How soaring US oil exports are transforming the global oil game from Dubai to Shanghai

Heavy traffic on a city ring road in Beijing. China’s crude imports climbed to a record 9.57 million bpd in January. (AP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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How soaring US oil exports are transforming the global oil game from Dubai to Shanghai

SINGAPORE: Bit by bit, the US petroleum industry is turning world oil markets inside out.
First, sharp drops in US imports of crude oil eroded the biggest market that producers like OPEC had relied on for many years. Now, surging US exports – largely banned by Washington until just two years ago — challenge the last region OPEC dominates: Asia.
US oil shipments to China have surged, creating trade between the world’s two biggest powers that until 2016 just did not exist, and helping Washington in its effort to reduce the nation’s huge trade deficit with China.
The transformation is reflected in figures released in recent days that shows the US now produces more oil than top exporter Saudi Arabia and means the Americans are likely to take over the No.1 producer spot from Russia by the end of the year.
The growth has surprised even the official US Energy Information Administration, which this week raised its 2018 crude output forecast to 10.59 million bpd, up by 300,000 bpd from their last forecast just a week before.
When US oil exports appeared in 2016, the first cargoes went to free trade agreement partners South Korea and Japan. Few expected China to become a major buyer.
Data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows US crude shipments to China went from nothing before 2016 to a record 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) in January, worth almost $1 billion. Additionally, half a million tons of US liquefied natural gas (LNG) worth almost $300 million, headed to China from the US in January.
The US supplies will help reduce China’s huge trade surplus with the US and may help to counter allegations from President Donald Trump that Beijing is trading unfairly.
“With the Trump administration, the pressure on China to balance accounts with the US. is huge... Buying US oil clearly helps toward that goal to reduce the disbalance,” said Marco Dunand, chief executive and co-founder of commodity trading house Mercuria.
As the energy exports rose, China’s January trade surplus with the US narrowed to $21.895 billion, from $25.55 billion in December, according to official Chinese figures released on Thursday.
The energy sales to China are still modest compared with the $9.7 billion of oil shipped by OPEC to China in January. But they are already cutting into a market dominated by the likes of Saudi Arabia and Russia — with the threat of much more competition to come.
“We see US crude as a supplement to our large base of crude” from the Middle East and Russia, said a refinery manager for China’s oil-major Sinopec, declining to be named as he was not cleared to speak to media.
He said that Sinopec was looking to order more US crude this year.
China’s crude imports climbed to a record 9.57 million bpd in January, official data showed on Thursday.
Meanwhile, US imports have fallen below 4 million bpd, against a record 12.5 million bpd in 2005.
At average December/January volumes, American oil and gas sales to China would be worth around $10 billion a year. Including exports to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, the figure doubles.
US exports would be even greater but for infrastructure constraints: no US port can handle the biggest oil tankers, known as Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC).
To address that, one of the biggest facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port Services (LOOP), is expanding in order to handle VLCCs soon.
For Chinese buyers, the main attraction of US oil has been price. Thanks to the shale boom, US crude is cheaper than oil from elsewhere.
At around $60.50 per barrel, US crude is currently some $4 per barrel cheaper than Brent, off which most other crudes are priced.
For many established oil exporters like the Middle East-dominated OPEC or Russia, who have been withholding production since 2017 in an attempt to push prices higher, these new oil flows mark a big loss in market share.
“OPEC and Russia accepted that the US will become a big producer because they simply wanted to get the price where it is today,” Mercuria’s Dunand said.
Since the start of the OPEC-led supply cuts in January 2017, oil prices have risen by 20 percent, though prices in February have come under pressure again in large part due to soaring US output.
The flood of US oil may even change the way crude is priced.
Most OPEC producers sell crude under long-term contracts which are priced monthly, sometimes retro-actively. US producers, by contrast, export on the basis of freight costs and price spreads between US and other kinds of crude oil.
This has led to a surge in traded volumes of US crude futures, known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), leaving volumes of other futures like Brent or Dubai far behind.
“Buyers, like sellers of US oil, started hedging WTI,” said John Driscoll, director of Singapore-based consultancy JTD Energy Services.
Despite all these challenges to the traditional oil order, established producers are putting on a brave face.
“We have no concern whatsoever about rising US exports. Our reliability as a supplier is second to none, and we have the highest customer base with long-term sales agreements,” said Amin Nasser, president and chief executive officer of Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil behemoth.


Nasdaq Dubai to launch Saudi Arabian futures later this year

Updated 20 May 2018
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Nasdaq Dubai to launch Saudi Arabian futures later this year

  • The move will allow global investors to trade shares in Saudi Arabian listed companies via contracts to buy or sell shares at a set price in the future
  • The Kingdom’s stock exchange, the Tadawul, has announced its intention to enable futures and other derivatives trading

DUBAI: Nasdaq Dubai, the UAE’s international stock exchange, is to launch futures trading in Saudi Arabian quoted companies before the end of this year, Arab News can reveal.
The move will allow global investors to trade shares in Saudi Arabian listed companies via contracts to buy or sell shares at a set price in the future, and is expected to add to the attraction of the Kingdom’s financial markets among international investors. 
It will be the first time Saudi stocks can be traded in derivative form.
Hamed Ali, chief executive of the Dubai-based exchange, said: “We are delighted to provide investors with an exciting new route to gain exposure to the Kingdom’s dynamic and rapidly expanding equity markets. What we’ve seen happen in Saudi Arabia is impressive reform, progression and change, and there is a lot of regional and international interest in the stock markets there. 
“This is good news for our two markets, and a good step in building a stronger bridge between them,” he added.
Ali has been involved in talks about the initiative for some time with relevant market players in the Kingdom. 
“The framework we have built for trading and clearing Saudi futures is based on intensive consultations with regional and international market participants, including brokers and potential 
investors.  Our futures will provide further 
impetus to invest in Saudi Arabian capital markets and help develop new links with market participants,” he added.
The Kingdom’s stock exchange, the Tadawul, has announced its intention to enable futures and other derivatives trading, but its plans are still thought to be some way from implementation. Earlier this month it announced the setting up of an independent clearing house, essential to pave the way for derivatives trades.
The launch of futures by Nasdaq Dubai comes at a busy time for markets in the Kingdom. The Tadawul’s headline TASI index is among the best performing in the world, having risen 11 percent so far this year. 
Index provider MSCI is widely expected to include KSA stocks in its widely tracked emerging markets index from next year, opening the bourse up to significant inflows from foreign investors. 
Such investors are also eagerly waiting for a raft of domestic privatizations that could further boost the markets later this year and beyond. 
The most eagerly anticipated is the initial public offering (IPO) of a minority stake in oil major Saudi Aramco, which could be the biggest IPO in history. Asked about the listing, Ali said: “We would definitely offer single stock futures in it.”
Nasdaq’s Saudi futures market will commence in the third quarter of the current year, offering contracts on some of the Kingdom’s biggest stocks by market capitalization and liquidity, including some of the Middle East’s largest businesses active in sectors such as petrochemicals, real estate, banking and transport.
The futures contracts will give investors new hedging tools to take long and short positions on the companies, at a time when international investor interest in the Kingdom’s stock market is increasing rapidly, Nasdaq believes.
The Nasdaq futures market currently operates with leading Gulf brokerages as members, and two active market makers on the UAE contracts.

 

More market participants are preparing to join as Nasdaq Dubai adds the KSA single stock futures and expands its 
derivatives platform in phases, to include futures based on stocks and indices of various exchanges in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as options, Nasdaq said. More brokers are expected to join the Nasdaq platform as the trade in Saudi futures takes off, including some from Saudi Arabia.
Nasdaq Dubai launched UAE futures trading in 2016 with single stock futures on seven UAE-listed companies. That number has since increased to 17 and last February the exchange added futures on Dubai Financial Market’s DFMGI share index, as well as the ADSMI index of Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. Futures on MSCI’s UAE index will be added soon under a license agreement signed with MSCI.
“We are really pleased with the futures market performance. Volumes have been steady, but, of course, they just reflect the underlying performance of the market,” Ali said.
Futures and other derivative products are common instruments in Western and other financial markets, and are regarded as key mechanisms to enhance market 
liquidity, but have been slower to gain 
acceptance in the Middle East.  
The futures move by Nasdaq Dubai is a sign of increasing co-operation between the UAE and Saudi stock exchanges, as well as others in the Gulf Co-operation Council region.
Sarah Al-Suhaimi, chairperson of the Tadawul, said recently that she wanted to make the Tadawul the “dominant” exchange in the region, and that discussions had taken place between exchange policymakers and regulators with a view to enabling common listing rules and dual listings of regional companies.
“Can there be other things we can do 
together with Riyadh? Yes, of course, there are lots of things, but we need to agree a framework,” Ali said.
“We will be looking at more products in the future. This is just a starting point,” he added.

Decoder

Futures Contracts

Futures contracts allow investors to buy shares (or other assets) at an agreed price for delivery (and payment) at a later date. They are a common tool used to hedge risk, by limiting exposure to price fluctuations.