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

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


Middle East chief executives share global gloom on economic prospects

Updated 21 January 2020

Middle East chief executives share global gloom on economic prospects

  • Only China and India among the major economic blocs were less pessimistic on average
  • Trade wars, geopolitical tensions and climate change threats were the factors weighing most heavily on executive minds

DAVOS: Global business chiefs are more pessimistic about prospects for the world economy than for many years, and senior executives in the Middle East are among the most gloomy, according to the annual survey of chief executive officers’ opinion released at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos.

The poll — by consulting firm PwC — showed that a record number of CEOs were pessimistic about the international economy, with an average of 53 percent predicting a decline in the rate of growth in 2020.

While bosses in North America and Europe were particularly downbeat about prospects, with 63 percent and 59 percent saying they thought things would get worse this year, CEOs in the Middle East were also more gloomy than average, with 57 percent predicting lower growth this year.

Only China and India among the major economic blocs were less pessimistic on average, but there was a sharp decline in the number of Chinese executives who wanted to do business with the US — just 11 percent identified the US as their most attractive market, compared with 59 percent two years ago.

Trade wars, geopolitical tensions and climate change threats were the factors weighing most heavily on executive minds — apart from the standard complaints about over-regulation by governments.

Unveiling the 2020 results, PwC chairman Bob Moritz said: “Given the lingering uncertainty over trade tensions, geopolitical issues and the lack of agreement on how to deal with climate change, the drop in confidence in economic growth is not surprising – even if the scale of the change in mood is.”

Last year, there was a record number of CEOs who said they were optimistic about global economic growth, and only 29 percent said they were pessimistic.

“These challenges facing the global economy are not new. However, the scale of them and the speed at which some of them are escalating is new, the key issue for leaders gathering in Davos is: How are we going to come together to tackle them,” Moritz added.

The poll of 1,600 CEOs in 83 countries was taken toward the end of last year, before tensions in the Middle East escalated in the Arabian Gulf, but before the tentative “phase one” agreements on world trade between the US and China.

The poll was also taken before the Australian wildfires further highlighted fears of climate change — a major focus of the WEF meeting.

The poll also found CEOs less confident than ever in their own companies’ prospects, with only 27 percent of CEOs saying they are “very confident” in their own organization’s growth over the next 12 months – the lowest level PwC has recorded since 2009 and down from 35 percent last year.