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.


Sales of grounded Boeing jets lift off at Dubai Airshow

Updated 51 min 16 sec ago

Sales of grounded Boeing jets lift off at Dubai Airshow

  • Saudi Arabian budget airline Flynas confirms deal to buy ten long-range Airbus narrow-body planes

DUBAI: Boeing’s 737 MAX took center stage at the Dubai Airshow on Tuesday as airlines announced plans to order up to 50 of the jets worth $6 billion at list prices despite a global grounding in place since March.

Kazakhstan flag carrier Air Astana said it had signed a letter of intent to order 30 Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets for its Fly Arystana subsidiary.

Air Astana, which operates Airbus and Embraer jets in its main network, said it was confident in Boeing’s ability to resolve problems with the MAX.

Global regulators banned commercial flights of Boeing’s fastest-selling jet in March after two fatal accidents.

Plans for the jet’s return to commercial service have been pushed back to early 2020 as Boeing finalizes software and training revisions that need regulatory approval.

“We are making flying affordable for the people of Kazakhstan,” Air Astana Chief Planning Officer Alma Aliguzhinova said, adding that budget carrier Fly Arystana would start taking the jets in late 2021.

The airline plans to hold 15 aircraft directly and may finance the rest through a lease transaction, she said, adding that Air Astana would not change the composition of its main fleet.

Separately, another airline signed a firm order for 10 Boeing 737 MAX 7 and 10 Boeing MAX 10 jets, a person familiar with the matter said. The airline’s name was not disclosed.

Boeing has used the past two major industry events to try to secure market momentum for the grounded MAX, which is seen as key to the planemaker’s financial health over the coming decade.

A letter of intent between Boeing and British Airways owner IAG for 200 jets, which grabbed the spotlight at the Paris Airshow in June, has yet to be finalized as the European holding company discusses the fleet change with subsidiaries that use Airbus for medium-haul operations.

In other business coinciding with the largest Middle East air show on Tuesday, Saudi budget airline Flynas agreed to buy 10 long-range Airbus A321XLR jets.

The airline’s chief executive had said on Monday that Flynas was in talks to exercise purchasing options for some or all of 40 Airbus A320neo narrow-body jets.. Airbus unveiled a provisional order in Dubai for eight of its small A220 jets from Air Senegal. Britain’s easyJet exercised options for 12 more Airbus A320neo aircraft.

Also coinciding with the show, leasing giant GECAS was expected to confirm an order for 25 Airbus planes, including 12 A330neo jets powered by engines from Rolls-Royce, a competitor to GECAS parent company General Electric.

However, there were no immediate signs that Dubai’s Emirates was ready to finalize a provisional order for 40 Boeing 787 Dreamliners.