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"

Oil Market Scenarios And Risks: 4Q18

Major uncertainties loom toward the end of the year when sanctions are currently scheduled to go into effect by the U.S. regarding Iran. The range of potential outcomes is large, as it is possible that a deal may be reached with Iran which avoids sanctions (Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a speech Sunday did not rule out peace between the U.S. and Iran), or Iran increases its exports to China and India, offsetting decreases to European countries. But the base case should assume some loss, on the order of 600,000 b/d.

President Trump has a few policy options to manage the size of the loss:

  • Pressuring the Saudis and other Gulf producers to maximize their output
  • Granting waivers so that more exports can flow
  • Ordering drawdowns of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, potentially coordinated with the International Energy Agency

But Iran’s production is not the only risk. Venezuela’s production is in a meltdown and production may drop to just one million barrels per day by the end of the year. Whether it could stabilize at that level is an open question and is sure to provide a risk premium to oil futures prices.

I created three scenarios to develop a range of likely global inventory levels and future oil prices. The base case “demand for OPEC crude” is from OPEC’s own July Monthly Oil Market Report. In all three scenarios, I assume production in Venezuela drops to one million barrels per day (mmbd) by 1Q19 and stabilizes there. I also assume that Saudi production rises to 11 mmbd and remains at that level and production increases in the UAE and Kuwait. Continue reading "Oil Market Scenarios And Risks: 4Q18"

Oil and Gas ETFs Are Having a Good 2018

Thus far in 2018, the oil and gas industry has been booming. Rig counts in the US are up, prices at the pump are up, and the oil and gas ETFs tracking the sector are up by a lot.

Investors who have been following the industry over the past year could have made some serious money as a few of the leveraged ETFs are up 238% or more. The Velocity Shares 3X Long Crude Oil ETN (UWT) is up 247% over the last 12 months and is up more than 70% year-to-date. The UBS ETRACS ProShares Daily 3X Long Crude ETN (WTIU) has risen 240% over the last year and 64% year-to-date. Finally, the Proshares UltraPro 3X Crude Oil ETF (OILU) is up 238% over the last 12 months and 63% year-to-date.

But, perhaps your less risky and don’t like investing in the leveraged ETFs? Well, you still could have done well as the United States Brent Oil Fund LP (BNO) is up 71% over the last year and 19.9% since the start of 2018. Or perhaps you went with the ProShares K-1 Free Crude Oil Strategy ETF (OILK) which is up 62% in the past 12 months and 23% year-to-date. Or either the iPath Series B S&P GSCI Crude Oil ETN (OILB) or the United States Oil Fund LP (USO) which are both up more than 61% over the last year and 23% year-to-date.

There have been some reasons why the industry has been on a tear over the last, and many of that reason don’t show signs of changing in the short term. OPEC is committed to increasing the price of oil (despite its recent modest increase in production), smaller US outfits still need slightly higher prices before they can add additional rigs and become profitable, the economy appears to be healthy and growing, US consumers have not yet begun to fell the “pain at the pump” again really. Continue reading "Oil and Gas ETFs Are Having a Good 2018"

Oil Price Implications Of OPEC's New Oil Deal

OPEC concluded its meeting on June 22nd with a vaguely-worded communique about its oil deal:

“Accordingly, the Conference hereby decided that countries will strive to adhere to the overall conformity level of OPEC-12, down to 100%, as of 1 July 2018 for the remaining duration of the above-mentioned resolution and for the JMMC to monitor and report back to the President of the Conference.”

At the press conference afterward, OPEC president HE Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of Energy and Industry, struggled to explain exactly what it meant. When asked how many barrels would be added, he remarked that “you can do the math” between current output and the 100 percent conformity level, although he later said it was about one million barrels per day.

However, at the press conference of the 4th OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting on June 23rd, oil ministers Khalid al-Falih of Saudi Arabia and Alexander Novak of Russia, responded to questions, explaining the new deal and how it would be implemented.

But Iran’s oil minister later said that OPEC’s oil output agreement did not specify a production increase, which probably explains why the agreement was left vague. It also explains Mr. Al-Falih’s unusual remark at the press conference: Continue reading "Oil Price Implications Of OPEC's New Oil Deal"