OPEC, allies face tough competition in 2020

Growing US crude inventories are putting pressure on oil prices. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2019

OPEC, allies face tough competition in 2020

  • Shale oil could lose momentum as inventories increase, analysts’ poll warns on eve of major OPEC policy talks

BENGALURU: Oil prices will remain subdued in 2020 as growth concerns weigh on demand and fuel a glut of crude, a Reuters poll showed on Friday ahead of production-policy talks among OPEC and its allies next week.

The poll of 42 economists and analysts forecast Brent to average $62.50 a barrel next year, little changed from last month’s $62.38 outlook, which was the lowest prediction for 2020 in about two years.

The benchmark has averaged about $64 per barrel so far this year.

“There is simply too much oil in the market,” LBBW analyst Frank Schallenberger said.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies face stiffening competition in 2020, the International Energy Agency said this month, predicting non-OPEC supply growth to surge next year.

OPEC’s own outlook reflected a surplus of around 70,000 barrels per day (bpd) next year, building a case for the group to maintain supply curbs when it meets on Dec. 5-6 in Vienna.

Analysts pegged demand growth at 0.8-1.4 million bpd (mbpd) next year. While most respondents said OPEC and its allies were likely to maintain output cuts, they did not anticipate deeper curbs.

“Saudi Arabia is likely to want to keep supporting oil prices to improve its fiscal position. However, the Kingdom probably won’t push for deeper cuts to avoid losing more market share to the US,” Capital Economics analyst Caroline Bain said. “We expect Russia to go pay lip service to Saudi’s decision, but to continue producing above quota.”

Since January, OPEC and its allies have been cutting output by 1.2 mbpd, and had agreed to do so until March 2020.

The first half of 2020 could see global inventory builds as weaker economic growth chips away demand, said Harry Tchilinguirian, global oil strategist at BNP Paribas.

US crude inventories are now about 3 percent above the five-year average for this time of year, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Brent prices have been pressured by concerns about slowing global growth, exacerbated by the US-China trade conflict. Prices are down about 12 percent from a roughly four-month peak hit in September.

The 2020 outlook for West Texas Intermediate, however, rose to $57.30 per barrel from October’s $56.98 consensus.

While US production will remain high, overall shale output could lose some momentum, analysts said.

“US shale growth will slow in 2020 and with expectations that OPEC+ will continue with their production cuts, prices should be fairly supported in the first half of the year,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.


Google Cloud prepares for Black Friday ‘peak on top of peak’

Updated 04 August 2020

Google Cloud prepares for Black Friday ‘peak on top of peak’

  • Cloud technology, used to host websites and store data, is a key part of many retailers’ e-commerce operations

OAKLAND, California: Alphabet’s Google Cloud unit is poised for a surge in fourth-quarter sales from US retailers, as they brace for record online shopping during the holidays because of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Cloud technology, used to host websites and store data, is a key part of many retailers’ e-commerce operations. As fees are often pegged to site traffic, a jump in activity will drive up revenue for the unit.
Carrie Tharp, vice president of retail and consumer at Google Cloud, said that her team had this year tossed out its linear growth model to predict how many servers it will need to process web orders for retailers around Black Friday.
“We’re planning for peak on top of peak,” she said on Monday. That could be a boon for Google Cloud, which has generated about 30 percent of its revenue during the fourth quarter the last two years.
Stores such as Kohls Corp. and Wayfair Inc. lean on Google months in advance to ensure it has enough servers to withstand increased shopping during holiday discount days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November and December.
This year, Black Friday-style demand has flooded shops since March, when the United States began lockdowns, Tharp said.
Holiday shopping is expected to boost demand further, as retailers including Target Corp. and Walmart Inc. have said they will reduce in-store hours because of coronavirus concerns.
Tharp said the pandemic has already benefitted Google Cloud, with some retailers adopting its predictive algorithms years ahead of plan to help them work out the most efficient way of fulfilling orders.
Electronics retailer Best Buy Co., for instance, announced on Tuesday a multi-year deal to centralize customer and product data with Google Cloud to improve its loyalty program and online ad campaigns.
The companies declined to elaborate on the deal, but Tharp said she hopes it leads to Google eventually powering Best Buy’s web ordering system.