Energy Recap: The oil market wavers

Oil prices went in different directions at the end of the week. (File photo/AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019
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Energy Recap: The oil market wavers

RIYADH: Oil prices went in different directions at the end of the week. Brent deteriorated to $67.03 per barrel and WTI rose to $59.04 per barrel, but both remain at four-month highs. 
Still, poor economic signals that added to the generally bearish mood did not manage to drive oil prices down because of the tightening global supplies that led the surprise drawdown in US inventories.
The 10 million barrels fall in US crude stocks was the largest drop since July 2018, due to a combination of strong exports and higher refining utilization. 
The reduced number of US oil rigs for a fourth week running sent drilling activity to its lowest in nearly a year.
The current level of oil prices does not reflect the market’s relatively strong fundamentals and supply tightness.
The Arabian Gulf sour crude grades have seen extensive buying activity with refiners securing spot cargoes in addition to their term cargoes.
Such high demand for the sour medium and heavy crude grades had Dubai crude in high demand.
Asian refiners are becoming increasingly concerned about the tightening supplies for the medium and heavy crude grade.
That is because many of them lack the flexibility to swiftly switch their refining systems to handle alternative light sweet crude grades that have low sulfur content. 
The market remains preoccupied with Iranian sanction waivers, which may be extended for another round of six months.
Given the tight oil market that has been further exacerbated by the sanctions on Venezuela, the second half of this year might experience further tightening.
The US is widely expected to continue extending the waivers for the key importing countries which are China, India, Korea and Japan. 
The a potential second round of waivers may not impact the market as much as last time in November 2018 when the price dropped by as much as $30 per barrel.
Helped by OPEC output cuts, the market has been stabilizing gradually even if not entirely recovering those early losses.
The current market appears too tight to be moved significantly by further waivers and should be able to absorb additional barrels — be they from Iran, Venezuela, Libya or the US.
Even with the last round of waivers, Iranian oil exports did not exceed 1.25 million barrels per day in February.

  • Faisal Mrza is an energy and oil market adviser. He was formerly with OPEC and Saudi Aramco. Reach him on Twitter: @faisalmrza


Lufthansa profit warning spooks European airline sector

Updated 17 June 2019
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Lufthansa profit warning spooks European airline sector

  • Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary last month warned of the impact of what he called ‘attritional fare wars’

FRANKFURT: Germany’s Lufthansa sent shockwaves through the European airline sector on Monday as it cut its full-year profit forecast, with lower prices and higher fuel costs compounding the effect of losses at its budget subsidiary Eurowings.
The warning follows gloomy comments last month from Irish budget airline Ryanair, which vies with Lufthansa for top spot in Europe in terms of passengers carried. Air France-KLM also reported a widening quarterly loss last month.
In a statement issued late on Sunday, Lufthansa forecast annual EBIT of between €2 billion and €2.4 billion, down from the previously targeted €2.4 billion to €3 billion.
“Yields in the European short-haul market, in particular in the group’s home markets, Germany and Austria, are affected by sustained overcapacities caused by carriers willing to accept significant losses to expand their market share,” it said.
European airlines are locked in a battle for supremacy, with a surfeit of seats holding down revenues and higher fuel costs adding to the pressure. A number of smaller airlines have collapsed over the past two years.
Lufthansa cited falling revenue from its Eurowings budget business as a key reason for the profit warning.
“The group expects the European market to remain challenging at least for the remainder of 2019,” it said.
It also pointed to high jet fuel costs, which it said could exceed last year’s figure by €550 million, despite a recent fall in crude oil prices.
Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary last month warned of the impact of what he called “attritional fare wars” and said four or five European airlines were likely to emerge as the winners in the sector.
“No signs that anyone is prepared to reduce capacity, therefore we would anticipate the wave of consolidation in European short haul is not over,” said analyst Neil Wilson, analyst at London-based broker market.com.
Earlier this month global airlines slashed a widely watched industry profit forecast by 21 percent as an expanding trade war and higher oil prices compound worries about an overdue industry slowdown.
Lufthansa’s problems are centered on its European business, with a more positive outlook for its long-haul operations, especially on transatlantic and Asian routes.
Eurowings management is due to implement turnaround measures to be presented shortly, Lufthansa said, adding that efforts to reduce costs had so far been slower than expected.
Lufthansa’s adjusted margin for earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) was forecast between 5.5 percent and 6.5 percent, down from 6.5 percent to 8 percent previously, it said in a statement.
Lufthansa also said it would make a €340 million provision for in its first-half accounts, relating to a tax matter in Germany originating in the years between 2001 and 2005.