Oil prices rose by nearly $5 a barrel on concerns that a US and allied attack on Syrian military installations would lead to a wider war. Futures prices closed Friday at $67.39 in New York and $72.58 in London setting multi-year highs. After the markets closed, strikes on Syrian chemical facilities were launched. Initial reports suggest that considerable care was taken to avoid harming Syrian civilians or Russian and Iranian interests. A relatively benign response from Moscow suggests that this attack alone will not lead to more serious hostilities in the immediate future that could drive oil prices higher.
Oil futures have fallen about $3 a barrel from two weeks ago when London prices were close to $70. New York futures closed out last week circa $62 and London $67. Prices held steady until Thursday when President Trump announced another round of the tariff war with China sending prices down $1.50 a barrel on Friday. So far neither side has actually imposed any new tariffs, leaving observers to wonder whether Washington and Beijing are simply posturing before negotiations, or a major trade war is in the offing. Other than the possibility of a trade war, the trashing of the Iran nuclear treaty, increasing tensions in the Middle East, and the Korean situation, most of the news lately has suggested higher prices are in the offing.
After an up-and-then-down week, oil and gas markets closed slightly higher Thursday ahead of the Easter holiday weekend. All major U.S. and European stock exchanges and markets were closed Friday for Good Friday, which coincides with the Passover holiday that starts Friday at sundown.
The most significant news driving the oil markets last week came from Washington, where major policy and personnel shifts drove the markets down and up last week. Crude posted its biggest weekly gain since July on Friday as President Trump changed his national security team, fueling speculation sanctions on Iran will be re-imposed. Earlier in the week, the President’s imposition of new tariffs on imports had observers talking about a tariff war that could cut the demand for oil as economies slipped. Indications from the Saudis and Russians that the OPEC production freeze could be extended into 2019 helped lift prices earlier in the week.
Oil prices closed on Friday at $66.21 in London and $66.34 in New York. Prices are about in the middle of the trading range where they have been since mid-February. The markets, torn between increasing US shale oil production and what is thought to be increasing global demand, seem likely to stay within this narrow range until there is convincing evidence one way or the other. While prices have climbed by more than 40 percent since the middle of 2017, day-to-day volatility has fallen to its lowest level since 2014.
It was a volatile week with oil prices climbing slowly on Monday and Tuesday, falling by over $2 a barrel on Wednesday and Thursday, and then rebounding to close down about 50 cents for the week on Friday. As has become normal of late, the up days were largely driven by expectations of increasing demand and the down days by fears of a shale oil glut. New York oil has been bouncing around in the low to mid-$60s since mid-January while London futures have been trading some $3-4 higher.
Oil prices fell sharply last week ending up at $61.25 in New York and $64.37 in London. A higher than expected increase in crude stocks and gasoline was the impetus for the decline. An unexpected decline in Chinese economic activity, likely due to the winter holiday, did not help the outlook for oil nor did President’s Trump’s announcement of new tariffs and the remark that “trade wars are good, and easy to win” did not help the outlook for oil prices. US oil production and the oil-rig count continue to climb slowly. Talk in Washington of crippling new sanctions on Venezuela which would likely remove still more of its oil from the export stream did not help the situation.
After a $7 a barrel fall between late January and mid-February, oil prices have rebounded by about $4.50 a barrel and are now in the $63-67 range. Both major oil price benchmarks, WTI and Brent, saw the second straight week of gains. There seem to be several factors behind the rebound. These range from strong demand particularly in Asia to reports that the oil glut that has obtained for the last few years is shrinking. US crude stocks fell by 1.6 million barrels last week and by 2.7 million at the Cushing hub which is receiving much of the US shale oil production. Last week’s EIA data showed US crude exports above 2 million b/d, very close to the record of 2.1 million set in October. Of note was the first export of US crude on board a 2 million barrel capacity supertanker that was loaded at the Louisianan Offshore Oil Port that has been reconfigured to handle exports as well as imports.
It was a volatile week with stock markets crashing and oil prices falling by nearly $7 a barrel from recent highs. Behind the price collapse was a stronger dollar, the break in the equity markets, ever increasing US shale oil production, and an unexpectedly large jump in the rig count the week before last. At Friday’s close New York oil futures were slightly below $60 a barrel and London’s Brent was not far behind at $62.79. With the Brent/WTI price spread below $3 a barrel, there will be less incentive to buy US crude when shipping costs are considered.
Oil prices fell for most of last week, but then rebounded to close at $56.55 in NY ($62.73 in London) on Friday. This was only a dollar or so a barrel below the recent high set the week before last. As usual, there were numerous factors impacting oil prices. OPEC reported a small drop in October production due to lower output from Iraq, Nigeria, and Iran. OPEC also said it expects global demand for oil to grow by 1.5 million b/d this year and again in 2018. The IEA is not so sure that demand will be so strong, noting that crude prices have risen by roughly 20 percent since early September and now the “market balance in 2018 does not look as tight as some would like and there is not, in fact, a ‘new normal’.”
Oil prices leveled off last week with New York futures closing at $56.74, up more than $20 a barrel since June. Brent closed about $7 higher at $63.52. As has become normal these days, multiple factors impacted the oil prices last week pulling the markets in both directions. While the arrest of over 200 important princes, ministers and industrial leaders in Saudi Arabia on charges of corruption early in the week roiled the markets for a few days, by the end of the week the markets were largely ignoring what could morph into a major Middle East crisis or even hostilities.
The price surge, which began in mid-September, continued last week with NY futures closing Friday at $55.64 and London at $62.07. The $6.50 spread is leading to ever higher US exports which are now above 2 million b/d. Crude prices are at their highest level in over two years. Behind the price surge has been the steady stream of hints from the Saudis and the Russians that they are ready to back an extension of the production freeze through 2018 at the November 30th meeting. Some are asking whether the major oil exporters will be willing to continue a production freeze if prices move much higher. There now is a solid perception among traders that the global crude stocks are declining and that demand is rising. This in addition to the OPEC hype is contributing to the price surge.
London futures closed above $60 a barrel last week for the first time since 2015. New York futures are now about $6 a barrel lower than London, increasing the incentive for foreign refiners to buy and export more US oil. The main impetus for the price surge on Friday was comments by Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman that he backs an extension of the OPEC production freeze until the end of next year. Coupled with the Prince’s statement were upbeat OPEC pronouncements about the increasing demand for its oil and the dubious proposition that compliance with the production cut was now at 120 percent of the agreed numbers. Beyond the hype, however, are real concerns that the Iraqi, Iranian, and Venezuelan situations could deteriorate and lead to lower exports.
Oil prices were little changed last week with New York futures trading around $52 a barrel and London around $57. Numerous factors continue to affect oil prices: Baghdad’s seizure of the Kirkuk oil fields and the consequent reduction in exports; a stronger US dollar brought on by the prospect of a tax cut; a falling US oil-rig count; a large drop in US crude inventories due to the recent hurricanes and unprecedented exports; the brightening prospects for a nine-month extension of the OPEC production freeze; and finally a warning that the China’s economy may not be doing as well as many believe. When all these forces pulling in various directions were netted out, there was little change.
Prices climbed last week with Brent up almost 3 percent to $57.17 a barrel and WTI up over 4 percent to close the week at $51.45. The major developments affecting prices was an unexpected jump in Chinese oil exports of 1 million b/d in September to 9 million and the announcement that the President would not certify Iranian compliance to the nuclear accord. Statements by OPEC and Russian officials concerning a possible extension of the production freeze and the growing concerns that there will be hostilities in the aftermath of the Kurdish independence vote also supported prices.
US crude futures fell to $49.23 on Friday for a weekly loss of nearly 5 percent – the first weekly drop in more than a month. Hurricane Nate struck the US Gulf Coast Saturday night forcing the temporary closure of some 70 percent of US offshore oil production. In comparison with other recent hurricanes, Nate was relatively weak, so the damage to oil production and refining should be minimal and production back to normal in a day or two.
After climbing steadily for over a month, oil prices slid downwards about a dollar a barrel last week ending up circa $51.50 in New York and $56 in London. The summer price surge took oil to the highest seen in two years with New York futures climbing from $42 a barrel in late May to peak above $52 last week. Several factors sustained the summer price surge. OPEC and the IEA released reports forecasting that global consumption would be higher. The Kurd’s independence referendum which led to Turkey threatening to block Kurdish oil exports was another factor, as were the effects of the hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil prices continued to climb last week with US futures closing at $50.66 and London at $56.90. The $6 spread between NY and London is mostly due to the aftermath of the US hurricanes which have resulted in the growth of US crude inventories while elsewhere they have declined. Market sentiment has changed in the last few weeks with many now convinced that oil prices will be moving higher due to the OPEC production cuts and strong demand for oil products brought on by the relatively low prices. The IEA just upgraded its demand growth estimate for 2017 to 1.6 million b/d. If growth like this continues, it will eat through the global surplus rather quickly.
Oil prices rose steadily last week with US crude futures briefly topping the psychological barrier of $50 a barrel and with London futures closing at $55.62. Most analysts are talking about higher prices ahead. The IEA’s monthly report says that the global oil supply contracted in the past month and that demand remains strong. These judgments came despite the US hurricanes that shut down over 25 percent of US refining capacity and took a good, but as yet unknown, bite out US demand in the Southeastern US and along the Gulf Coast.
Oil prices rose some $3 a barrel for the first three days last week and then collapsed on Thursday and Friday as Beijing announced its plans to reduce the capacity of its small “teapot” refineries, and Hurricane Irma closed in on Florida reducing demand for oil products in the state. Recovery from the Texas hurricane, Harvey, continues with 8 of 20 refineries that were closed by the hurricane now back to normal operations. The ports of Corpus Christi and Houston are returning to normal, and several other refineries report they will be back in operation in the next week or two. Gasoline prices in the US are starting to retreat from storm-induced spikes as refineries and pipelines return to normal. The unusually large crude and product reserves in stockpiles have helped cushion price increases.
As the severe flooding spread further east last week, closing down numerous refineries and causing widespread devastation, it is becoming apparent that it will be several weeks before the full impact on the US oil industry and indeed global oil markets can be assessed. At one point last week the hurricane shut down a quarter of US refining capacity, some 4.0-4.4 million b/d, but oil production outages mostly from Gulf production came to less than 1 million b/d. With a lot of oil going into storage and refinery demand well below normal, US oil prices have moved very little in the past week, while Brent has remained stronger in anticipation that Europe will be called on to replace the missing US barrels in the next few weeks.
It likely will take several weeks to assess the impact that Hurricane Harvey will have on the US oil industry. As of Monday morning, the storm is still dumping large amounts of rain on Houston and its refineries. Weather forecasts are predicting that the storm will continue to cause heavy flooding along the Gulf Coast and will move further east, possibly closing or damaging additional oil production facilities in Louisiana.
Oil continues to trade in one of the narrowest ranges seen in the last decade as the efficacy of the OPEC production cap weighs against increasing US and other production increases and slowing Chinese demand. Last week saw oil prices falling for three days and then rebounding sharply on Friday to close at $48.50 in New York as a combination of a large drop in US crude stocks, a weaker US dollar, and a falling rig count supported prices.
It has been two weeks of mixed signals as to the course of oil prices. Last week prices fell around 1.5 percent, closing at $48.82 in New York on concerns that the OPEC/NOPEC collation was not following through on its pledge to cap production. Even though US stocks continue to fall, much of this is due to increasing exports of light oils and finished oil products and not to increased domestic demand. On Friday, the IEA said that although the oil markets were slowly balancing, it is not going quickly. OPEC and other friends of higher oil prices continue to release optimistic reports, but the consensus seems to be that oil prices will stay around their current levels for the rest of the year unless there is a major geopolitical upheaval.
Oil prices were strong last week with New York futures closing about $4 a barrel higher for the week at $49.71 and London at $52.52. Behind the move was another unexpectedly large decline in US stockpiles of 7.2 million barrels. This decline was brought about by a high level of US refinery consumption of almost 17.3 million b/d of crude the week before last. This was 620,000 b/d higher than in the comparable week in 2016. A reduction in Saudi shipments to the US was also seen as responsible for the unusually large decline in inventories.