• 21 hours Iraq Begins To Rebuild Largest Refinery
  • 1 day Canadian Producers Struggle To Find Transport Oil Cargo
  • 1 day Venezuela’s PDVSA Makes $539M Interest Payments On Bonds
  • 1 day China's CNPC Considers Taking Over South Pars Gas Field
  • 1 day BP To Invest $200 Million In Solar
  • 1 day Tesla Opens New Showroom In NYC
  • 1 day Petrobras CEO Hints At New Partner In Oil-Rich Campos Basin
  • 1 day Venezuela Sells Oil Refinery Stake To Cuba
  • 2 days Tesla Is “Headed For A Brick Wall”
  • 2 days Norwegian Pension Fund Set to Divest From Oil Sands and Coal Ventures
  • 2 days IEA: “2018 Might Not Be Quite So Happy For OPEC Producers”
  • 2 days Goldman Bullish On Oil Markets
  • 2 days OPEC Member Nigeria To Issue Africa’s First Sovereign Green Bond
  • 2 days Nigeria To Spend $1B Of Oil Money Fighting Boko Haram
  • 2 days Syria Aims To Begin Offshore Gas Exploration In 2019
  • 2 days Australian Watchdog Blocks BP Fuel Station Acquisition
  • 3 days Colombia Boosts Oil & Gas Investment
  • 3 days Environmentalists Rev Up Anti-Keystone XL Angst Amongst Landowners
  • 3 days Venezuelan Default Swap Bonds At 19.25 Cents On The Dollar
  • 3 days Aramco On The Hunt For IPO Global Coordinators
  • 3 days ADNOC Distribution Jumps 16% At Market Debut In UAE
  • 3 days India Feels the Pinch As Oil Prices Rise
  • 3 days Aramco Announces $40 Billion Investment Program
  • 3 days Top Insurer Axa To Exit Oil Sands
  • 4 days API Reports Huge Crude Draw
  • 4 days Venezuela “Can’t Even Write A Check For $21.5M Dollars.”
  • 4 days EIA Lowers 2018 Oil Demand Growth Estimates By 40,000 Bpd
  • 4 days Trump Set To Open Atlantic Coast To Oil, Gas Drilling
  • 4 days Norway’s Oil And Gas Investment To Drop For Fourth Consecutive Year
  • 4 days Saudis Plan To Hike Gasoline Prices By 80% In January
  • 4 days Exxon To Start Reporting On Climate Change Effect
  • 5 days US Geological Survey To Reevaluate Bakken Oil Reserves
  • 5 days Brazil Cuts Local Content Requirements to Attract Oil Investors
  • 5 days Forties Pipeline Could Remain Shuttered For Weeks
  • 5 days Desjardins Ends Energy Loan Moratorium
  • 5 days ADNOC Distribution IPO Valuation Could Be Lesson For Aramco
  • 5 days Russia May Turn To Cryptocurrencies For Oil Trade
  • 5 days Iraq-Iran Oil Swap Deal To Run For 1 Year
  • 8 days Venezuelan Crude Exports To U.S. Fall To 15-year Lows
  • 8 days Mexico Blames Brazil For Failing Auction

Breaking News:

Iraq Begins To Rebuild Largest Refinery

Alt Text

Is This The Top Of The Oil Market?

A surge in gasoline inventories…

Alt Text

Chinese M&A Wave Could Be Bad News For Investors

Chinese shareholders might not benefit…

Alt Text

This Tiny Moon Has More Oil & Gas Than Earth

Only 1 billion miles away…

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham is a freelance writer on oil and gas, renewable energy, climate change, energy policy and geopolitics. He is based in Pittsburgh, PA.

More Info

Is OPEC Playing The Oil Markets Again?

OPEC

Oil prices moved back up closer to $50 per barrel on the sudden surge in optimism surrounding an OPEC deal. With the meeting just days away, everybody is playing ball and sticking to the script, and the odds of an agreement have improved markedly compared to a few weeks ago.

Iraq offered three proposals to OPEC members, showing a renewed willingness to negotiate after weeks of disputing production data and demanding an exemption from the proposed cuts. Details of the proposal were kept quiet, but Iraqi officials sounded cooperative in an emailed statement. “Iraq’s legitimate demands should not be perceived as an obstacle to reaching a new agreement to freeze production,” Iraqi oil minister Jabbar al-Luaibi said, according to Bloomberg. Iraq is optimistic about “reaching a fair agreement that would take into consideration everyone’s interests and that puts an end to the glut.” Officials from Iran, Nigeria and even Russia also offered positive words about the prospects of an accord.

Oil prices shot up by more than 4 percent on Monday on the news. Oil has rallied once again in recent days after dropping into the low-$40s per barrel. Now back up close to the $50 per barrel threshold, OPEC has once again succeeded in jaw-boning the oil market.

Goldman Sachs hiked its oil price forecast this week by a substantial amount. The investment bank expects oil prices to average $55 per barrel in the first half of 2017, up sharply from the previous estimate of $45 to $50. The bank is now “tactically bullish” on oil. “With greater confidence that the global oil market can finally shift into deficit later next year, we now believe that there is a strong rationale for low-cost producers to deliver a swift production cut to normalize inventories,” Goldman analysts wrote in a research note this week. In fact, Goldman Sachs sees prices rising across a range of commodities next year. Related: Oil Prices Move Higher As OPEC Optimism Increases

The optimism has not trickled over into the oil futures market, at least not yet. Hedge funds and other money managers have stepped up their short bets on crude oil ahead of the OPEC meeting, covering against a steep downfall in prices should OPEC fail to come to terms. While the short positions on oil were notable, trading volume in general is way up. Bloomberg notes that as of mid-November, oil price volatility was at a seven month high. Bets on oil futures reached 1.47 million contracts for the week ending on November 15, the largest trading volume in nearly a decade.

But since mid-November, oil prices have increased, suggesting that some oil traders are closing out short positions, which could be because sentiment around the chances of an OPEC deal have improved. Further gains are possible as shorts are closed out.

At the same time, John Kemp of Reuters notes that the oil futures curve still does not look very good. The market is still in a state of contango, in which front month contracts are cheaper than oil futures further out. That is a sign that the markets still expect the glut of supply to continue. In fact, the difference between front month oil contracts and delivery six month out are actually wider than they were back in September when OPEC reached the Algiers agreement, which suggests an even gloomier outlook than two months ago. In short, an OPEC agreement might spark a short-term rally, but unless they agree to real and sustained cuts, the poor fundamentals could ensure the price increases are temporary. Related: Can OPEC Get It Right At Long Last?

That last point is also key. OPEC may agree to something, but the details matter. OPEC is now producing at least 236,000 barrels per day (as of October) more than they were in September. That means that instead of needing to cut between 200,000 and 700,000 barrels per day in order to reach the stated goal of bringing output down into the range of 32.5-33.0 mb/d, OPEC will now need to make even sharper cuts – somewhere on the order of 600,000 to 1.1 mb/d. On top of that, the latest reports suggest that OPEC is discussing a six month agreement rather than one that would last a year. The idea is that it would require less of a sacrifice for OPEC members, particularly for Iraq and Iran who are still holding out. Of course, if OPEC cuts for six months and then the agreement expires, the effort will produce very little in the way of balancing the market.

Finally, assuming OPEC does the unthinkable and actually agrees to substantive and sustained cuts in output, they will likely succeed in pushing up oil prices. But that then merely throws a lifeline to U.S. shale, which could come back to life if oil prices move closer to, say, $60 per barrel. Even today, with prices below $50 per barrel, the rig count has been climbing for half a year, and now stands at 588 rigs as of last week, up almost 200 rigs from May. Gains in the rig count will only pick up pace of OPEC agrees to cut its output.

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:




Back to homepage


Leave a comment
  • Matt on November 23 2016 said:
    Dear Nick, please explain why a contango (higher prices on future contracts) is bearish for future prices - I learned it exactly the other way ...
  • Rupert on November 29 2016 said:
    What he's saying is that as the futures price is higher than the expected delivery price then the speculators are net short and so expect the price to go down which is bearish.

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News