A bearish week in oil — but the bulls will run for the rest of quarter one

Last week saw several developments in the oil market that should have raised prices — yet it ended with bearish sentiment. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 11 February 2019
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A bearish week in oil — but the bulls will run for the rest of quarter one

  • The signals for the rest of the first quarter of 2019 are on the upside
  • The US sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports are also affecting the market

RIYADH: Last week saw several developments in the oil market that should have raised prices — yet it ended with bearish sentiment, with Brent easing to $62.10 per barrel, and WTI falling to $52.72.
The signals for the rest of the first quarter of 2019 are, however, on the upside. The market is extremely tight — especially in medium and heavy crude grades. If that continues, the global market will face a huge supply shortage, exceeding the conditions that drove oil prices above $86 last year.
There are several factors behind this. According to a S&P Global Platts survey, OPEC production in January was at its lowest level since March 2015. Crude output plunged to 30.86 million barrels per day (bpd), a fall of 970,000 bpd from December, as new supply quotas went into force on Jan. 1.
On top of that, a potential return of supply from Libya has not yet materialized in the market — with ongoing unrest at the El Sharara oilfield, further restricting supply.
Strong imports from China are also deepening market tightness, with total crude imports at 10.4 million bpd, up around 2.3 million bpd from last year.
This a bullish development. China crude oil imports are still rising despite the trade dispute with the US. This means that the oil-price deterioration due to a global economic slowdown, as predicted by some, is completely wrong.
The US sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports are also affecting the market. Venezuelan oil production had already experienced problems prior to the sanctions, given the deterioration of infrastructure and internal labor problems. S&P Global Platts expects oil output to further fall to below 800,000 bpd by the end of February.
Counter to all this is that US producers continue to put more oil on the market, with output at a record 11.9 million bpd lately, with exports reaching 2.8 million bpd, the fourth-highest number on record.
Yet given the other factors at play, it is intuitive that the tightness in the market will transform into shortage before the end of the first quarter of 2019 — and that will boost prices.


Gulf countries strengthen oil coordination amid tensions: Kuwait

Updated 20 May 2019
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Gulf countries strengthen oil coordination amid tensions: Kuwait

  • ‘It is normal amid this escalation that Kuwait and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries take these steps’
  • Kuwait was in ‘constant contact’ with its ally, the US

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister said countries in the Gulf have strengthened coordination to provide oil to global markets amid increased regional tensions.
“It is normal amid this escalation that Kuwait and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries take these steps,” Khalid Al-Jarallah told reporters late Sunday on the sidelines of a Ramadan sit-down organized by the Iraqi embassy.
“There is cooperation and coordination between Kuwait and the Gulf countries to provide guarantees for oil tankers and continuous supply of energy to global markets.”
Jarallah’s comments come days after sabotage attacks against tankers in highly sensitive Gulf waters and the bombing of a Saudi pipeline — the latter claimed by Iran-aligned Yemeni rebels.
Both attacks targeted routes built as alternatives to the Strait of Hormuz, the conduit for almost all Gulf exports.
The US Fifth Fleet headquartered in Bahrain said the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council began “enhanced security patrols” Saturday in international waters, in “tight coordination with the US navy.”
Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strait in case of war with the United States, which earlier this month announced it was sending an aircraft carrier and strike group to the region.
Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister said “tension was escalating quickly” but he remained hopeful.
He added Kuwait was in “constant contact” with its ally, the US.
On Saturday, OPEC giant Saudi Arabia called for urgent meetings of the GCC and the Arab League to discuss recent “aggressions and their consequences” in the region.
The two summits are scheduled to be held in Makkah on May 30.
Jarallah welcomed the kingdom’s invitation, saying Kuwait was keen to take part in discussions on issues “potentially dangerous” to the region.