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

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.


$8bn blow to Erdogan as investors flee Turkey

Updated 3 min 16 sec ago

$8bn blow to Erdogan as investors flee Turkey

  • Overseas holdings in Istanbul stock exchange are at lowest in 16 years

ANKARA: Foreign capital is flooding out of Turkey in a massive vote of no confidence in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s economic competence.
Overseas investors have withdrawn nearly $8 billion from Turkish stocks since January, according to Central Bank statistics, reducing foreign investment in the Istanbul stock exchange from $32.3 billion to $24.4 billion.
As recently as 2013, the figure was $82 billion, and foreign investors now own less than 50 percent of stocks for the first time in 16 years.
“Foreign investment has left Turkey for several reasons, both internal and external,” Win Thin, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, told Arab News.
“Externally, investors fled riskier assets like emerging markets during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Some of those flows are returning, but investors are being much more discerning and Turkey does not seem so attractive.”
In terms of internal factors, Thin said that Turkish policymakers had made it hard for foreign investors to transact in Turkey. “This includes real money clients, not just speculative.
“By implementing ad hoc measures to try and limit speculative activity, Turkey has made it hard for real money as well. Besides these problems, Turkey’s fundamentals remain poor compared to much of the emerging markets.”
Erdogan allies claim international players are manipulating the Istanbul stock exchange through automated trading, and have demanded action to make it difficult for them to trade in Turkish assets.
Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch, Barclays and Credit Suisse were banned this month from short-selling stocks for up to three months, and this year local lenders were briefly banned by the banking regulator from trading in Turkish lira with Citigroup, BNP Paribas and UBS
JPMorgan was investigated by Turkish authorities last year after the bank published a report that advised its clients to short sell the Turkish lira.
MSCI, the provider of research-based indexes and analytics, warned last month that it may relegate Turkey from emerging market status to frontier-market status because of bans on short selling and stock lending.
With the market becoming less transparent, overseas fund managers, especially with short-term portfolios, are unenthusiastic about the Turkish market and are becoming more concerned about any forthcoming introduction of other liquidity restrictions.
The exodus of foreign capital is likely to undermine Turkey’s drive for economic growth, especially during the coronavirus pandemic when employment and investment levels have gone down, with the Turkish lira facing serious volatility.