Saudi Crown Prince Claims Lost Iranian Barrels Will Be Offset

Back in 1973, Saudi Arabia took a very aggressive move against the U.S. by starting the Arab oil embargo:

Saudi Crown Prince

But the Trump Administration has taken a strong position against Iran, Saudi Arabia’s nemesis. KSA also depends on the U.S. for its protection as well as its economic development. The current relationship between Washington and Riyadh could not be better:

"I love working with him (Trump)." - Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, October 5, 2018

Saudi Crown Prince
Photo Courtesy Of AFP)

Prior to announcing the U.S. pull-out of the Iranian nuclear deal in May, the White House had secured assurances from producers, namely Saudi Arabia, that any disruptions in Iran’s exports would be offset by higher production by countries with spare capacity, according to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. The Saudi energy minister confirmed it. Continue reading "Saudi Crown Prince Claims Lost Iranian Barrels Will Be Offset"

Oil Price Spike Will Most Likely Be Averted

Uncertainties for the balance of 2018 imply that stocks could fall sharply or be adequate. As a result, prices may spike or drop into the $50s, depending on what unfolds.

President Trump has sway over Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf producers. He can also fine-tune the implementation of sanctions on Iran and waivers to them. I’m expecting he will do whatever he has to, to avert a price spike going into the November mid-term elections.

July Production Changes

OPEC estimated in its August Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) that its crude production in July averaged 32.323 million barrels per day (mmbd). That was about 40,000 b/d higher than in June. The “compliance” level with the 2016 deal dropped to 97%, the first time less than 100% in nearly a year.

Saudi Arabia’s production was reduced by about 52,000 b/d, but that was more than offset by gains of 79,000 b/d in Kuwait and 69,000 b/d in the UAE.

Iran’s production fell by 56,000 b/d while Venezuela’s output dropped 48,000 b/d. Libya’s output also dropped by 57,000 b/d. Continue reading "Oil Price Spike Will Most Likely Be Averted"

Hedging Energy Sector Oil Price Risk

Volatility in oil prices makes investing in the energy sector a risky proposition. The collapse in oil prices following the OPEC meeting in November 2014, at which Saudi Arabia announced its intent to flood the market to put American shale oil producers out-of-business, resulted in a rout in energy equities prices.

The Energy Select SPDR ETF (XLE) fell by 37 percent from November 26, 2014, to January 20, 2016. For many investors, the drop had become too large to sustain, and they closed their positions, locking-in a substantial loss.

XLE has recovered its loss, and as of July 27th, the price was nearly identical to its value on November 26th, 2014. But the recovery in oil prices, due to heightened geopolitical risks, also makes them vulnerable to another downward correction.

Citicorp, for example, issued a forecast proclaiming that “the bull argument is based on a faulty analysis,” and that oil prices “will fall back into a band between US$45 and US$65 in just over a year.”This raises the question of whether investing in the energy sector represents an attractive risk-reward opportunity. Continue reading "Hedging Energy Sector Oil Price Risk"

Crude Oil Could Crash Again

Aibek Burabayev - INO.com Contributor - Metals - Oil Could Crash Again


It is interesting how often exaggerated expectations prove to be wrong in the market. Crude oil is the dominant fossil fuel energy source, and therefore it draws a lot of attention as well as speculation.

Looking back, I remember a conversation with my boss earlier in the year who had talked to a large oil producing company and they said that it is highly improbable for crude oil to get over $55 per barrel amid the supply glut. WTI crude almost hit the $73 level this month to break similar pessimistic forecasts that had persisted in the market last year. OPEC’s deal together with Middle East tensions has driven the oil price to a 3-year high benefiting oil producing countries.

But these days I have started to hear different highly optimistic forecasts calling for $80-100 per barrel. When these voices began to grow into a full choir, I began to expect the thunder as this “sweet unison” is the leading contrarian indicator. Continue reading "Crude Oil Could Crash Again"

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:

OPEC

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

OPEC

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.

Conclusions

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.

OPEC

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!

Best,
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.