Prices were up about $2 last week on an unexpected drawdown in US crude stocks and rumors that OPEC+ is considering another production cut. Forecasters see a supply glut continuing in 2020 due to slowing economies and growth in US shale oil production. Beyond that, prices could increase considerably as supply growth slows to a trickle. Goldman Sachs says that slowing US shale production growth combined with a shortage of investment in long-term projects will lead to a new boom.
Oil prices slipped last week with Brent down 1.8 percent to close at $59.42. WTI closed $53.82, down 1.7 percent. Concerns increased about China’s economy, which slowed to 6 percent year-over-year growth in the third quarter, the slowest growth in 27-1/2 years. Many outside observers of China’s economy have noted for years that GDP numbers are likely inflated due to the nature of China’s economic reporting systems. Crude inventories continue to grow with US crude inventories up by 9.3 million barrels in last week’s stockpiles report.
Oil prices rose 2 percent on Friday after the US and China seemed to hammer out a trade deal that postponed tariffs. However, after studying the details – or lack thereof – investors lost much of their enthusiasm. Crude prices were down about 2 percent on Monday on worries that global crude demand could stay under pressure. The few details about the first phase of a U.S.-China trade deal did little to assure a quick resolution to the tariff fight.
Oil prices have hovered in the mid to low $50s since late July. They spiked briefly into the low $60s after the Saudi oil facilities were attacked but quickly settled back on news that the Saudis would be able to repair the damage quickly. Conventional wisdom says that the Russian-Saudi production freeze is keeping prices from going lower. At the same time falling demand is holding a lid on prices despite slowing production and lower exports in several countries. Geopolitical risk has receded as the top concern of oil traders. To quote one trader, “everything is about weak demand now.”