WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Arabian crude demand picture improves

A maze of crude oil pipes and valves is pictured during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, U.S. June 9, 2016. (REUTERS)
Updated 07 July 2019

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Arabian crude demand picture improves

  • Before the trade war, China was the largest oil importer of US shale oil, with almost 500,000 bpd last year that went to zero once the trade dispute started even though Beijing has not imposed tariffs on US crude imports

Despite two major news events that should have supported the oil price, the market finished the week on a bearish note.
At the G20 summit, the US and China agreed not to escalate tariffs and instead resume trade talks. Meanwhile OPEC and its allies outside the group agreed a nine-month extension of production cuts taking us through the first quarter of 2020.
OPEC+, as the enlarged group has come to be known, also sealed a long-term cooperation agreement “the Charter of Cooperation,” which aims to bring the 24 oil producing countries together to promote stability to a market that has been characterized by intense volatility in recent months.
So that all makes for a higher oil price? Well, not quite — as broader macroeconomic concerns kept a lid on prices as traders looked to the overall global demand picture.
Brent crude fell to $64.23 per barrel at the end of the week. The grade remains some 15 percent off its late-April high, despite escalating tensions in the Arabian Gulf as shipping premiums soar because of the increased risk of attacks on tankers.
Still, the OPEC+ output cuts extension has made sour crude oil grades from the Arabian Gulf firmer amid a stronger physical spot market for medium and heavy sour crude grades.
This was clearly shown in a narrower Brent/Dubai spread that points to stronger demand for Arabian Gulf sour crude grades.
The resumption of trade negotiations between the world’s two largest economies should pave the way for the recovery of commodity trade flows between the pair.
 So though we have not seen it yet, that should eventually be reflected in a stronger oil price.
Despite the expected positive recovery of commodity trade flows, oil traders seem focused on the volatile geopolitical situation.
Some suggest that shale oil producers are the biggest beneficiary in gaining market share as US shale will likely continue to define the future of OPEC+.
However, it is questionable whether US shale producers will continue to pump more oil at lower prices, given that they are not profitable at current price levels.
Before the trade war, China was the largest oil importer of US shale oil, with almost 500,000 bpd last year that went to zero once the trade dispute started even though Beijing has not imposed tariffs on US crude imports.
A resumption of more normalized trade flows between the US and China should benefit demand for US oil, especially after the removal of Iranian and Venezuelan barrels from the market.
Faisal Faeq is an energy and oil marketing adviser. He was formerly with OPEC and Saudi Aramco. Twitter:@faisalfaeq

Oil slides 4% on fears demand will drop

Updated 24 February 2020

Oil slides 4% on fears demand will drop

  • Rise in global coronavirus infections adds to investor concerns

LONDON: Oil prices slumped by 4 percent on Monday as the rapid spread of the coronavirus in countries outside China added to investor concerns over the impact on demand for crude.

Global equities also extended losses as worries about the impact of the virus grew, with the number of cases jumping in Iran, Italy and South Korea.

Brent crude was down 4 percent, at $56.16 barrel in afternoon trade in London. US crude futures fell by a similar measure.

“The weekend’s developments provided us with a stark reminder that the coronavirus is currently an unstoppable force,” said Tamas Varga, an analyst at oil brokerage PVM.

South Korea’s fourth-largest city, Daegu, was increasingly isolated as the number of infections there rose rapidly. The country reported its seventh death after raising its infectious disease alert to its highest level.

Italy reported a fifth death from the flu-like virus and 150 infections.

Meanwhile, Iran said that it had confirmed 61 cases and 12 deaths. Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey imposed travel and immigration curbs on the Islamic Republic.

“We should not underestimate the economic disruption, as a super spreader could trigger a massive drop in business activity around the globe of proportions the world has never dealt with before,” Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp, said in a note.

Oil prices received some support after local health officials in China said on Monday that four provinces had lowered their virus emergency response measures.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday said that the world’s largest energy consumer will adjust policy to help to cushion the economic impact from the virus outbreak.

Goldman Sachs said commodity prices could fall sharply before any rebound on the back of Chinese stimulus efforts.

“The promise of stimulus has made commodity markets act like equity markets, building up risks of a sharp correction,” the bank said in a note.

In the US, the oil rig count rose for a third week running. Drillers added one oil rig last week, bringing the total count to 679, the highest since the week of Dec. 20, said energy services company Baker Hughes.