Oil – Room to run lower
Weekly Investment Insights Oil – Room to run lower
- Oil prices have made decisive moves lower over the past fortnight as burgeoning US production has dampened optimism around the OPEC accord.
- Reports of increased output from Saudi Arabia and exempt nations Nigeria and Libya have added to concerns that the production agreement is less robust than previously assumed.
- Should key crude benchmarks break lower through nearby support levels we could see the complex return to pre-November levels.
Burgeoning U.S. output
After months of range trading, the oil complex has made a decisive move lower as growing US output has dampened optimism surrounding the impact of last year’s OPEC/non-OPEC production agreement on global supply. Last week’s release of US crude oil inventory data instigated the latest move, as stocks grew at four times the expected rate to reach a new peak of 528.4m barrels. Bearish indicators have been mounting against the oil price for some time as news flow from the US has increasingly pointed towards resurgence in shale output as a result of the more favourable $50-$55/bbl price range. Research reports from Barclays and Citi (Source: Financial Times) both detail a 27%-36% surge in capital spending this year by North American oil and gas companies. These estimates are corroborated by the growth in the widely observed US oil rig count, which has climbed 95% from its trough from 2016 (see Figure 1). Our view is that oil prices could still see some downside from current levels, as they sit some 8% above the range from before the November accord and the agreement itself appears increasingly fragile.
Intentional or Seasonal?
While Riyadh has repeatedly stated its commitment to stabilising the oil market, the latest monthly OPEC report suggests that matter may not be so simple. Overall, according to secondary sources, OPEC’s compliance with its stated target currently sits at 91% and has indeed largely been driven by Saudi’s commitment to the agreement. However, the report also shows that Saudi’s own sources recorded an increase in production last month to near 10m barrels per day (mbpd), closer to estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA) of 9.98mbpd. The bounce suggests that the reductions in oil volume seen in recent months could actually be a result of more seasonal adjustments to output rather than a conscious effort to stabilise the oil market. If this is the case we could see output normalise further in coming months, posing an additional threat to the accord.
Furthermore both exempt nations, Libya and Nigeria, have increased output by a combined 193k bpd since December, a 9% increase. The resurgence of US shale is likely to have put significant strain on the continued compliance to the OPEC agreement beyond the June expiry date. Should the deal fall apart, we could see oil prices sink further.
Broken support levels could spur selling
Having fallen approximately 8% on average over the past week both crude oil benchmarks face significant support. Brent and WTI crude oil prices have been dragged lower to the highs that persisted until the OPEC accord was announced, at $51/bbl and $49/bbl respectively (which also happen to coincide with their respective 200 daily moving average). Prices failed to consistently penetrate these levels for 15 months before November so a break below at this stage could trigger selling pressure. In this scenario prices have potential to fall to the 50% retracement of the recent 14 month run higher at $46/bbl and $43/bbl respectively for Brent and WTI. An abrupt end to OPEC’s current deal could be the catalyst to trigger such a move.
Investors wishing to express the investment views outlined above may consider using the following ETF Securities ETPs:
ETFS Brent Crude (BRNT)
ETFS WTI Crude Oil (CRUD)
ETFS Longer Dated Brent Crude (FBRT)
ETFS Longer Dated WTI Crude Oil (FCRU)
2x & -1x
ETFS 2x Daily Long Brent Crude (LBRT)
ETFS 2x Daily Long WTI Crude Oil (LOIL)
ETFS 1x Daily Short Brent Crude (SBRT)
ETFS 1x Daily Short WTI Crude Oil (SOIL)
ETFS 3x Daily Long WTI Crude Oil (3CRL)
ETFS 3x Daily Short WTI Crude Oil (3CRS)
Currency Hedged ETPs
ETFS EUR Daily Hedged Brent Crude (EBRT)
ETFS EUR Daily Hedged WTI Crude Oil (ECRD)
ETFS GBP Daily Hedged Brent Crude (PBRT)
ETFS GBP Daily Hedged WTI Crude Oil (PCRD)
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