Since hitting a recent low on Dec 22nd, oil prices have climbed by $5-6 a barrel as the markets tried to sort out where supply and demand are going. With US oil prices still below $50 a barrel, it is hard to imagine that the optimistic forecasts for US shale oil production will be reached in 2019. There are continuing indications that China’s economy is headed for a dip, but there are reports that US/China trade negotiations are making progress. The US sanctions on Iran seem to be hurting Tehran’s exports, and the OPEC+ production cut is slow getting off the ground.
It was a volatile week for oil prices with WTI falling on Monday to nearly $42 a barrel and London falling to $51. Oil surged on Wednesday, after posting on Christmas day its strongest daily gain in more than two years from the steep losses on Monday that pushed crude benchmarks to lows not seen since 2017. Both US and Brent crude rose about 8 percent, their largest one-day increase since Nov. 30, 2016, when OPEC signed a landmark agreement to cut production. The week closed out with oil at $45.33 a barrel in New York and $53.21 in London.
Oil prices fell by more than 11 percent last week to their lowest since mid-2017 with London futures closing at $53.82 and New York at $45.59. There is much debate as to whether the rapid fall in prices is due to oversupply or fears of a global economic recession slowing the demand for oil. Forecasts of rapidly growing US shale oil production next year that could offset much of the OPEC+ production cut and growing political chaos in Washington, London, Paris, and other world capitals is adding to concerns about the future.
Oil prices were volatile last week trading inside a narrow range of about $1.50 a barrel and climbing or falling in response to the news of the day. Reports of the OPEC production freeze, the Iran sanctions, or production slowdowns in Libya and Venezuela push prices up while news of economic problems and falling equity markets tend to push prices down. At week’s end, New York futures settled at $51.20, about where they have been since the $7 a barrel price in mid-November. London futures closed $9 higher at $60.28 which is about they have been since November 22nd.
Oil prices surged briefly on Friday after the announcement of a 1.2 million b/d OPEC+ production cut; however, by the close NY futures were up only $1.61 to close at $52.61, and London was up about the same to close at $61.67. The bulk of the cut is to come from the Saudis and their Gulf Arab allies. Moscow is to cut production by 228,000 b/d but does not expect its cuts to start until spring, and the Iranians were exempted from the cut. Despite the announcement, oil prices were still down slightly for the week.
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Oil prices slid more than 6 percent on Friday to the lowest levels in more than a year. New York futures closed at $50.42, down almost $26 a barrel since early October, and London closed at $58.80, down more than $27. The reasons for the plunge, which some observers are calling excessive, are well known. Inventories continue to build as US shale oil production increases; there are signs of a weaker global economy ahead; Washington has granted six-month waivers for Iranian oil importers; Moscow is not interested in cutting production; and there are doubts that the Saudis will make a significant cut in production while under pressure from President Trump to keep up production. Trump’s support for Crown Prince bin Salman in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is likely to complicate decision-making in Riyadh, to say the least.
The $20 a barrel price plunge, which began in early October, continued last week with New York futures closing at $56.46 and London at $66.76. Behind the drop is weaker demand; Washington’s issuance of waivers that would allow Iran to keep exporting at least some of its production for the next six months; increasing production of US shale oil; and the rapid buildup of US crude inventories. The EIA reported last week that the US crude stockpile climbed by 10.3 million barrels during the week before last to 442.1 million barrels, the highest level since early December 2017. The EIA also reported that US crude production climbed by 100,000 b/d to 11.7 million b/d, the highest on record.
The plunge in oil prices, which began in early October, continued last week with New York oil futures closing Friday at $63.14, down about $14 a barrel in the past month. London futures have followed a similar pattern falling from $86 to $72.83 on Friday. During September the threat of the renewed US sanctions on Iranian exports forced world prices into the high $80s with many predicting that we would soon see $100 oil again. During the past month, however, market sentiment changed as it appeared the sanctions might not be as effective as some hoped, the global oil production increase, higher prices and the brewing US-China trade war threaten demand in the coming years.
Oil prices fell by nearly 3 percent last week to settle at $77.62 in London and $67.59 in New York. This was the third weekly decline in a row that has taken prices down by about $10 a barrel since early October. As has been the case for several months, prices fall on reports of excess supply or the possibility of lower demand and increase on concerns about what the Iran sanctions due to begin next week will do to supplies.
Crude oil prices have been volatile thus far in October, hitting a four-year high to start the month before falling nearly $8 a barrel in the two weeks. At the close on Friday, New York futures were at $69.12 and London at $79.78. Market sentiments have changed this month with more traders worrying about the economic problems facing China than how effective the US sanctions on Iranian exports will be.
Oil futures fell by over $4 a barrel on Wednesday and Thursday but then stabilized on Friday to close at $71 in New York and $80 in London. Behind the selloff were a sharp drop in the equity markets, profit-taking in the wake of a $14 a barrel price increase since mid-August, and concerns that the Sino/US trade war may reduce global demand for oil. EIA, IEA, and OPEC revised their forecasts downward for the size of next year’s demand increase. The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for global growth to 3.7 percent for 2018 and 2019, down from a previous estimate of 3.9 percent, and the EIA reported that US crude stocks increased by 6 million barrels the week before last.
Oil prices continued to climb last week, with London futures hitting $86.74 a barrel on Wednesday, $10 higher than they were a month ago. Later in the week, profit taking and announcements from the Saudis and Russia that they were going to increase production drove prices lower. Whether the Saudis, Russia, and their close allies can increase production by enough to cover the decline in Iranian exports remains contentious. At week’s end, oil prices had settled to $74.34 in New York and $84.16 in London for a $10 a barrel difference.
Oil prices continue to increase primarily on concerns that the sanctions on Iran and the collapse of Venezuelan production will lead to shortages in the coming year. Last week London futures, which are more vulnerable to the Iranian situation, climbed by about $2 a barrel to close at $82.78. London futures are on track for a fifth quarterly advance, a streak not seen since the first half of 2008. Iranian exports of crude and condensates have declined by 800,000 b/d from April to September, according to the Institute of International Finance. Analysts expect a reduction of anywhere between 500,000 and 1.5 million b/d in Iranian supply due to the sanctions, with most expecting Saudi Arabia to take the lead in filling any supply gaps.
Oil prices continued to show strength last week but closed in London up by less than a dollar for the week at $78.80. Brent now has closed above $78 a barrel six times since mid-May and has touched $80 a barrel once or twice but failed to close above $80 since mid-2014. As is now routine, traders are split between the increasingly effective US sanctions on Iran and the prospects of a lengthy trade war between the US and China. Last week was complicated by the issue of whether the OPEC+ consortium would officially raise production or leave individual production levels cloudy as they have been since June.
Oil prices climbed for the first three days last week with Brent climbing above $80 a barrel on Wednesday before falling back to close at $78.09 on Friday. An unexpected drop in the US crude stocks of 5.3 million barrels and a warning from the IEA that the global oil market was tightening and that higher prices are coming were behind the spike. However, concerns that the Sino/American trade war is showing no sign of getting better took over and sent prices lower. During the week, the price spread between Brent and WTI climbed above the $10 a barrel mark and closed the week at $9. The size of the price spread should continue the export demand for WTI in the coming weeks sending US crude supplies even lower.
Oil prices fell by another $1-2 a barrel last week to settle at $67.75 in New York and $76.83 in London as the struggle between lower demand occasioned by the Sino-American trade war balanced against falling Iranian exports. Last week saw a storm in the Gulf of Mexico which did less damage than expected and a 4.3 million barrel drop in US crude inventories which brought them to the lowest since 2015. However, prices were driven lower as US gasoline stocks rose by 1.8 million barrels and distillate stockpiles by 3.1 million barrels, suggesting that the summer driving season has come to an end.
Oil prices had two down and three up days last week closing out Friday a dollar or so higher with NY futures at $69.80 and London at $77.64. The struggle between the soon-to-be-implemented Iran sanctions and the threat to demand posed by the trade war continues as the primary factor driving prices. An unexpectedly large drop in the US crude inventory of 2.6 million barrels last week and a four-unit increase in the US oil rig count last week contributed to the volatility of the market.
The oil price surge which began two weeks ago continued last week with prices rising by $4-5 a barrel to settle on Friday at $68.72 in New York and $75.82 in London. The markets are still conflicted as to whether a reduction in demand occasioned by the trade war or a drop in supply stemming from the Iranian sanctions, the Venezuelan collapse, and the slowing growth of US shale oil production will dominate the immediate future. Last week we learned that China may continue buying US crude, but will swap or sell the oil to third countries so that crude imports to China would not come directly from the US. Third party crude would not be subject to any tariffs imposed on US crude or give the appearance that Beijing is backing down in the trade confrontation with Washington. Any crude that comes from the US would reduce China’s dependence on the volatile Middle East.
Crude prices were up Thursday and Friday of last week but still closed with a seventh consecutive weekly loss for WTI — the longest losing streak since 2015. Fears that the multiple escalating trade wars will lead to a drop in global demand are trumping the warnings that the lack of sufficient investment and the beginning of problems with US shale oil output could lead to production shortfalls in the months ahead.
Oil prices slid about 3 percent last Wednesday as the trade dispute between the US and China escalated and after Chinese import data showed a slowdown in energy demand. However, prices recovered a bit on Friday as US sanctions against Iran looked as if they would tighten oil supplies ending up the week with New York futures at $67.63 and London at $72.81.
Oil prices fell last week mostly on concerns that the looming US-China trade war would stifle demand. There was a short-lived rally on Thursday after the stocks report showed a 3.8 million barrel increase in total crude stocks mostly due to lower exports, but a 1.1 million drop in the inventory at Cushing, Okla. For now, the markets seem well supplied with production by Russia, the Saudis and the Gulf Arabs increasing after the relaxation of the market cap, and there has not yet been a significant reduction in Iranian exports in response to the new US sanctions. The week ended with New York oil futures down to $68.49 and London down to $73.21.
Oil prices climbed steadily through Thursday last week, supported by easing US-EU trade tensions and a temporary shutdown by the Saudis of a critical crude oil shipping lane. On Friday prices fell in sympathy with the US equities market to end the week at $74.29 in London and $68.69 in New York. Crude prices were unfazed last week by the unexpectedly robust US GDP figure, or the threatening rhetoric exchanged between Tehran and Washington.
The $3 drop in US oil prices last Monday was a signal that the forces moving the oil market are changing. Last year, the main forces pushing the oil markets higher were the agreement by OPEC and its partners to lower production and the growth of global demand. This year, an array of factors are pressuring the oil markets: the US sanctions that threaten to cut Iranian oil exports; US-China trade tensions; OPEC’s decision to raise crude output; and dwindling oil production from Venezuela. Moreover, there are supply disruptions in Libya, the Canadian tar sands, Norway, and Nigeria that add to the uncertainties as does erratic policymaking in Washington, complete with threats to sell off part of the US strategic reserve and a weaker dollar.
Oil prices dropped suddenly last Wednesday on the news that yet another dispute in Libya had been settled so that the traditional Libyan National Oil company was back in business exporting oil from its major terminals. New York futures fell by $3.50 a barrel on the news, and the London price decreased by $6.50, with New York closing out the week at $71 and London at $75.33.