The bullish spirit that gripped oil traders as industry giants from Saudi Arabia to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. declared the supply glut over is rapidly ebbing away.
Oil is poised for a drop of 20 percent since early June, meeting the definition of a bear market. While excess crude production is abating, inventories around the world are brimming, especially for gasoline, and a revival in U.S. drilling threatens to swell supplies further. As the output disruptions that cleared some of the surplus earlier this year begin to be resolved, crude could again slump toward $30 a barrel, Morgan Stanley predicts.
“The tables are turning on the bulls, who were prematurely constructive on oil prices on the basis the re-balancing of the oil market was a done deal,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas SA in London. “It’s probably going to take a little longer than they expected.”
Oil almost doubled in New York between February and June as big names from Goldman and the International Energy Agency to new Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said declining U.S. oil production and disruptions from Nigeria to Canada were finally ending years of oversupply. Prices are set for their biggest monthly loss in a year amid a growing recognition the surplus will take time to clear.
“There’s lots of crude and refined products around,” said David Fransen, Geneva-based head of Vitol SA, the biggest independent oil trader. “Demand growth has faltered a bit.”
The stockpiles of crude and refined oil that built up in industrialized nations during the years of oversupply remain formidable, standing at a record of more than 3 billion barrels, according to the Paris-based IEA. Traders struggling to sell cargoes are hoarding the most barrels on board tankers at sea since the end of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the agency estimates.
In some countries the glut seems to be getting bigger, with weekly U.S. government data on Wednesday showing a surprise inventory increase in the world’s biggest oil consumer at at time when summer driving demand should deplete stockpiles.
The latest challenge for the market is “a shift in the surplus from crude to products,” Jeff Currie, head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs in New York, said in a Bloomberg Television interview Wednesday. Refiners churned out gasoline earlier in the year to take advantage of cheap crude, and stockpiles of the motor fuel are now at the highest for the time of year in at least 20 years, EIA data show.
The next move lower could come as crude production ramps back up, said Adam Longson, an analyst at Morgan Stanley in New York. Canadian oil-sands producers have restored what was halted in May when wildfires menaced more than 1 million barrels of daily output. Nigeria has partially recovered after militant attacks curbed production to a three-decade low, according to the IEA.
In the U.S., production declines have leveled off over the past three weeks, EIA data shows. The weekly count of active oil rigs published every Friday by Baker Hughes Inc. has recorded its longest run of increases since August.
“Did the glut disappear in the first place?” asked Eugen Weinberg, head of commodities research at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. “It was masked for a while by the shortfalls in Nigeria and Canada, but it did not disappear.”
Still, banks from Citigroup Inc. to Barclays Plc and Societe Generale SA are confident the overall re-balancing of the market remains on track, despite the current price retreat, and that markets will recover by the end of year. The latest sell-off reflects the strength of the dollar, which curbs investors’ appetite for commodities, rather than any worsening of supply-demand fundamentals, according to Goldman Sachs.
“I would call it a bump on the road towards a looming rebalancing,” said Miswin Mahesh, an analyst at Barclays in London. “The supply side is adjusting sharply and we will see it slow down a lot faster than demand from the fourth quarter onwards. The low price is creating a one-two punch moment for the supply side, taking off both current and future supplies.”
The recovery will take prices up to $50 a barrel by the end of the year, according to Barclays and Commerzbank. In the meantime however, sentiment has soured so much that further losses to $40 are inevitable, Commerzbank’s Weinberg said. West Texas Intermediate crude futures lost as much as 1.4 percent to $40.57 a barrel on Friday.
“The oversupply will diminish,” Weinberg said. “But the market is deaf in one ear right now. Sentiment was too pessimistic at the beginning of the year, extremely bullish in June, and now back again to pessimism.”
Oil Posts 2% Gain for the Week Despite India Virus Surge
Oil prices steadied on Friday and were set for a weekly gain against the backdrop of optimism over a global economic recovery, though the COVID-19 crisis in India capped prices.
Brent crude futures settled 0.28% higher at $68.28 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude advanced 0.29% to $64.90 per barrel.
Both Brent and WTI are on track for second consecutive weekly gains as easing restrictions on movement in the United States and Europe, recovering factory operations and coronavirus vaccinations pave the way for a revival in fuel demand.
In China, data showed export growth accelerated unexpectedly in April while a private survey pointed to strong expansion in service sector activity.
However, crude imports by the world’s biggest buyer fell 0.2% in April from a year earlier to 40.36 million tonnes, or 9.82 million barrels per day (bpd), the lowest since December.
In the United States, the world’s largest oil consumer, jobless claims have dropped, signalling the labour market recovery has entered a new phase as the economy recovers.
The recovery in oil demand, however, has been uneven as surging COVID-19 cases in India reduce fuel consumption in the world’s third-largest oil importer and consumer.
“Brent came within a whisker of breaking past $70 a barrel this week but failed at the final hurdle as demand uncertainty dragged on prices,” said Stephen Brennock at oil brokerage PVM.
The resurgence of COVID-19 in countries such as India, Japan and Thailand is hindering gasoline demand recovery, energy consultancy FGE said in a client note, though some of the lost demand has been offset by countries such as China, where recent Labour Day holiday travel surpassed 2019 levels.
“Gasoline demand in the U.S. and parts of Europe is faring relatively well,” FGE said.
“Further out, we could see demand pick up as lockdowns are eased and pent-up demand is released during the summer driving season.”
Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange to Commence Gold Trading
With the admission of Dukia Gold’s diversified financial instruments backed by gold as the underlying asset, Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange is set to commence gold trading.
According to Dukia Gold, the instruments will be in form of exchange-traded notes, commercial papers and other gold-backed securities, adding that it will enable the company to deepen the commodities market in Nigeria, increase capacity, generate foreign exchange for the Nigerian government to better diversify foreign reserves and create jobs across the metal production value chain.
Tunde Fagbemi, the Chairman, Dukia Gold, disclosed this while addressing journalists at Pre-Listing Media Interactive Session in Lagos on Thursday.
He said, “We are proud to be the first gold company whose products would be listed on the Lagos Futures and Commodities Exchange. The listing shall enable us facilitate our infrastructure development, expand capacity and create fungible products.
“This has potential to shore up Nigeria’s foreign reserve and create an alternative window for preservation of pension funds. A gold-backed security is a hedge against inflation and convenient preservation of capital.”
“As a global player, we comply with the practices and procedures of London Bullion Market Association and many other international bodies. Our refinery will also have multiplier effects on the development of rural areas anywhere it is located,” he added.
Mr Olusegun Akanji, the Divisional Head, Strategy and Business Solutions, Heritage Bank, said the lender had created a buying centre for verification of quality and quantity of gold and reference price to ensure price discovery in line with the global standard.
Oil Nears $70 as Easing Western Lockdowns Boost Summer Demand Outlook
Oil prices rose for a third day on Wednesday as easing of lockdowns in the United States and parts of Europe heralded a boost in fuel demand in summer season and offset concerns about the rise of COVID-19 infections in India and Japan.
Brent crude rose 93 cents, or 1.4%, to $69.81 a barrel at 1008 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 85 cents, or 1.3%, to $66.54 a barrel.
Both contracts hit the highest level since mid-March in intra-day trade.
“A return to $70 oil is edging closer to becoming reality,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.
“The jump in oil prices came amid expectations of strong demand as western economies reopen. Indeed, anticipation of a pick-up in fuel and energy usage in the United States and Europe over the summer months is running high,” he said.
Crude prices were also supported by a large fall in U.S. inventories.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) industry group reported crude stockpiles fell by 7.7 million barrels in the week ended April 30, according to two market sources. That was more than triple the drawdown expected by analysts polled by Reuters. Gasoline stockpiles fell by 5.3 million barrels.
Traders are awaiting data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration due at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) on Wednesday to see if official data shows such a large fall.
“If confirmed by the EIA, that would mark the largest weekly fall in the official data since late January,” Commonwealth Bank analyst Vivek Dhar said in a note.
The rise in oil prices to nearly two-month highs has been supported by COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in the United States and Europe.
Euro zone business activity accelerated last month as the bloc’s dominant services industry shrugged off renewed lockdowns and returned to growth.
“The partial lifting of mobility restrictions, the expectation that tourism will return in the near future, and the lure of the psychologically important $70 mark are all likely to have contributed to the price rise,” Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg said.
This has offset a drop in fuel demand in India, the world’s third-largest oil consumer, which is battling a surge in COVID-19 infections.
“However, if we were to eventually see a national lockdown imposed, this would likely hit sentiment,” ING Economics analysts said of the situation in India.
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