Venezuela’s slumping oil production is a “clear and present danger” to the oil market, RBC Capital Markets said this week.
Venezuela’s production continues to fall at a frightening clip, falling to about 1.6-1.7 million barrels per day (mb/d) in December. On an annual basis, Barclays predicts that Venezuela’s output will fall sharply from 2.18 mb/d in 2017 to just 1.43 mb/d this year, a decline of roughly 700,000 bpd.
The steep declines will increasingly be felt worldwide given that oil demand is growing briskly and the OPEC/non-OPEC coalition continues to keep 1.8 mb/d of supply off of the market. Global inventories have declined so steeply that unexpected geopolitical surprises carry more influence than they used to.
“We continue to contend that, given 2018’s tightening oil market, any potential geopolitically driven supply disruption would have an outsized impact versus recent years when the market was awash in crude,” Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a research note. “The clear and present danger to watch is Venezuela, which arguably has progressed past the risk stage given that production is in freefall.
RBC Capital Markets echoed Barclays, predicting output declines on the order of 700,000 to 800,000 bpd.
While that scenario is really bad, the uncertainty for the country’s output is probably skewed to the downside. The economic, political and humanitarian crisis is only getting worse. The government is in a debt vice, and it is hard to see how it will meet payments this year. The IMF predicts that inflation is running at a 13,000 percent annual rate. GDP is expected to shrink by 15 percent this year.
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