the oil market.

Final thoughts - WTI still looks like it'll hit mid-to-late-teens and continue to lurk below $20 per barrel  till early summer because dire demands means dire prices! That's about it for the moment folks! Stay safe, keep reading, keep it 'crude'!


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© Gaurav Sharma 2020. Photo I: Oilfield in Oman © Shell. Photo II: Gaurav Sharma on the BBC, TRT World and CGTN broadcasts © Broadcasters as mentioned, April 2020. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Views from Wall Street on oil market volatility

The Oilholic finds himself 3,460 miles away from London in New York, with Wall Street giving the crude market yet another reality check. In the last few months, money managers of all description, not just our friends in the hedge fund business, are scratching their heads having first seen a technical bear market in July, only for it to turn in favour of a technical bull market in August!

But now, with all that phoney talk of producers coming together to freeze oil production having fallen by the wayside, both Brent and WTI have started slipping again. 

Not one Wall Streeter the Oilholic has spoken to since arriving in the Big Apple seems to discount the theory that oil may be no higher than $50 per barrel come Christmas, and even that might be a stretch. 

In a desperate bid to keep the market interested in the production freeze nonsense, the Saudis and Russians pledged cooperation ensuring "oil market stability" at no less august a venue than the G20 summit in China earlier this month. Of course, as no clear direction was provided on how that "stability" might actually be achieved and nothing revealed by way of production alterations or caps, not many are quite literally buying it – not on Wall Street, not in the City of London.

Forget the shorts, even the longs brigade have realised that unless both the Saudis and Russians, who between them are pumping over 20 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, announce a highly unlikely real terms cut of somewhere in the region of 1 to 1.5 million bpd at the producers’ informal shindig on the sidelines of International Energy Forum (due 26-28 September) in Algiers, price support would be thin on the ground.

In fact, even a real terms cut would only provide short-lived support of somewhere in the region of $5-10 per barrel. As a side effect, this temporary reprieve would boost fringe non-OPEC production that is currently struggling with a sub $50 oil price. Furthermore, North American shale production, which is proving quite resilient with price fluctuations in the $40-50 range, is going to go up a level and supply scenarios would revert to the norm within a matter of months.

A number of oil producers would substitute the hypothetical 1-1.5 million bpd Riyadh and Moscow could potentially sacrifice. That’s precisely why Wall Street is betting on the fact that neither countries would relent, for among other things – both are also competing against each other for market.

Another added complication is the uncertainty over oil demand growth, which remains shaky and is not quite what it used to be. Morgan Stanley and Barclays are among a rising number of players who think 2016 might well end-up with demand growth in the region of 625,000 to 850,000 bpd, well shy of market think-tank projections of 1.3 million bpd.

Trading bets are mirroring those market concerns. Money managers sharply decreased their overall bullish bets in WTI futures for the week to September 6th, and also reduced their net position for a second straight week, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data.

In numeric terms - "Non-commercial contracts" of crude oil futures, to be mostly read as those traded by paper speculators, totalled a net position of +285,795 contracts. That’s a change of -55,493 contracts from the previous week’s total of +341,288; the net contracts for the data reported through August 30th.

The speculative oil bets decline also dragged the net position below the +300,000 level for the first time in nearly a month. That’s all for the moment from New York folks, as the Oilholic leaves you with a view of Times Square! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’! 

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© Gaurav Sharma 2016. Photo 1: Wall Street & New York Stock Exchange, USA. Photo 2: Times Square, New York, USA © Gaurav Sharma, September 2016

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Oil markets & producers on a tricky skating rink

So we had a crude oil price plunge early January, followed by a spike that promptly "un-spiked", only to rise from the ashes and subsequently go down the path of decline again. Expect further slippage, more so as the last week of profit taking takes place before the March futures contracts close, which in ICE Brent’s case would be February 13.

Amid the ups and downs of the last six weeks, headline writers were left tearing their hair on a daily basis switching from "Brent extends rally" to "Oil slides despite OPEC talk of a floor" to "Falling Premiums" to "Crude oil getting hammered" and back to "Oil jumps". All the while commentators queued up with some predicting a return to a US$100 per barrel Brent price "soon", alongside those sounding warnings about a drop to $10.

The actual market reality is both here and nowhere, as we enter a period of constant slides and spikes between $40 and $60. There are those who say the current oil price level cannot be sustained and supply-side analysts, including the Oilholic, who say the current oil production levels cannot be sustained. Both parties are correct – a price spike and a supply correction will happen in tandem, but not overnight.

It will take at least until the summer for sentiments about lower production levels to feed through, if not longer. More so, as many are gearing up to produce more with less, for example in Western Canada where fewer wells would be dug this year, but the production tally would be higher than the previous year. Taking a macro viewpoint, all the chatter of bull runs, bear attacks and subsequent rallies is just that – chatter. Market fundamentals have not materially altered.

Despite the latest Baker Hughes data showing fewer operational rigs compared to this point last year, the glut persists and there is some way to go before it alters. Roughly around 5% of current global oil production is taking place at a loss. Yet producers are biting the bullet wary of losing market share. It'll take a lot longer than a few weeks of negative rig data in the new year, before someone eventually blinks and makes a substantial impact on production levels. The Oilholic reckons it will be around June.

Until then, expect the market to continue skating in the $40 to $60 rink. In fact, there is some justification in OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri’s claim that oil prices have bottomed out. While we could have a momentary dip below $40, something which the Western Canadian Select has already faced. However, by and large benchmark prices have indeed found resistance above $40. 

Having said so, the careful thing to do between now and (at least) June would be to not get carried away by useless chatter. When Brent shed 11.44% in the first five trading days of January, only to more than recover the lost ground by the end of the month (see chart on the right, click to enlarge), some called it a mini-bull run.

Percentages are always relative and often misleading in the volatile times we see at the moment, as one noted in a recent Tip TV broadcast. So mini-bull run claims were laughable. As for the eventual supply correction, capex reduction is already afoot. BP, Shell, BG Group and several other large and small companies have announced spending cuts. A recent Genscape study of 95 US exploration and production (E&P) companies noted a cumulative capex decline of 27%, from $44.5 billion last year to a projected $32.5 billion this year.

Meanwhile, Igor Sechin, the boss of Russia’s Rosneft has denied the country would be the first to blink and lower production in a high stakes game. Quite the contrary, Sechin compared the US shale boom to the dotcom bubble and rambled about the American position not being backed up by crude reserves.

He also accused OPEC along familiar lines of conspiring with Western nations, especially the US, to hurt Russia. Moving away from silly conspiracy theories, Sechin does have a point – the impact of a lower oil price on shale is hard to predict and is currently being put to test. We’ll know more over the next two to three quarters.

However, comparing the shale bonanza to the dotcom bubble suggests wilful ignorance of a few basic facts. Unlike the dotcom bubble, where a plethora of so-called technology firms put forward their highly leveraged, unproven, profit lacking ventures pitched to investors by Wall Street as the next big thing, independent shale oil upstarts have a ready, proven product to sell in barrels.

Of course, operational constraints and high levels of leveraging remain burdensome in a bearish oil market. While that might cause difficulties for fringe shale players, established ones will carry on regardless and find ways to mitigate exposure to volatility.

In case of the dotcom bubble, where some had nothing of proven tangible value to sell, independents tipped over like dominos when the bubble burst, apart from those who had a plan. For instance, the likes of Amazon or eBay have survived and thrived to see their stock price recover well above the dotcom boom levels.

Finally, in case of US shale players, ingenuity of the wildcatters catapulted them to where they are with a readily marketable product to sell. There is anecdotal evidence of that same ingenuity kicking in tandem with extraction process advancements thereby making E&P activity viable even at a $40 Brent price for many if not all.

So it's not quite like Pets.com if you know what the Oilholic means. Sechin’s point might be valid but its elucidation is daft. Furthermore, US shale players might have troubling days ahead, but trouble is something the Russian oil producers can see quite clearly on their horizon too. Additionally, shale plays have technological cooperation aimed at lowering costs on their side. Sanctions mean sharing of international technology to sustain or boost production as well as lower costs is off limits for the moment for Russia.

On a closing note, its being hotly disputed these days whether and by how much lower oil prices boost global economic activity, as one noted in a recent World Finance journal video broadcast. Entering the debate this week, Moody’s said lower oil prices might well give the US economy a boost in the next two years, but will fail to lift global growth significantly as headwinds from the Eurozone, China, Brazil and Japan would dent economic activity.

Despite lower oil prices, the agency has maintained its GDP growth forecast for the G20 countries at just under 3% in both 2015 and 2016, broadly unchanged from 2014. Moody's outlook is based on the assumption that Brent will average $55 in 2015, rising to $65 on average in 2016. 

It assumes that oil prices will stay near current levels in 2015 because demand and supply conditions are "unlikely to change markedly" in the near future, as The Oilholic has been banging on many a blog post including this one. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Danger of slipping sign. Graph: Oil Benchmark Prices, January 2015 © Gaurav Sharma

Saturday, June 16, 2012

“Stability, stability, stability,” says El-Badri

So the press briefing room has emptied and the OPEC ministers have left the building for first time after failing to cut the cartel’s official output in face of crude price corrections exceeding 10% over a fiscal quarter. Thanks largely to Saudi Arabia, OPEC output stayed right where it was at 30 million bpd. Given the Eurozone crisis and a US, Indian and Chinese slowdown – OPEC members will invariably see Brent trading below US$100 per barrel for extended periods of time over the medium term.

It is doubtful if the Saudis would be too perturbed before the price of Brent slips below US$85 per barrel. As the Oilholic noted last year, studies suggest that is the price they may have budgeted for. Putting things into perspective analysts polled by the Oilholic here in Vienna suggest Iran would need a Brent price of US$110-plus to come anywhere balancing its budget.

However, with all bar the Saudis sweating already, outgoing OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri, whose successor is yet to be decided, probably provided the signature quote of 161st meeting of ministers. Given the long term nature of the oil & gas business and a need for clarity and predictability, the Secretary General demanded ‘stability, stability, stability’.

“Stability for investments and expansion to flourish; Stability for economies around the world to grow; And stability for producers that allows them a fair return from the exploitation of their exhaustible natural resources,” he said in a speech at the OPEC seminar ahead of the meeting.

Problem is the Saudis have taken the message a little bit too literally; oil minister Ali Al-Naimi likened his country’s high production level and its insistence that OPEC’s official quota stays right where it is to a kind of an economic ‘stimulus’ which the world needs right now.

Of course on the macro picture, everyone at OPEC would have nodded in approval when El-Badri noted that fossil fuels – which currently account for 87% of the world's energy supply – will still contribute 82% by 2035.

“Oil will retain the largest share (of the energy supply) for most of the period to 2035, although its overall share falls from 34% to 28%. It will remain central to growth in many areas of the global economy, especially the transportation sector. Coal's share remains similar to today, at around 29%, whereas gas increases from 23% to 25%,” he added.

In terms of non-fossil fuels, renewable energy would grow fast according to OPEC. But as it starts from a low base, its share will still be only 3% by 2035. Hydropower will increase only a little – to 3% by 2035. Nuclear power will also witness some expansion, although prospects have been affected by events in Fukushima. However, it is seen as having only a 6% share in 2035.

For oil, conventional as well as non-conventional resources are ‘sufficient’ for the foreseeable future according to El-Badri. The cartel expects significant increases in conventional oil supply from Brazil, the Caspian, and of course from amongst its own members, as well as steady increases in non-conventional oil and natural gas liquids (e.g. Canada and US).

On the investment front, for the five-year period from 2012 to 2016, OPEC's member countries currently have 116 upstream projects in their portfolio, some of which would be project or equity financed but majority won’t. Quite frankly do some of the Middle Eastern members really need to approach the debt markets after all? Moi thinks not; at best only limited recourse financing maybe sought. If all projects are realised, it could translate into an investment figure of close to US$280 billion at current prices.

“Taking into account all OPEC liquids, the net increase is estimated to be close to 7 million bpd above 2012 levels, although investment decisions and plans will obviously be influenced by various factors, such as the global economic situation, policies and the price of oil,” El-Badri concluded.

That’s all from Austria folks where the Oilholic is surrounded by news from the G20, rising cost of borrow for Spain and Italy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso ranting, Fitch downgrading India’s outlook, an impending US Federal Reserve decision and the Greek elections! Phew!

Since it’s time to say Auf Wiedersehen and check-in for the last Austrian Airlines flight out of this Eurozone oasis of ‘relative’ calm to a soggy London, yours truly leaves you with a sunny view of the Church of St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche) near Vienna’s Karlsplatz area (see above right, click to enlarge). It was commissioned by Charles VI – penultimate sovereign of the Habsburg monarchy – in 1713. Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, one of Austro-Hungarian Empire’s most renowned architects, came up with the original design with construction beginning in 1716.

However, following Fischer’s death in 1727, it was left to his son Joseph Emanuel to finish the project adding his own concepts and special touches along the way. This place exudes calmness, one which the markets, the crude world and certainly Mr. Barroso could do well with. Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo 1: Empty OPEC briefing room podium following the end of the 161st meeting of ministers, Vienna, Austria. Photo 2: Church of St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche), Vienna, Austria © Gaurav Sharma 2012.

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