It doesn’t feel that long ago that global oil traders were concerned about rising demand and supply scarcity. The story went something like this- the world was losing barrels as supplies from Iran, Libya and Venezuela grew scarce and Saudi Arabia and Russia didn’t have the spare capacity to keep pace with global demand growth. Traders bought $100 call options and economists began sounding the alarm bell that high gasoline prices were about to eat into consumers health
Two months later the global oil trade is hardly recognizable. Nearly all the globe’s major oil producing nations (excluding Iran and Venezuela) are pumping at record levels highlighted by almost comical output growth from the U.S. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Libya have ramped up production to replace lost OPEC barrels and demand concerns baked into 2019 forecasts have spread major concerns that we’re now producing too much oil. Large losses in global equities have helped fuel the oil weakness and hedge funds - highly bullish oil just eight short weeks ago - can’t sell contracts quickly enough.
This week we saw the bullish to bearish story come full circle with news that Saudi Arabia and Russia are quietly in talks to reverse their current pact to produce as much oil as possible and begin taking barrels off the market to normalize supplies and avoid another 2015/2016-style price collapse.
At first, this news seems surprising. Aren’t the Saudis supposed to be pumping…