Oil prices experienced a sharp decline of $2 on Monday as investors closely monitored the upcoming U.S. Federal Reserve meeting to determine the central bank’s stance on future interest rate hikes.
This uncertainty, coupled with mounting concerns about China’s fuel demand growth and increasing Russian crude supply, added pressure to the already volatile market.
Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian oil, fell by $1.91 or 2.5% to $72.88 per barrel while at U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude declined by $2.02 or 2.8% to $68.15.
Last week marked the second consecutive week of declines for both benchmarks, primarily driven by disappointing economic data from China, the world’s largest crude importer.
“The clash between bearish asset allocators and bullish oil speculators has trapped oil prices in a precarious situation,” noted Francisco Blanch from Bank of America Global Research in a recent report.
“Bearish allocators currently hold the upper hand as oil prices struggle to rally until the Federal Reserve eases money supply,” Blanch added, highlighting the importance of the Fed’s monetary policy decisions on the future of oil prices.
Bank of America Global Research maintains an average forecast of around $80 per barrel for Brent crude in 2023.
The rate hikes implemented by the U.S. central bank have bolstered the value of the dollar, subsequently making dollar-denominated commodities, including oil, more expensive for holders of other currencies. This factor has further weighed on oil prices in recent times.
While Saudi Arabia has reduced oil production on four occasions over the past year, Russian supply has remained resilient, partially due to the way sanctions were structured to minimize their impact on output, according to Blanch. Remarkably, Russian oil exports to China and India have continued to grow, even amidst the European Union’s embargo and the Group of Seven’s price cap mechanism, which came into effect in early December.
Goldman Sachs has revised its oil price forecasts downward due to higher-than-anticipated supplies from Russia and Iran. The bank also raised its supply predictions for these two producers and Venezuela by a combined total of 800,000 bpd. Consequently, Goldman Sachs now projects Brent crude prices to average $86 per barrel in December, a decrease from the previous estimate of $95, and WTI crude to reach $81 per barrel, down from $89.
As the oil market remains under the influence of various opposing factors, market participants eagerly await the conclusion of the Federal Reserve’s two-day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday. It is widely anticipated that the central bank will maintain interest rates at their current levels, thereby offering some clarity and potentially impacting the direction of oil prices in the coming days.
Oil Prices Surge as China’s Holiday Demand and Tight US Supply Drive 2% Weekly Gain
Oil prices to close the week with about a 2% gain as robust holiday demand from China and constrained U.S. fundamentals overshadowed concerns about potential supply increases from Saudi Arabia.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, gained 5 cents to $95.43 per barrel at about 6:00 a.m. Nigerian time on Friday while the U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) rose by 16 cents to $91.87 per barrel.
The market’s resilience became evident as it rebounded from a slight 1% dip in the previous session when profit-taking followed a surge in prices to 10-month highs.
China, the world’s largest oil importer, played a pivotal role in driving prices higher. Strong fuel demand coincided with China’s week-long Golden Week holiday, with increased international and domestic travel significantly boosting Chinese oil consumption.
Analysts at ANZ noted that this holiday season’s surge in travel was underpinned by the fact that the average daily flights booked were a fifth higher than during Golden Week in 2019, pre-dating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, improving macroeconomic data from China and the steady growth of its factory activity further supported the bullish sentiment.
The U.S. economy’s robust growth and indications of accelerated activity in the current quarter also bolstered expectations of sustained fuel demand.
Also, tight supplies in the U.S., evidenced by dwindling storage levels at Cushing, Oklahoma, provided additional support to oil prices. As rig counts fell, U.S. oil production was expected to slow down, potentially pushing the market into a deficit of more than 2 million barrels per day in the last quarter.
Investors are now eagerly awaiting the upcoming meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+), scheduled for October 4th.
The meeting will be a crucial indicator of whether Saudi Arabia will consider stepping up its supply in response to the nearly 30% surge in oil prices this quarter.
Analysts, however, caution that the market may be entering overbought territory, leading to possible hesitancy among participants and concerns that OPEC+ could ease production cuts earlier than planned if prices continue to rise.
The outcome of next week’s OPEC meeting will undoubtedly hold significant implications for the oil market’s future trajectory.
Oil Prices Soar to a Year High as Crude Reserves Plummet
Crude stocks at a pivotal storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, hit their lowest levels since July last year, sparking concerns about future supply stability.
Oil prices surged to their highest level in over a year during Asian trading hours, following a significant drop in crude stocks at a key storage hub.
Crude inventories in Cushing, Oklahoma, plummeted to a mere 22 million barrels in the fourth week of September, close to operational minimums, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
This translates to 943,000 barrels compared to the prior week.
The U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) rose to $95.03 per barrel during Asian trading hours, a peak not seen since August 2022 before settling at $94.61 per barrel.
Meanwhile, Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian oil, rose by 1.05% to $97.56 per barrel.
Experts have attributed this rapid price escalation to the precarious situation in Cushing, with Bart Melek, Managing Director of TD Securities, stating, “Today’s price action seems to be Cushing driven, as it reaches a 22 million bbl low, the lowest level since July 2022.”
Melek expressed concerns about the challenges of getting crude oil into the market if inventories continue to dip below these critical levels.
Predicting the future trajectory of oil prices, Melek suggested that prices could remain at elevated levels for the remainder of the year, especially if the global oil cartel, OPEC+, continues to enforce supply restrictions.
He noted that the global oil market is facing a “pretty robust deficit” on top of an already significant shortfall for this quarter due to OPEC’s production cuts.
Saudi Arabia, a key player in OPEC+, has extended its voluntary crude oil production cut of 1 million barrels per day until the year’s end, bringing its crude output to nearly 9 million barrels per day.
Russia has also pledged to continue its 300,000 barrels per day export reduction until December.
However, Melek added that, “We do think that prices could keep up near these levels for quite some time. But I don’t think it’s too permanent. And we might have seen the end of this rally.”
Nigerian Pump Prices May Increase as Crude Oil Hits $93.55 Per Barrel
Amidst growing concerns over the surging price of crude oil on the international market, Nigerian citizens are bracing themselves for a possible increase in pump prices.
Crude oil, the lifeblood of Nigeria’s economy rose to $92.42 per barrel on Monday, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the already volatile fuel market.
This surge in crude oil prices comes in tandem with the persistent depreciation of the Naira in foreign exchange markets, where it traded at N980 to $1 on the parallel market. For many Nigerians, these simultaneous developments trigger memories of the recent fuel price hikes that followed the removal of fuel subsidies earlier this year.
In June, the government removed the subsidy, leading to a sharp 210% increase in the pump price from N175 per liter to N546.83 per liter. In a further blow to consumers, less than a month later, the price surged again, reaching N617 per liter.
However, since then, there have been no additional fuel increments, despite fluctuations in the Naira’s exchange rate. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, along with key government officials and industry leaders, has reiterated their commitment to stabilizing petrol prices in the country.
According to Ajuri Ngelale, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, “The President affirms that there will be no increase in the price of petroleum motor spirit.”
Mele Kyari, Group Chief Executive of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPC), echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that NNPC is the sole supplier of petrol nationwide and has not proposed any price hikes.
Industry experts like Chinedu Okonkwo, President of the Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), have urged the government to expedite efforts in implementing Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as a viable alternative to traditional fuels, providing a long-term solution to the country’s energy needs.
While the global crude oil price surge is a cause for concern, Nigerians are holding onto the government’s commitment to price stability and the potential for CNG to provide a sustainable energy alternative in the future.
In a market with unique dynamics, where NNPC remains the sole supplier and importer of fuel, the hope is that prices will remain stable for the benefit of all Nigerians.
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