Crude oil prices are at lows not seen in months. There seem to be few factors capable of changing that. Yet commodity analysts seem to be more bullish when it comes to 2024.
The key to that bullishness is demand. Even after the IEA projected faster than previously expected demand growth for next year, traders took note and analysts wrote notes. Per these notes, the five top U.S. banks expect a median Brent price of $85 for 2024. And that’s without any major supply disruption.
Goldman Sachs recently cut its oil price forecast for 2024 to between $70 and $90 per barrel of Brent. Previously, the bank had expected prices between $80 and $100 per barrel. As a single number, Goldman’s analysts expected an average Brent price of $92 before the latest revision, Bloomberg reported last week, but now they may have trimmed that too.
The bank cited higher U.S. oil production as the reason for the revision, as the country’s output and oil exports hit a record this year. However, forecasts for 2024 are for much slower growth next year, according to the EIA. It sees 2024 growth at barely 180,000 bpd, compared to some 1 million bpd this year.
Citigroup, meanwhile, is forecasting an average 2024 oil price of $75, which is the lowest of the five forecasts and in line with Citi’s contrarian stance this year. This stance proved closest to what actually happened to oil prices this year. Citi had pegged the annual average for Brent at $80, and it is close to that. Related: Turkey Saved $2 Billion This Year by Importing Cheap Russian Oil
Per Citi analysts, the reason for the guarded price prediction is slower demand growth resulting from what they called “economic and energy-transition headwinds,” as quoted by Bloomberg. Citi also cited higher U.S. output as another reason for the low forecast and projected OPEC+ will stick to its deeper output cuts to put a floor under prices.
The other three big Wall Street banks have set their 2024 Brent price projections at between $83 per barrel and $90. JP Morgan has the lowest price forecast after Citi, at $83 per barrel of Brent, while Bank of America is the most bullish, expecting Brent to average $90 per barrel next year. Morgan Stanley sits in the middle with a price forecast of $85 per barrel.
Basically, the top five Wall Street lenders expect oil prices next year to stay within the range they’ve been over the past three months or so. Higher oil supply from non-OPEC producers is one reason. This supply is widely seen being led by the United States, but other producers such as Guyana, Brazil, and Norway are also raising production—even as their leaders signed up for a reduction in hydrocarbon use at COP28.
The other part of the price equation—demand—is rather bullish. OPEC expects it to expand by 2.2 million barrels daily next year, and even the International Energy Agency, a chronic bear lately thanks to its transition focus, said in its latest Oil Market Report that oil demand will grow faster than previously expected in 2024. The revision is equal to 130,000 bpd, bringing the total demand growth rate, per the IEA, to 1.1 million bpd—half of what OPEC has forecast.
The IEA attributed its revised forecast to a better economic outlook and lower oil prices, which traditionally spur greater demand for the commodity. The agency is not so impressed by non-OPEC supply growth, although it does expect non-OPEC producers to add 1.2 million bpd to global supply, covering the projected demand growth plus change.
All this makes for a very neat 2024 concerning oil prices. Asia is once again expected to shoulder the bulk of demand growth, led by China and India. Disappointment may be on its way as some expectations of Chinese demand prove to have been overly optimistic, adding weight to prices.
On the other hand, the increasingly frequent news of ship attacks in the Red Sea by the Yemeni Houthis and, most recently, by pirates that seized a Malta-flagged bulk carrier bound for Turkey could turn out to be bullish for prices, even though oil tankers have not yet been attacked.
In the meantime, there seems to be little change of major production outages. The market has successfully shrugged off the 450,000-bpd drop in oil supply from Kurdistan as the Kurdish and Iraqi governments continue to debate the terms of resuming the exports. Libya appears to be relatively stable for now. And Venezuela and Guyana have declared their willingness to diplomatically resolve a shared territorial dispute.
The global oil picture is quite bearish, indeed. In fact, those five banks’ price forecasts may need to be revised further down unless OPEC+ decides to cut even deeper, which would be a risky move. As lower prices stimulate demand, however, things may begin to change in the price department. It’s the good old oil cycle yet again.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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