In reviewing BP’s latest Statistic Review of World Energy, the big story for world oil last year was obvious: the USA’s third straight record-breaking increase in average annual production. Just over 75% of the net increase in world oil production during 2014 came from the USA; add in Canada and 90% of the total increase came from North America. Throw in Brazil’s first significant increase in three years and you have all the world’s net gain in world oil production accounted for by three non-OPEC players. Production from all other producers combined was flat. So the question for 2015 is straightforward: will we see a repeat of those gains…and the flat-liners?
Peak Oil Review
The slide in oil prices continued with New York futures closing Friday at $48.14, down 6 percent for the week, and London futures closing at 54.42, down 4.3 percent during the week. This time the decline was aided by an increase of 21 rigs drilling for oil in the US suggesting that US shale oil production will increase or at least decline more slowly. The decision to reactivate these rigs was likely taken a month or more ago when prices seemed to be stabilized around $60 a barrel. In addition to the increase in rigs, the now normal factors of a stronger US dollar, a contracting Chinese economy, increasing inventories, and higher oil output from Saudi Arabia and Iraq contributed to the falling prices. The prospect that more Iranian oil will be coming on the the market before the end of the year also keeps pressure on the market.
While still volatile, oil prices continued to decline last week with New York futures closing at nearly a three-month low of $50.89 – down 3.5 percent for the week and 14 percent this month. In London oil futures followed a similar pattern with Brent also finishing at close to a three-month low of 57.10 – down 3.2 percent for the week and 10 percent this month. This was the third consecutive weekly loss for oil futures.
Last week US oil prices had their biggest weekly decline since March as concerns about over supply, the Greek debt crisis and China’s stockmarket plunge all came together to force prices down. Most of the decline came on Monday and Tuesday in the wake of the Greek Austerity referendum with New York futures trading below $51 a barrel, down $10 from where they had been in the previous week and London got close to $55 a barrel before a rebound set in. By Sunday night the Greeks reached a deal with the other Eurozone members over a bailout and Beijing “stabilized” its equity markets using draconian measures. New York futures closed out the week at $52.74 and London at $58.57.
The gradual down trend in oil prices which began in early May continues with New York futures closing the week at $55.52 and London at $60.32 – down about 13 percent from the spring highs. The Greek crisis; the Iranian nuclear negotiations; reports of near-record oil production by Russia and OPEC resulting in a circa 2 million b/d global surplus; the steep decline in the Chinese equity markets; and the announcement that the US drilling rig count increased last week after 29 consecutive declines all contributed to weak prices. At $55 a barrel, NY futures have now broken out of the $57-62 trading range that has obtained since early May.
Crude oil prices were little changed last week, with New York futures trading around $60 a barrel and in London around $63. As has been the case for several weeks, the global oversupply of crude, the Greek debt crisis, and China’s weak economy have kept downward pressure on the markets. Trader hopes that the summer driving season will soon push up the demand for gasoline and expectations of an economic rebound continue to support oil prices. The uncertainties of the Iranian nuclear negotiations cut both ways with an agreement likely leading to a large increase in available crude, while failure of the talks would lead to increased tensions or worse in the Middle East.
After the usual amount of volatility that we have seen for the last three months New York oil futures closed at $59.61 per barrel on Friday, down 35 cents for the week. London futures, which have been drifting generally downwards since the beginning of May, closed at $63.02, down $1.24 for the week and about $4 a barrel in the last ten days. If the major energy watchers are correct, the oil markets remain oversupplied by about 1 or 2 million b/d, which is setting the trend, but with numerous factors ranging from the Greek debt crisis to the US rig count influencing trader decisions, oil prices continue to be volatile with the markets reacting to the day’s news.
For the last two months Brent crude has been trading in a $7-8 range between $62 and $69 a barrel. New York futures have been trading about $6-7 below Brent. Much of the volatility has come in sudden jumps as the markets interpreted and reacted to news relating to the oil market. Many traders seem to be convinced that prices are still too low and that one day there will be a rebound into triple digits despite market fundamentals – oversupply of crude and generally weak economic conditions – that seem to say that prices have rebounded too much from the lows seen last winter.
Oil prices fell last week with New York futures closing Friday at $59.31 a barrel, down 1.9 percent for the week. London closed Friday at 63.31 down 3.4 percent for the week. The debate over whether prices will climb or fall in the short term continues, with optimists citing various bits of good news about the global economy and the falling US rig count to support their case. Pessimists cite the estimated 2 million b/d of global overproduction and expectations of increased exports from the Middle East as reasons prices will decline. Much of the decline last week was due to a stronger dollar occasioned by the ongoing Greek bailout crisis.
Oil prices fell through Thursday last week, but rebounded 5 percent on Friday after Baker Hughes reported that the US rig count had resumed falling; the EIA reported a larger drop in US crude inventories than analysts had been expecting; and the dollar which had been climbing recently turned lower. At the close Friday, New York futures were at $60.30 a barrel and London was at $65.56, about where they were at the beginning of the week. New York prices climbed 1.1 percent during April and London fell 1.8 percent suggesting that the recent price increases are peaking out.
Volatility continued last week with oil prices falling early in the week, rebounding on Wednesday and Thursday, and then falling again on Friday. At week’s end, New York futures were down 1.4 percent for the week closing at $59.72 and London was down 2.2 percent to $65.37. Traders’ hopes for higheroil prices, which sparked the recent 35-40 percent price rally, have come mainly from falling rig counts and expectations that lower prices would fuel increased demand. These ideas have been supported by small declines in US oil stocks. The deteriorating situation in the Middle East, which shows every sign of getting worse, is another factor supporting prices despite indications that there is still a global oil surplus.