Has OPEC stabilized oil markets?

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OPEC

IEA: OPEC puts floor beneath oil

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) deal put “a floor” beneath oil prices, according to the IEA’s latest Oil Market Report. The agency said that non-OPEC supply could still outgrow demand next year, expanding by 1.5 mb/d while demand may only soak up 1.4 mb/d of that additional supply. As such, OPEC+ might be forced to maintain the cuts through the end of the year. However, there are plenty of uncertainties, including the extent of losses from Iran and Venezuela, while additional outages could come from Libya or elsewhere. For now, the IEA says the production cut deal will keep prices from falling further, but it is still too early to tell if the agreement will significantly boost prices.

EIA: U.S. to average 12.1 mb/d in 2019

The EIA said in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook that the U.S. should average 12.1 mb/d in 2019, up sharply from a 10.9 mb/d average this year. Notably, the production estimate is mostly unchanged from previous months, even though oil prices have crashed. The EIA even lowered its expected price for Brent and WTI in 2019 by roughly $10 per barrel, but the agency clearly thinks that the production gains are mostly baked in already.

Signs of demand slowdown in Asia

Refining figures in Asia suggest demand could be slowing down in the region, Bloomberg reports. Asian refining margins are at an eight-month low, which could be a leading indicator of slowing consumption.

OECD stocks above average

OECD stocks rose above the five-year average in October (the latest month for which data is available) for the first time since March.

Neutral Zone could reopen. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are nearing a deal to restart idled oil fields in disputed territory along their shared border. The so-called Neutral Zone oil fields have the capacity to produce 500,000 bpd, but have been offline for several years. The U.S. government has leaned on both countries to resolve their differences, with an eye on shrinking supply from Iran. Chevron (NYSE: CVX), which jointly operates one of the fields in Kuwait, said it maintains “readiness for a production restart when that time comes,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Barclays: Brent at $72 in 2019

Barclays expects Brent to rise to $71 per barrel as early as the first quarter of 2019, which is much more optimistic than a raft of other forecasts that have come out lately. For the full year, Barclays sees Brent averaging $72 and WTI averaging $65. “Brent and WTI prices are poised to rebound in 1H19,” Barclays said in a note. “The inventory situation is far better than the last time cuts started in early 2017, and the cuts have already begun, as shown in December data.”

China stocked up on oil when prices fell. In at least two key regions in China, oil imports jumped by 26 percent in November compared to the average level from the prior 10 months, according to Bloomberg. The rise in imports suggests China was stocking up on crude, taking advantage of low prices.

Famed hedge fund manager says U.S. shale makes oil harder to predict

Andy Hall, a well-known hedge fund manager nicknamed “God” for the huge sums he has made on oil trading, said that U.S. shale has made the oil market much harder to predict. The short-cycle nature of shale, which stops and starts much quicker in response to price swings than conventional production, makes it harder to get ahead of the booms and busts. “It used to be, on the supply side of the equation, you could predict with some confidence what future supply was going to be, outside of global political events,” Hall told Bloomberg. Now, “everyone is groping. There are a lot of variables that we don’t have a good handle on.”

Saudi Arabia aims to cut oil shipments to United States

In an effort to drain the surplus of oil stocks, Saudi Arabia plans on curtailing shipments specifically to the U.S., according to Bloomberg, a strategy intended to shift market psychology. Because the U.S. is one of the few countries that offer regular and transparent data on oil inventories, cutting down on stocks in the U.S. will transform how investors view the global market. Visible declines in inventories, which the EIA will report week after week, should bolster market confidence. It’s a strategy the Saudis used back in 2017 when it tried to boost prices.

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