RIYADH: The downward movement in oil prices last week seemed unjustified given the current strong market fundamentals, as markets found themselves torn once again between supply fears and a looming economic slowdown. The Brent crude price closed the week closer to $60 per barrel.
OPEC’s oil production dropped to a four-year low of 30.17 million barrels per day (bpd) in May, according to a Reuters survey, with exports from Iran tumbling to around 400,000 bpd.
Crude prices continued to slide despite the first drawdown on US crude stocks in several weeks. Prices mostly dip on macroeconomic growth concerns, with the US-China trade dispute continuing to overshadow sentiment on the global oil markets.
However, Chinese crude oil imports hit a record 10.2 million bpd, marking a massive increase of 1.2 million bpd year-on-year, tempering concerns over the impact of a trade war on the global economy and oil demand.
One of the main reasons that no oil shortages have materialized yet is that Asia refiners have already shut down 2-3 million bpd of refining capacity for planned maintenance, which will continue throughout June. This seasonal maintenance contributed to relatively lower demand.
Since Asian refiners buy almost 60 percent of their crude intake from the Arabian Gulf, relative prices for sour crudes have been robust. After those facilities’ initial runs on mostly light sweet crude oil from the US shale exports, they began taking more sour medium crude as upgrading units have gone into service.
- Faisal Mrza is an energy and oil market adviser. He was formerly with OPEC and Saudi Aramco. Reach him on Twitter: @faisalmrza