Low Oil

Oil traded near the lowest closing level in seven months as U.S. gasoline supplies unexpectedly rose for a second week.

Futures were little changed in New York after slumping 3.7 percent Wednesday, the first drop in four sessions. Motor-fuel stockpiles expanded by 2.1 million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration reported. Most analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast a decline. Crude output climbed while nationwide inventories fell less than predicted.

Oil has declined almost 8 percent this month amid speculation that rising U.S. supplies will offset output curbs by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russia. New production from OPEC rivals will be more than enough to meet demand growth next year, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday in its first forecast for 2018.

“Any build in U.S. commercial stocks gives us an indication of the uphill battle OPEC is facing,” said Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd. in London. “Although last week the big bearish surprise came in the form of significant builds across the board, this time around gasoline was responsible for the consequences.”

West Texas Intermediate for July delivery was at $44.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 3 cents, at 10:01 a.m. London time. Total volume traded was about 46 percent above the 100-day average. Prices dropped $1.73 to $44.73 on Wednesday, the lowest close since Nov. 14.

Brent for August settlement was up 10 cents at $47.10 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Prices slid $1.72, or 3.5 percent, to $47 on Wednesday. The global benchmark crude traded at a premium of $2.14 to August WTI.

U.S. crude stockpiles dropped by 1.66 million barrels last week, the EIA reported Wednesday. Inventories were forecast to decline by 2.45 million, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. Production rose by 12,000 barrels a day to 9.33 million barrels a day.

Oil-market news:

  • The Qatar crisis is reverberating in Libya, inflaming political divisions in the war-torn oil exporter and dragging commodity-trading giant Glencore Plc into a dispute over crude sales.
  • Iraq is driving up crude-oil exports to the U.S., the world’s second-biggest import market, just as there are signs Saudi Arabia is honoring a pledge to restrict such deliveries, according to tanker-tracking data.

Cheerio

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd.

Private Russian Oil

The chief executive of Russia’s second largest crude oil producer said on Thursday that he fully supported calls from the Kremlin’s former finance minister to privatize the country’s oil companies.

“You know that I was ideologically behind the privatization of the Russian oil industry, so I have always supported this trend,” Vagit Alekperov, chief executive of Lukoil, said via a translator on Thursday.

While speaking at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, Alekperov pointed out that Russia’s privatization of oil companies had started over 20 years ago and stressed he expected the process would “continue further”.

Russia’s state news agency, TASS, previously reported the country’s former Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin, had urged President Vladimir Putin to consider transforming state-owned oil companies into private firms in order to boost ailing economic growth.

Oil sector should be ‘fully privatized’ by 2025

Kudrin, widely credited for helping Moscow reach record results during the first half of the Putin era, had been tasked by the long-time Russian premier to draft an economic program from 2018 to 2024. Incidentally, this happens to be the same timeframe for Russia’s next presidential term.

“The oil sector should be fully privatized in the next seven to eight years, no state companies are required there now as the statehood brings more harm than benefit to those companies,” Kudrin, was reported by TASS as saying Thursday.

Despite the calls for Russia to privatize its oil sector and the subsequent backing from the CEO of a Moscow-based oil giant, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, had said the government currently has no plans to do so.

“This is Kudrin’s well-known expert point of view, he defends it reasonably enough. There are other opinions as well. However, as far as I know, the government has no such plans yet,” TASS reported Peskov as saying on Thursday.

Russia emerged from a two-year recession at the end of 2016 yet economic growth remains relatively anemic and continues to languish significantly below the 3 percent target set by its government. Its economy grew 0.5 percent in the first quarter year-on-year, Reuters reported in May, citing data from the Federal Statistics Service.

Cheerio.

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd.

Oil

OPEC and its allies extended oil production cuts for nine more months after last year’s landmark agreement failed to eliminate the global oversupply or achieve a sustained price recovery.

The producer group together with Russia and other non-members agreed to prolong their accord through March, but no new non-OPEC countries will be joining the pact and there was no option set out to continue curbs further into 2018. The market was unimpressed as prices tumbled more than 5 percent to under $49 a barrel in New York and more than a billion barrels were traded.

Six months after forming an unprecedented coalition of 24 nations and delivering output reductions that exceeded all expectations, resurgent production from U.S. shale fields has meant oil inventories remain well above the level targeted by OPEC. While stockpiles are shrinking, ministers acknowledged the surplus built up during three years of overproduction won’t clear until at least the end of 2017. The group is prepared for a long game.

“We’ve said we’ll do whatever is necessary,” Saudi Oil Minister Khalid Al-Falih said Thursday after the meeting in Vienna. “That certainly includes extending the nine months further. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Al-Falih said the cuts are working, adding that stockpile reductions will accelerate in the third quarter and inventory levels will come down to the five-year average in the first quarter of next year. While he expects a “healthy return” for U.S. shale, that won’t derail OPEC’s goals and a nine-month extension will “do the trick,” he said.

Exemptions Remain

Nigeria and Libya will remain exempt from making cuts and Iran, which was allowed to increase production under the original accord, retains the same output target, Kuwait’s Oil Minister Issam Almarzooq said after the meeting. That deal gave the Islamic Republic room to increase output to a maximum of 3.797 million barrels a day.

The Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee — composed of six OPEC and non-OPEC nations — will continue watching the market and can recommend further action if needed, said Almarzooq.

The market is already giving the committee plenty to think about. Futures dropped as low as $48.45 a barrel in New York on Thursday, before settling at $48.90.

“The market seems to be a bit disappointed as there is no ‘something extra,’” said Jan Edelmann, a commodity analyst at HSH Nordbank AG. “It seems as though OPEC fears letting the stock-draw run too hot.”

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed in November to cut output by about 1.2 million barrels a day. Eleven non-members joined the deal in December, bringing the total supply reduction to about 1.8 million. The curbs were intended to last six months from January, but confidence in the deal, which boosted prices as much as 20 percent, waned as inventories remained stubbornly high and U.S. output surged.

OPEC Digs In for Long Battle to See Off U.S. Oil Shale Producers

The extension prolongs a rare period of collaboration between OPEC and some of its largest rivals, including Russia. The last time both sides worked together was 15 years ago, and the agreement fell apart soon after it began. The current accord encompasses countries that pump roughly 60 percent of the world’s oil, but excludes major producers such as the U.S., China, Canada, Norway and Brazil.

Without a steer on what will happen beyond March, there’s concern that OPEC could return to the free-for-all production that caused prices to slump from 2014 to 2016, though Al-Falih has insisted the organization will maintain control.

“The fact that we have not elaborated on a specific strategy for the second quarter, the second half of 2018, should not be interpreted as that we don’t have a strategy,” he said. “We will develop it based on the conditions that present themselves at that time.”

Al-Falih earlier announced that OPEC is welcoming a new member, Equatorial Guinea, to its ranks. The African nation will be one of the group’s smallest producers, pumping about 270,000 barrels a day, a little more than neighboring Gabon. It was already participating in the cuts as a non-OPEC producer.

Cheerio

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd.

UK Oil

BP started a project in the U.K. North Sea that will restore production halted since 2013 and help double the company’s output in the area by the end of the decade.

BP and its partners budgeted 4.4 billion pounds ($5.7 billion) for the Quad 204 project, which involved building a new floating production and supply vessel and redeveloping the aging Schiehallion and Loyal fields. Output from Quad 204 will ramp up to 130,000 barrels of oil a day this year, the London-based company said in an emailed statement Monday.

The producer plans to double its U.K. North Sea output to 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day by 2020, the company said. Volumes from the region, one of the world’s most expensive areas for finding and extracting oil, have shrunk in the past decade as older fields deteriorated and exploration spending dropped with crude’s three-year decline. BP partner Royal Dutch Shell Plc said earlier this year that it was selling a majority of its North Sea positions.

Among those divestments, Shell agreed to reduce its interest in the Schiehallion field, where it owns a 55 percent stake, while BP has 33 percent and Siccar Point Energy 12 percent. Once the deal is completed, Shell will hold 45 percent.

The Schiehallion and Loyal fields stopped production in 2013 as the sites needed redevelopment, new wells, replacement of infrastructure on the sea bed and a new production vessel. The new ship, the Glen Loyal, is 36 percent owned by BP, which is the operator, 54 percent by Shell and 10 percent by Siccar Point. The partners intend to drill 20 new wells there.

BP’s shares rose as much as 0.8 percent and Shell’s B shares added as much as 0.7 percent in London trading, in line with the gain in the Stoxx Europe 600 Oil & Gas index.

Quad 204 is the third of seven new projects BP plans to start this year. The company will restore its total oil and natural-gas production to about 4 million barrels a day by the end of this decade, a level it was at before the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 forced it to sell a third of its assets, Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley said May 17.

Cheerio.

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd.

All Quite On the Oil Front

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy and Industry echoed Alan Greenspan in warning against “irrational exuberance” that his country, or OPEC, would support oil prices simply so rivals could get a free ride. In the weeks since, Khalid Al-Falih has swapped out Greenspan for another central banker: the European Central Bank’s Mario “whatever it takes”Draghi.

Just over a week ago, Al-Falih used that very phrase to emphasize OPEC’s commitment to draining the glut of oil inventories weighing on prices. And just this weekend, he apparently put substance behind the rhetoric: He said Saudi Arabia and Russia — which together produce more than a fifth of the world’s oil — favor prolonging through the first quarter of 2018 supply cuts they and other countries announced last November. As it stands, OPEC is due to meet on May 25 to decide whether to extend the cuts to the end of the year. Oil prices duly jumped.

“Jumped” maybe the wrong metaphor in this case, though; “stepped back from the brink” could be more apt:

The net long position of managed money in WTI and Brent crude oil futures shows the arc of belief in OPEC’s power from November to now. Like any good central banker, or aspiring one, Al-Falih’s verbal intervention was designed to revive flagging confidence in the power of his office.

Without it, prices might well have turned south again. The same weekend, it was reported that oil production in Libya, exempt from production cuts due to its civil strife, hit its highest level since October 2014, before the crash really hit its stride. This came after a report on Friday that Indian oil demand — a critical element of the bull case for prices — had risen in April after three months of declines, but was still lagging far behind the gains witnessed in 2016.

Saudi Arabia’s ultimate aim, along with that of fellow producers, is to shift the futures curve for oil to a point where it no longer makes sense for traders to put oil into storage and sell it for a higher price down the line. Undermining this carry trade means reducing the discount at which physical oil trades relative to longer-dated futures. You can see that this has moved somewhat in OPEC’s favor over the past week, helped by a drop in U.S. oil inventories reported last Wednesday and, of course, this weekend’s well-chosen words:

With 10 days to go until OPEC’s meeting, a combination of well-chosen words and the short positions built up by hedge funds suggest prices could go higher.

Yet it would be a mistake to conclude the tide has shifted in favor of Saudi Arabia, Russia and the rest.

That curve has flattened out before, almost flipping in February, only to dip again when it becomes clear there is no quick fix to what ails oil exporting nations. Higher prices, regardless of their foundation, encourage the rebound in U.S. shale development, which counteracts the supply cuts.

Above all, once the speculative heat around the May meeting dissipates, the reality of the situation should re-emerge, with Al-Falih’s own odyssey providing the essential narrative. In January, he speculated the initial cuts probably  beyond June. By March, he was sounding that warning about irrational exuberance. Come early May, he let it slip the cuts might extend into a vaguely defined “beyond.” And now, not long after, the cuts look set to push into 2018.

For those encouraged by the minister’s adoption of the Draghi doctrine, it is worth remembering the ECB chief took that stance as a desperate measure — and that, five years on, he is still playing backstop and choosing his words very carefully.

Cheerio

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd.

 

 

Oil Traders Flag

OPEC and its allies are seeking to pump less for longer in a quest for higher prices. The world’s biggest independent oil trader says their efforts could be in vain.

Demand isn’t expanding as much as expected, and U.S. shale output is growing faster than forecast, according to Vitol Group. That’s increasing the burden on the world’s biggest producers, who need to stick to their pledges to cut supply just to keep prices from falling, said Kho Hui Meng, the head of the company’s Asian arm.

Oil has given up all its gains since the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers signed a deal late last year to limit supply for six months from January. Prices have been hit by surging output in the U.S., which is not part of the agreement. Any recovery in crude will depend on sustained usage by nations such as China, India and the U.S. as much as OPEC’s efforts to control supply.

“What we need is real demand growth, faster demand growth,” Kho, the president of Vitol Asia Pte., said in an interview in Kuala Lumpur. “Growth is there, but not fast enough.”

While consumption was forecast to expand this year by about 1.3 million barrels a day, growth has been limited to about 800,000 barrels a day so far in 2017, he said, adding that U.S. output had grown 400,000-500,000 barrels a day more than expected. “If demand goes back to where it should, where it’s forecast, then it’ll help, but my gut feel tells me it is still a bit long,” he said.

The International Energy Agency has trimmed its forecasts for global oil demand growth this year by about 100,000 barrels a day to 1.3 million a day as a result of weaker consumption in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries and an abrupt slowdown in economic activity in India and Russia, according to a report last month. The Paris-based IEA cut its estimate for India’s 2017 oil-demand growth by 11 percent.

There’s also concern that consumption may slow in China, the world’s second-biggest oil user. Independent refiners, which account for about a third of the nation’s capacity, have received lower crude import quotas compared with a year earlier, promptings speculation their purchases could slow.

“The oil market is looking for growth but there’s no growth,” Vitol’s Kho said, adding that the refiners may only get approval for the same volume of imports as last year. And while U.S. gasoline consumption is expected to hit its seasonal summer peak soon, demand growth “is not there yet,” he said.

The world’s biggest crude exporter is nevertheless bullish. Saudi Arabia expects 2017 global consumption to grow at a rate close to that of 2016, Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said on Monday. “We look for China’s oil demand growth to match last year’s, on the back of a robust transport sector, while India’s anticipated annual economic growth of more than seven percent will continue to drive healthy growth,” he said in Kuala Lumpur.

While some fear a slowdown in Chinese oil demand, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. doesn’t see any cause for concern. Growth in the nation’s car fleet will support gasoline demand, with increasing truck sales and air travel also helping fuel consumption, it said in a report dated May 9.

Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s largest crude producers, signaled this week they could extend production cuts into 2018, doubling down on an effort to eliminate a surplus. It was the first time they said they would consider prolonging their output reductions for longer than the six-month extension that’s widely expected to be agreed at an OPEC meeting on May 25.

Global oil inventories probably increased in the first quarter despite OPEC’s near-perfect implementation of production cuts aimed at clearing the surplus, the IEA said last month.

Shale Boom

“We’ve always talked about the call on OPEC, how much OPEC oil is needed to satisfy world demand,” said Nawaf Al-Sabah, chief executive officer of Kufpec, a unit of state-run Kuwait Petroleum Corp. “Now, in this new paradigm, it’s really becoming the call on shale. And the market is setting itself at the marginal cost of a shale barrel.”

U.S. output has jumped for 11 weeks through the end of April to 9.29 million barrels a day, the most since August 2015, Energy Information Administration data show. American benchmark West Texas Intermediate is trading near $46 a barrel in New York, while global marker Brent crude is near $49 a barrel in London. Both are more than 50 percent below their peaks in 2014.

“I am still watching the U.S. summer gasoline demand,” said Vitol’s Kho. “OPEC has said it will try and extend its output cuts beyond June. So if that happens, and the discipline is good, and if the U.S. lack of growth in demand changes into summer, then we may see oil go back to the low $50s, but the prevailing mood today is not.”

Cheerio.

The Pinstripe and Bowler club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd.

Oil Bears

U.S. oil prices fell nearly 4 percent Wednesday, reaching a session low of $50.28 per barrel and marking their biggest daily percentage decline since early March, as inventories posted a less-than-expected decline for the week.

US Crude Futures closed the day down 3.76 percent, trading at $50.44 per barrel and hovering only slightly above the key $50 level, while Brent Crude futures dropped nearly $2.30 to trade around $52.70 a barrel.

Earlier on Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said U.S. crude stocks fell 1 million barrels on the week, a bit less than anticipated. A surprise build in gasoline inventories despite heavier refining activity, along with an increase in U.S. crude production, largely pushed prices lower.

“[Wednesday’s] crude drawdown was not as large as expected,” John Kilduff, founding partner at Again Capital, said in an interview Wednesday. “There was also a large jump in refinery capacity utilization ahead of the peak summer driving season. That’s weighing on the perception of the [EIA] report.”

“In other words, production of these refined products is expected to rise, increasing inventories.”

Kilduff also noted that U.S. daily production increased to 9.25 million barrels per day. “That’s another bearish sign for oil prices.”

The selling intensified into the close on some maneuvering by traders.

U.S. crude for May expires Thursday, and traders are dumping their oil contracts ahead of that, one analyst also noted.

“Some of the people who picked up contracts below $50 decided to run out ahead of expiration,” said Gene McGillian of Tradition Energy.

Meanwhile, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has had a difficult time reducing a global crude glut, as supply remains high in parts of the world, particularly the U.S.

“There’s a lot of talk the (OPEC) agreement is going to be extended, but we have a full month to go before the (OPEC) talks are held,” McGillian added. “The market has a hard time sustaining itself within striking distance of the year’s highs.”

U.S. inventories now sit at 532.3 million barrels, only down about 3 million units from the record reached in March.

Energy stocks dragged the stock market down further Wednesday with the SPDR Energy ETF falling to its lowest level since November.

Cheerio.

The Pinstripe and Bowler Club shares information with MF Solutions Ltd