• 4 hours Midwestern Refiners Seek Canadian Oil To Expand Output
  • 9 hours UK On Track To Approve Construction of “Mini” Nuclear Reactors
  • 13 hours LNG Glut To Continue Into 2020s, IEA Says
  • 15 hours Oil Nears $52 With Record OPEC Deal Compliance
  • 18 hours Saudi Aramco CEO Affirms IPO On Track For H2 2018
  • 20 hours Canadia Ltd. Returns To Sudan For First Time Since Oil Price Crash
  • 21 hours Syrian Rebel Group Takes Over Oil Field From IS
  • 3 days PDVSA Booted From Caribbean Terminal Over Unpaid Bills
  • 3 days Russia Warns Ukraine Against Recovering Oil Off The Coast Of Crimea
  • 4 days Syrian Rebels Relinquish Control Of Major Gas Field
  • 4 days Schlumberger Warns Of Moderating Investment In North America
  • 4 days Oil Prices Set For Weekly Loss As Profit Taking Trumps Mideast Tensions
  • 4 days Energy Regulators Look To Guard Grid From Cyberattacks
  • 4 days Mexico Says OPEC Has Not Approached It For Deal Extension
  • 4 days New Video Game Targets Oil Infrastructure
  • 4 days Shell Restarts Bonny Light Exports
  • 4 days Russia’s Rosneft To Take Majority In Kurdish Oil Pipeline
  • 4 days Iraq Struggles To Replace Damaged Kirkuk Equipment As Output Falls
  • 4 days British Utility Companies Brace For Major Reforms
  • 5 days Montenegro A ‘Sweet Spot’ Of Untapped Oil, Gas In The Adriatic
  • 5 days Rosneft CEO: Rising U.S. Shale A Downside Risk To Oil Prices
  • 5 days Brazil Could Invite More Bids For Unsold Pre-Salt Oil Blocks
  • 5 days OPEC/Non-OPEC Seek Consensus On Deal Before Nov Summit
  • 5 days London Stock Exchange Boss Defends Push To Win Aramco IPO
  • 5 days Rosneft Signs $400M Deal With Kurdistan
  • 5 days Kinder Morgan Warns About Trans Mountain Delays
  • 5 days India, China, U.S., Complain Of Venezuelan Crude Oil Quality Issues
  • 5 days Kurdish Kirkuk-Ceyhan Crude Oil Flows Plunge To 225,000 Bpd
  • 6 days Russia, Saudis Team Up To Boost Fracking Tech
  • 6 days Conflicting News Spurs Doubt On Aramco IPO
  • 6 days Exxon Starts Production At New Refinery In Texas
  • 6 days Iraq Asks BP To Redevelop Kirkuk Oil Fields
  • 7 days Oil Prices Rise After U.S. API Reports Strong Crude Inventory Draw
  • 7 days Oil Gains Spur Growth In Canada’s Oil Cities
  • 7 days China To Take 5% Of Rosneft’s Output In New Deal
  • 7 days UAE Oil Giant Seeks Partnership For Possible IPO
  • 7 days Planting Trees Could Cut Emissions As Much As Quitting Oil
  • 7 days VW Fails To Secure Critical Commodity For EVs
  • 7 days Enbridge Pipeline Expansion Finally Approved
  • 7 days Iraqi Forces Seize Control Of North Oil Co Fields In Kirkuk
Alt Text

IEA: Oil Prices To Hit A Ceiling In 2018

Global oil markets appear to…

Alt Text

Goldman Sachs: Inventory Drawdowns Will Not Continue

Goldman Sachs has reported that…

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

What Really Killed The Oil Price Rally


The oil market gained a lot of momentum in August and September, and Brent flirted with $60 per barrel toward the end of last month. But suddenly, oil prices have pulled back from their recent highs, and could head lower unless some bullish data emerges.

The recent rally—unlike other rallies over the past three years—has been underpinned by substantial improvements in the underlying fundamentals. Global refined product stocks are just a bit above the five-year average, having drained significantly in recent months. Crude stocks are also down, oil supply fell in August, and demand has picked up. In other words, unlike the numerous (but brief) oil price rallies in 2015, 2016 and even earlier this year, the most recent run up in prices appears to have been quite a bit more justified by the improving supply/demand balance.

Yet, the rally might already be losing steam, with Brent falling back from the high-$50s to just the mid-$50s per barrel, and WTI back down to the $50-per-barrel threshold.

There are a few reasons for this. First, while prices gathered pace over the past month or so, the gains were magnified by some geopolitical tensions—most notably the Kurdish referendum last week that sparked threats of supply cutoff by Turkey. But the promise by Ankara to disrupt roughly 500,000 to 600,000 bps of Kurdish oil exports hasn’t materialized (at least not yet), deflating some of the angst that initially cropped up.

Related: U.S. Shale Isn’t As Strong As It Appears

A second reason why the price rally has stalled is that OPEC may have increased production in September, according to a Reuters survey. The supposed increase in output of about 50,000 bpd suggests compliance may have slipped recently, a fact that some cite as the reason oil prices fell back over the past week.

Third, U.S. oil production continues to rise, with output rising above 9.5 million barrels per day recently (at least according to the weekly surveys), up a staggering 1 mb/d from a year ago. Also, the brief price gains above $50 for WTI might lead to a wave of hedging, allowing shale drillers to lock in prices for the next year, which could lead to more drilling and more supply.

Fourth, and probably the most important short-term factor, is the fact that the recent price gains were egged on by major investors, who staked out bullish bets on crude amidst the rally. Multiple times over the past three years, short-lived bull runs ended in tears as prices retreated just as quickly as they rose. The jarring pullback is often the symptom of herd-like movements from hedge funds and other money managers, who crowd into a one-sided bet only to retreat when things look overstretched.

Bullish bets on Brent futures rose to a record high in the last week, according to Reuters, which many analysts view as a red flag that made a selloff likely. “It’s always problematic when you have this amount of speculative length in the market,” Petromatrix strategist Olivier Jakob told Reuters.

“I think more than anything there was some profit-taking here,” Tariq Zahir, managing member of Tyche Capital Advisors, told The Wall Street Journal last week. “It’s had a heck of a run.”

The price deteriorating that began last week but continued into the start of this week was seen as a continuation of investors pulling back from what many see as a price rally gone too far. “Those levels were deemed as good selling points, and I think we’re seeing a continuation of that today,” Tony Headrick, an analyst at CHS Hedging, said of the price declines at the start of this week, according to the WSJ. Related: OPEC Producers Unmoved By U.S. Shale Threat In Asia

Nevertheless, the progress made toward rebalancing likely puts a higher floor beneath prices. Few predict WTI will tumble back into the $40s anytime soon, and some even see the recent fallback in prices as temporary, and not necessarily a sign of deeper problems with the market. “We are still viewing this as a near term bull market capable of fresh highs,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates, wrote in a note to clients. “We expect an upside reversal tomorrow amidst various contract expirations.”

Ed Morse, Citi’s global head of commodities research, concurs. “We think it's for real," Morse told CNBC on Monday. "We're in the middle of a bit of a sell-off, maybe even testing the $50 level for WTI, but the sell-off is profit-taking more than anything else, and the momentum in the physical markets, joined by the momentum in the financial markets, really point to a higher price between now and the end of the year."

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:

Back to homepage

Leave a comment
  • Kr55 on October 04 2017 said:
    Big technical level for WTI in the mid 51's. Couldn't break it. Paper rules the oil market.
  • Clyde Boyd on October 04 2017 said:
    Good analysis, actually on of the better ones. The simple facts are that the recent rallies have been short-lived because they have been artificially started by speculation traders . The glut however is actually going to increase as winter sets in and driving slows even more. When Libya adds a million barrels a day and opec keeps cheating even more oil goes into supply. Nick has it more right than most. The price is going to go down. The more the traders keep trying to jack it up the more failure they will face.
  • Paul on October 04 2017 said:
    Simply stated, at $50 WTI, we can drain excess supplies all day long while not investing to meet future demand. This cycle of over and under-investment translates into long term price cycles lasting decades and consequently, the low oil price in 2016 will not likely be seen again.

Leave a comment

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