What Inventory Level Should OPEC Target?

Robert Boslego - INO.com Contributor - Energies - OPEC

On November 30, 2016, OPEC’s press release announcing the supply target of 32.5 million barrels per day included the following reference to inventories:

“The numbers underscore that the market rebalancing is underway, but the Conference stressed that OECD and non-OECD inventories still stand well above the five-year average. The Conference said it was vital that stock levels were drawn down to normal levels.”

Since the middle of 2017, OPEC has compared the OECD inventories to the five-year average, which had been 2010 to 2015. At some point in 2017, OPEC adjusted the five-year average to include 2011 to 2016. In doing so, it included two-and-a-half years of glutted (not normal) inventory levels. The effect was to make current levels appear to be closer to “normal” levels.

Given that OECD inventories are approaching the elevated five-year average, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih has recently questioned that yardstick.

"Do we need to adjust for rising demand and look at forward day cover? How do we deal with non-OECD inventory? (It's) less transparent and reliable,” Falih said. “We have to think of the global market, the center of demand has shifted from OECD to non-OECD.”

Analytical Findings

Using historical supply-demand data and prices, I found a correlation between stocks and prices over time, but it is far from precise. That makes sense because price behavior is much more complex than using one measurement to define it. Market sentiment and positioning tend to cause prices to overshoot and undershoot equilibrium prices. To paraphrase the Noble Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller, prices are more volatile than the fundamentals imply.

Using monthly data from January 2008 through December 2017 (a full 10-year period), I found a -79% correlation. The Cartesian coordinate graph is depicted below:


I developed a simple linear regression to fit prices, given the inventory level, and graphed the actual prices with fitted prices:


This illustrates how far prices can travel from an equilibrium price, especially in 2008-09. On the other hand, the fitted prices do match up with actual prices over time. And the December 2017 fitted price ($61) is quite close to the actual price ($58).

This historical analysis begs the question, where are prices likely to go in 2018 and 2019? It also serves as a guide for understanding what stock level OPEC+ needs to achieve by withholding supplies.


To answer the first question, I used EIA’s STEO forecast of OECD stocks for 2018 and 2019. The forecast shows stocks bottoming in February, which would correspond to a topping of prices at $63.76, using this methodology. It implies that the $66.66 reached in January is likely to be the peak for 2018 and 2019, with prices dropping back into the lower $40s next year.


I also included EIA’s own price forecast on the graph for comparison. It shows similar expectations for the first half of 2018, but that prices will hold above $55 for the forecast period.

Regarding OPEC’s target, the regression shows that if inventories remain right about where they were at end-December (2.870 billion), the WTI price would remain at $60/b. If it wants $70/b, it needs to get OECD stocks to drop to about 2.800 billion. By the way, the latest 5-year monthly moving average is at 2.830 billion.

This model is very simplistic and does not include the impact of trader positioning and sentiment, which I believe are highly influential to the price. For example, the large drop in prices during the first week of February illustrated that factor. I use my Vertical Risk Management model to assess sentiment for positioning.

The other qualification is that the marginal cost of production and the timing of supply response have changed greatly due to the shale oil revolution. The large inventory of DUCs and much faster response of short-cycle oil has changed the market. For those reasons, lower inventories are required to support the same price. On the other hand, there is much more demand at the same price than compared to five to ten years ago. On balance, those two factors may be doing a good job canceling each other out since my regression using forward cover, instead of stocks, produced a lower correlation.

Check back to see my next post!

Robert Boslego
INO.com Contributor - Energies

Disclosure: This contributor does not own any stocks mentioned in this article. This article is the opinion of the contributor themselves. The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. This contributor is not receiving compensation (other than from INO.com) for their opinion.

S&P 500 Consolidates, Is Another Drop Ahead

Aibek Burabayev - INO.com Contributor - Metals - S&P 500 Consolidates

In this post, I will share with you two maps as the S&P 500 consolidates to address two questions that are probably on your mind these days. The first is related to the long-term trend, shall we consider that significant ten percent drop that started at the end of January as a threshold for the long-term Bear Face? And the second question is related to the current situation, will this robust recovery continue further?

Let’s be diligent and answer those questions one by one.

Chart 1. S&P 500 Monthly: Consolidation Not A Reversal Yet

S&P 500 Consolidates
Chart courtesy of tradingview.com

First of all, I would like to draw your attention to the black long-term trendline support, which starts post Great Recession period. The S&P 500 is far above this trigger, and I guess that even the current consolidation could hardly reach it. So, for the long term Bear Face to start sellers should push the index below that trendline, which currently sits at the $2100 mark. As this is not the case now, there is no reason for panic then. Continue reading "S&P 500 Consolidates, Is Another Drop Ahead"

No Bitcoin ETF Yet, But There Are Blockchain ETFs

Matt Thalman - INO.com Contributor - Blockchain ETFs

While the Securities and Exchange Commission has yet to approve an actual Bitcoin ETF, it is allowing investors to buy shares of ETF’s which are focused on the technology which makes cryptocurrencies tick, the blockchain.

After the explosion of Bitcoin back in the fall when the price of one coin jumped from around $4,000 to over $19,000, a number of different companies began clamoring to get involved in cryptocurrencies directly or just in the blockchain technology, and that is where these Exchange Traded Funds are focused. The thinking is that while you may not want to invest directly in a cryptocurrency, you may still want exposure to it through the businesses that help it operate.

For example, you could buy Square Inc. (SQ), the payment processing company that a few weeks ago announced it would now allow customers to pay with Bitcoin. Or perhaps it is through a less direct method of buying shares of NVIDIA (NVDA), the semiconductor company, which produces the microprocessors that are needed to make cryptocurrencies a reality. Or lastly, perhaps it just a previous beverage company, Long Island Iced Tea Corp. that now wants to get into blockchain and changes its name out of the blue to Long Blockchain Corp. (LBCC).

The first blockchain ETF to hit the market was Continue reading "No Bitcoin ETF Yet, But There Are Blockchain ETFs"

Inflation - Getting Back To Normal

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates -

So now, suddenly, out of nowhere, inflation has reared its ugly head, and the financial markets are starting to believe it.

On Wednesday the Labor Department reported that the consumer price index rose a higher than expected 0.5% in January, 2.1% compared to the year-earlier period. The all-important core rate, which excludes food and energy prices, rose 0.3% for the month, 1.8% versus a year ago. While not exactly hitting the Federal Reserve’s revered 2.0% annual inflation target, it was apparently close enough to create more jitters in the bond market, with the yield on the U.S. Treasury’s benchmark 10-year note immediately climbing seven basis points to 2.91%, its highest level in more than four years.

The very next day, Labor reported that the core producer price index rose 0.4% for the month and 2.2% year-on-year, which pushed up the yield on the 10-year another basis point, to 2.92%.

I’m not exactly sure why this recent surge in inflation should come as such a big surprise to anyone, but it surely has, witness the tremendous amount of volatility in the financial markets in just the past two weeks. The tipping point seems to have been the release of the January jobs report, the highlight of which wasn’t the change in nonfarm payrolls and the unemployment rate, which they usually are, but the 0.3% (2.9% annualized) growth in wages, which was the strongest year-over-year gain since June 2009.

That seemed to finally catch everyone’s attention that yes, contrary to what the Fed has been telling us for the past four years, inflation really does exist. Now we have more verification. And it’s probably only going to exacerbate.

And who do we have to thank for this new-found inflation? Continue reading "Inflation - Getting Back To Normal"

2018: Supply/Demand Trends Can Make Or Break Oil Prices

Robert Boslego - INO.com Contributor - Energies- Crude Oil Price

The crude oil price started the year off strong, as January posted the highest OPEC Reference Basket price ($66.85) since November 2014, the month in which the Saudis decided to wage an oil price war with American shale oil. But the market gave up its 2018 gain during the first week of January, as the Energy Information Administration (EIA) incorporated the huge November production surge into its short-term outlook and weekly time series data. To top it all off, Baker-Hughes reported the most significant one-week gain in its oil-directed drilling rig count.

Whether the market shifts back to bullish sentiment, or whether the bearish sentiment takes control this year, depends mainly on several key assumptions. The central hypothesis is how fast shale oil production will grow this year, and the second is what OPEC production will be, given the on-going risk to Venezuelan output. Based on U.S. production from August through November, the recent lagged response in drilling rigs, and the high prices experienced October through January; I expect that U.S. production will rise faster than either the DOE or OPEC assume in their forecasts.

EIA’s February Outlook

The EIA released its outlook, revising its U.S. crude production estimates much higher. For the year, it now expects crude production to average 10.59 million barrels per day (mmbd) in 2018, and to exit the year at 11.13 mmbd.

The EIA’s estimate of production for February is 10.260 mmbd. That figure is 1.07 mmbd higher than August. If anything, EIA’s 2018 prediction seems low. Continue reading "2018: Supply/Demand Trends Can Make Or Break Oil Prices"