The current energy market picture is looking good for oil bulls.
International benchmark Brent crude passed the long-anticipated threshold of $80 per barrel on Tuesday, though it’s since slipped back down to trade at $78.47 as of Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in London. West Texas Intermediate was trading at $74.73 per barrel around the same time.
“Oil prices have disconnected from the marginal cost of supply. Instead, they are travelling to the level where demand destruction kicks in, which we estimate at ~$80/bbl.” That’s what Morgan Stanley wrote in June, and in a note Tuesday, the bank wrote: “This remains our thesis.”
It added, however, that “the price at which demand destruction kicks in can be fiendishly difficult to estimate. We leave our price forecast unchanged for now but recognise that, on current trends, upside to our bull case scenario to $85/bbl clearly exists.”
Morgan Stanley foresees global oil supply getting tighter, citing an average of 3 million barrels of crude per day of inventory draws in the last month, compared to 1.9 million barrels per day drawn in the preceding months of this year.
“These draws are high and suggest the market is more undersupplied than generally perceived,” the bank’s analysts Martijn Rats and Amy Sergeant said.
Furthermore, flights and transport have picked up, with Flightradar data on commercial flights “closing the gap to pre-covid levels,” they said.
Still, not all the signs are bullish.
The World Bank said Tuesday that the Delta variant is slowing economic growth in the East Asia and Pacific region, and growth forecasts have been downgraded for most of the region’s countries. And China faces a potential slowdown with its Evergrande crisis and a growing power shortage that’s hitting factories, homes and supply chains.
“China’s economic troubles are casting a dark shadow on the demand side of the oil coin and hence the price outlook,” warned Stephen Brennock, a senior analyst at London-based PVM Oil Associates.
Higher energy prices will also fuel even higher inflation, which poses a significant threat to demand.
“Rising oil prices have been one of the biggest drivers of inflation,” Brennock wrote in a Tuesday note. “And a worsening inflationary situation will act as a drag on the fragile economic recovery and oil consumption. This brings us neatly onto the issue of demand destruction.”
China and India, some of the world’s top oil importers, this month began selling oil from their strategic reserves in an unprecedented move to try to lower crude prices as energy costs surged across the region. While it hasn’t succeeded in lowering global prices, it sent a significant message.
“The reason for this turn of events is price,” Brennock wrote. “At over $70/bbl, crude appears to have become too expensive for Beijing and New Delhi … Oil prices hitting $80/bbl will be a severe pain point for these key crude buyers and is likely to undermine import demand.”
Brent Crude Oil Extends Gain to $86.66 a Barrel Amid Tight Supply
Tight global oil supply pushed Brent crude oil, against which Nigeria oil is priced, to a multi-year high of $86.66 per barrel on Monday at 3:30 pm Nigerian time.
Oil price was lifted by rising fuel demand in the United States and tight global supply as economies recover from pandemic-induced slumps.
“The global energy supply crunch continues to show its teeth, as oil prices extend their upward march this week, a result of traders pricing in the ongoing rise in fuel demand – which amid limited supply response is depleting global stockpiles,” said Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy.
Goldman Sachs on the other hand is predicting a further increase in Brent crude oil to $90 a barrel, citing a strong rebound in global oil demand due to switching from gas to oil. This the bank estimated may contribute about 1 million barrels per day to global oil demand.
The investment bank said it expects oil demand to reach around 100 million barrels per day as consumption in Asia increases after the devastating effect of COVID-19.
“While not our base-case, such persistence would pose upside risk to our $90/bbl year-end Brent price forecast,” Goldman said in a research note dated Oct. 24.
Earlier this month, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and their allies, known as OPEC+ agreed to continue increasing oil supply by 400,000 bpd a month until April 2022 despite calls for an increase in global oil supplies.
The decision bolstered the price of Brent crude oil above $84 per barrel and expected to push the price even further to $90 a barrel. Low global oil supply amid rising demand for crude oil will continue to support oil prices in the near term.
“Despite the recent power cuts and impacts to industrial activity in China, oil demand is likely instead supported by switching to diesel powered generators and diesel engines in LNG trucks, as well as by a ramp up in coal production,” Goldman Sachs stated.
Oil Falls Slightly as China Steps in to Curb Rising Coal Prices
Global oil prices moderated slightly on Wednesday following the Chinese government’s decision to curb high coal prices and ensure coal mines function at maximum capacity.
Brent crude, against which Nigerian oil is priced, dropped to $83.98 per barrel at 11:00 am Nigerian time. While the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell by 80 cents or 1 percent to $81.20 a barrel.
“China is planning to take steps to combat the steep rises in the domestic coal market … which could put considerable pressure on the coal price there and reverse the fuel switch to oil,” Commerzbank said.
Prices for Chinese coal and other commodities slumped in early trade, which in turn pulled oil down from an uptick earlier in the day.
China’s National Development and Reform Commission said on Tuesday it would bring coal prices back to a reasonable range and crack down on any irregularities that disturb market order or malicious speculation on thermal coal futures. read more
Oil markets in general remain supported on the back of a global coal and gas crunch, which has driven a switch to diesel and fuel oil for power generation.
But the market on Wednesday was also pressured by data from the American Petroleum Institute industry group which showed U.S. crude stocks rose by 3.3 million barrels for the week ended Oct. 15, according to market sources.
That was well above nine analysts’ forecasts for a rise of 1.9 million barrels in crude stocks, in a Reuters poll.
However, U.S. gasoline and distillate inventories, which include diesel, heating oil and jet fuel, fell much more than analysts had expected, pointing to strong demand.
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is due later on Wednesday.
Oil Prices Hit Multi-year Highs on Monday
Oil prices hit multi-year highs on Monday buoyed by recovering demand and high natural gas and coal prices encouraging users to switch to fuel oil and diesel for power generation.
Brent crude oil futures were up 59 cents, or 0.7%, to $85.45 a barrel by 0900 GMT, after hitting $86.04, their highest level since October 2018.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures climbed 90 cents, or 1.1%, to $83.18 a barrel, after hitting a $83.73, their highest since October 2014.
Both contracts rose by at least 3% last week.
“Easing restrictions around the world are likely to help the recovery in fuel consumption,” analysts at ANZ bank said in a note, adding that gas-to-oil switching for power generation alone could boost demand by as much as 450,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter.
Cold temperatures in the northern hemisphere are also expected to worsen an oil supply deficit, said Edward Moya, senior analyst at OANDA.
“The oil market deficit seems poised to get worse as the energy crunch will intensify as the weather in the north has already started to get colder,” he said.
“As coal, electricity, and natural gas shortages lead to additional demand for crude, it appears that won’t be accompanied by significantly extra barrels from OPEC+ or the U.S.,” he said.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Monday that Japan would urge oil producers to increase output and take steps to cushion the impact of surging energy costs on industry.
Chinese data showed third-quarter economic growth fell to its lowest level in a year hurt by power shortages, supply bottlenecks and sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks.
China’s daily crude processing rate in September also fell its lowest level since May 2020 as a feedstock shortage and environmental inspections crippled operations at refineries, while independent refiners faced tightening crude import quotas.
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