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U.S-Saudi Clash Could Spell Disaster For OPEC

U.S-Saudi Clash Could Spell Disaster For OPEC

OPEC meeting

The Khashoggi case is far from over, as current harsh statements coming from Washington are showing.

Not only is there a long line of U.S. Senators calling for an in-depth investigation of the matter, some have even openly called for the removal of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin. Senior R-Senator Lindsay Graham, one of the staunchest supporters of US president Trump and Saudi Arabia, has broken ranks as he asked on US Fox-News to remove MBS from his position.

These moves from Washington are not only endangering the very strong ties between Washington and Riyadh, but also endanger the overall Middle East and internal stability of OPEC. The oil cartel, led by Saudi Arabia, is looking at a very stormy ride the next couple of months, while the U.S. is heading for another showdown in the Arab world.

The Khashoggi case has become a possible watershed in international relations. Statements made by US R-Senator Graham, already supported by other high-ranking U.S. officials, show that the position of Saudi Arabia as a strategic ally of Washington in the Middle East, and MBS in particular, is under severe pressure.

The public threat, made by Graham news channel Fox-News, to put strong sanctions on Saudi Arabia, if the Crown Prince is not being removed, is a first. Not even in the case of Iran, Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine or the ongoing disaster in Syria, an open call was made for regime change. If threats were made by U.S. government-linked senators, it always was directly linked to a strong opposition movement in that country, or being directed at an anti-U.S. government or entity.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Saudi Arabia Calls The End Of Russia’s Oil Prowess

Saudi Arabia Calls The End Of Russia’s Oil Prowess

Putin MBS

Saudi Arabia has not only called the end of Russia’s prominence as a global oil behemoth, but anticipates that Russia’s oil exports “will have declined heavily if not disappeared” within the next 19 years, Mohammed bin Salman said in a recent interview with Bloomberg.

When asked whether Russia and Saudi Arabia had made a backroom deal to increase oil production, MbS was more tight-lipped, saying only that Saudi Arabia was “ready to supply any demand and any disappearing from Iran.” With Russia out of the game, Saudi Arabia would have plenty of oil demand to service, according to MbS.

MbS did not comment on his rationale for Russia’s exit as a major oil producer.

Russia’s oil production in August of 11.21 million barrels per day, near the post-Soviet era high reached the month prior to signing the OPEC+ deal that curbed its production. The 11.21 million barrels places the country in second place of the most prolific oil producers in the world, behind the United States, who overtook both Saudi Arabia and Russia earlier this year, according to EIA data as cited by CNN.

While America managed to rise from its third place seating in 2018, it did so unencumbered by the production-curbing agreement that both Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to. Gazpromneft earlier today said it was no longer restricting its oil output, although it doubtful that either Russia or Saudi Arabia can reclaim their top spots.

Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of oil news in recent weeks—almost neck and neck with Iran—as traders try to anticipate just how much spare oil production capacity Saudi Arabia has—if any—and if that spare capacity, whether it’s zero or a million barrels per day, will be sufficient to offset any losses sustained from Iran and Venezuela.

The Implications Of A Fractured U.S., Saudi Alliance

The Implications Of A Fractured U.S., Saudi Alliance

oil tanker

After the resurgence of the U.S. oil industry in recent years due to hydraulic fracking and the shale oil revolution, most thought the days of Middle Eastern oil producers, Saudi Arabia in particular, being able to threaten use of the so-called oil weapon as geopolitical leverage or even coercion were over. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Even though the U.S. is pumping oil at record levels, hitting 11 million barrels of oil per day, a rate that should have negated such a threat from ever resurfacing, it seems that Washington has also arguably shot global oil markets in the foot by re-imposing economic sanctions against Iran, with more sanctions slated to hit the Islamic Republic’s energy sector in just a matter of weeks.

The loss of Iranian barrels from global oil markets has already pushed prices well past $80 per barrel recently, and prices could break into the $90 plus range after November. Added to the fray are long term production problems in major OPEC producers Venezuela, Nigeria and Libya – in effect offsetting the ramp-up in U.S. production and the ability for shale producers to play the coveted role of oil markets swing producer. Now Saudi Arabia has taken at least marginal control of oil markets back again – not a comforting prospect for many.

Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it would retaliate against any punitive measures from the U.S. linked to the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi with even “stronger ones.”  In what Bloomberg News called an implicit reference to the kingdom’s petroleum wealth, the Saudi statement noted the Saudi economy “has an influential and vital role in the global economy.”

1973 oil embargo remembered

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Opinion: Powell has lost his North Star, and the Fed is flying blind

The Fed risks raising interest rates too much as the compass spins wildly

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
Stars appear to rotate around Polaris, the North Star, in this time exposure of the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is in an unenviable position. Folks expect him to fine-tune interest rates to keep the economy going and inflation tame but he can’t make things much better — only worse.

Growth is nearly 3% and unemployment is at its lowest level since 1969. What inflation we have above the Fed target of 2% is driven largely by oil prices and those by forces beyond the influence of U.S. economic conditions — OPEC politics, U.S. sanctions on Iran, and dystopian political forces in Venezuela and a few other garden spots.

When the current turbulence in oil markets recedes, we are likely in for a period of headline inflation below 2%, just as those forces are now driving prices higher now.

Overall, long-term inflation has settled in at the Fed target of about 2%. The Fed should not obsess about it but keep a watchful eye.

Amid all this, Powell’s inflation compass has gone missing. The Phillips curve, as he puts it, may not be dead but just resting. To my thinking, it’s in a coma if it was ever alive at all.

That contraption is a shorthand equation sitting atop a pyramid of more fundamental behavioral relationships. Those include the supply and demand for domestic workers and in turn, an historically large contingent labor force of healthy prime-age adults sitting on the sidelines, the shifting skill requirements of a workplace transformed by artificial intelligence and robotics, import prices influenced by weak growth in Europe and China, and immigration.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Oil’s $133 Billion Black Market

Oil’s $133 Billion Black Market

rig

Oil is still the world’s leading energy source, with growing demand, a fluctuating pricing system, and much of its production in volatile regions. The oil market’s value is larger than the world’s valuable raw metal markets combined, with an annual production valued at US$1.7 trillion. A flourishing black market is no surprise, with about US$133 billion worth of fuels stolen or adulterated every year. These practices fund dangerous non-state actors such as the Islamic State, Mexican drug cartels, Italian Mafia, Eastern European criminal groups, Libyan militias, Nigerian rebels and more – and are a major global security concern.

The top five countries accused of oil trafficking – Nigeria, Mexico, Iraq, Russia, and Indonesia – are also producers. It is estimated that Nigeria alone loses US$1.5 billion a month due to pipeline tapping, illegal production and other sophisticated schemes. In Southeast Asia, about 3 percent of the fuel consumed is sourced from the black market, estimated to be worth up to US$10 billion a year. In Mexico, drug cartels launder drug revenues through the oil trade

Other countries are not immune. Turkey is not an oil producer yet serves as a major transit route for hydrocarbons flowing to Europe from OPEC countries like Iraq and Iran. As an energy hub, Turkey is strategically situated for the illegal trade and lost an estimated US$5 billion in tax revenue in 2017. An uptick in smuggling oil and other refined products began 2014, when ISIS took control of major Syrian and Iraqi oil fields.

As with most commodities, the volume of oil smuggling is primarily linked to fluctuating prices. With climbing oil prices, illicit trade is expected to increase.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

OPEC September Production Data

OPEC September Production Data

The below charts were created with data from the OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report and the data through September 2018.

OPEC crude only was up 132,000 barrels per day in September to 32,761,000 bpd. that is still 650,000 barrels per day below their all time high in October of 2016.

August production was revised up by 63,000 bpd so production was actually up 195,000 bpd from what was reported last month.

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Stock Market Chaos Sparks Oil Selloff

Stock Market Chaos Sparks Oil Selloff

Sad Trader

The plunge in global equities on Wednesday and Thursday dragged down crude oil, with even concerns about falling Iranian supply not enough to keep crude from a steep selloff.

Brent fell more than 1.2 percent on Wednesday and was down another 1.5 percent in early trading on Thursday, falling back to the low-$80s per barrel, down from over $86 last week.

The same supply concerns are still there – Iran’s oil exports are dwindling, and it is unclear if OPEC can fill the gap. But the sudden cracks in the global economy took on a higher priority.

The conditions for an equity selloff have been building for quite some time. On October 9, the International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for global growth to 3.7 percent for 2018 and 2019, down from a previous estimate of 3.9 percent. The Fund said that “growth has proven to be less balanced than hoped,” and that the “likelihood of further negative shocks to our growth forecast has risen.” Also, the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, combined with the strength of the dollar and the turmoil and emerging markets could also lead to an economic slowdown.

China’s economy is already showing some signs of strain, and China’s central bank just slashed the amount of cash that banks have to hold in reserve, the so-called reserve ratio, by one percentage point. The move is seen is an attempt to keep growth aloft amid worrying signs of trouble.

In the U.S., the Federal Reserve has been going in the opposite direction, tightening interest rates in an effort to avoid inflation.

These various red flags for the global economy have been known for a while and are the background context for the sudden and painful selloff in global equities that began mid-week.

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US Demands For More Oil Could Backfire

US Demands For More Oil Could Backfire

drilling rig

This week the State Department accused OPEC of hiding spare capacity exceeding 1.4 million barrels daily. It urged the cartel to use it to stop the oil price rally that has continued uncomfortably close to midterm elections. The request—or demand, depending on your interpretation—is unprecedented and it might do more harm than good.

Bloomberg quoted a veteran energy analyst from Jefferies, Jason Gammel, as saying, “This is the lowest level of spare capacity in the global system relative to demand that I’ve ever seen. Spare capacity is moving to a precariously low point.” The problem is, nobody seems to be certain exactly how much OPEC’s spare capacity is.

In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, the EIA estimated OPEC’s spare production capacity at 1.66 million bpd. But the International Energy Agency last month estimated OPEC’s spare capacity at 2.7 million bpd and is fast declining. What we do know, however, is how much spare capacity Saudi Arabia has: 1.3 million bpd, as revealed by the Energy Minister of the Kingdom during the Russian Energy Week in Moscow.

This is bad news. Until now, various sources, including the Saudis themselves and the EIA, put the Kingdom’s spare capacity at between 1.5 and 2 million bpd. In June, President Trump said the Saudis could pump 12 million bpd. The IEA concurred. Saudi Arabia’s September production rate rose to 10.7 million bpd.

From this level of production, with 1.3 million bpd in spare capacity, we get a maximum production rate of 12 million bpd, indeed. However, Khalid al-Falih delivered a worrying message: Saudi Arabia will spend US$20 billion on maintaining and boosting its spare capacity in the coming years. The news naturally cast doubt on whether the current capacity will be sufficient to cover demand.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

IEA Asks Majors Oil Producers To Boost Production

IEA Asks Majors Oil Producers To Boost Production

oil drilling

Rising oil prices are hurting consumers, Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), says, calling on major all producers to do the best they can to further boost production and ease persistent supply concerns that pushed Brent Crude to above $86 a barrel on Wednesday.

“Some countries have been making efforts to increase production but this is far from comforting the markets right now,” Birol told the Financial Times on Thursday, adding that his “hope is that all the producers are aware of the sensitive situation and make their best efforts.”

Although higher energy prices may look like a boon for oil exporting countries today, tomorrow the economies of oil exporters will also suffer because of the lower demand growth stemming from high oil prices, Birol told FT.

In an interview with Reuters, also today, Birol said that:

“It is now high time for all the players, especially those key producers and oil exporters, to consider the situation and take the right steps to comfort the market, otherwise I don’t see anybody benefiting.”

Earlier this week, the IEA chief also took to Twitter to comment on the oil price rally in recent weeks and its implications on global economy.

“Rising oil prices are hurting consumers & economic growth prospects today – globally but particularly in the emerging economies – but in a rapidly changing energy world could also have implications for producers tomorrow,” Birol tweeted on Tuesday. Related: A New Era Of LNG Megaprojects

U.S. President Donald Trump has also used Twitter several times this year to slam OPEC for keeping oil prices too high.

Birol’s comments on oil prices and what oil producers should do come just after Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said earlier this week that Saudi Arabia would be pumping 10.7 million bpd in October—just below the Kingdom’s highest-ever production level—and would slightly raise production volumes in November.

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How Will The Surge In Oil Prices Impact US GDP: One Bank Answers

Back in late 2014, when oil prices tumbled after the OPEC “thanksgiving massacre“, the conventional narrative was that dropping oil prices were a boon for the economy as they resulted in lower gas prices and thus greater discretionary income. The stark reality emerged quickly, however, once US corporations halted capex spending, resulting in a mini-recession for business investment coupled with dozens of shale bankruptcies.

Fast forward 4 years when Brent oil prices are trading back near $85/barrel, their highest level since October 2014, right before they tumbled. And with the “lower oil is beneficial for GDP” narrative discredited, following the recent rally, questions about the economic impact of oil prices have resurfaced, among them: have higher oil prices contributed to the upside surprises to 2018 growth via higher energy capex, as Chairman Powell suggested last week? Can US shale further ramp up production when capacity constraints are looming? Do higher energy prices still exert a meaningful drag on consumer spending and boost core inflation in an era of increased energy efficiency?

This is an analysis that Goldman conducted this week, and found that higher oil prices have had a neutral impact on GDP growth so far this year with a -0.25pp contribution from lower real consumption roughly offset by a +0.25pp contribution from higher energy capital spending. However, if oil prices remain at their current level the net growth contribution will decline to -0.1pp to -0.2pp in 2018Q4 and 2019H1.

The key reason is that while higher oil prices will remain a steady drag on consumption growth, the boost to energy capex is likely to shrink as the shale industry runs into transportation capacity constraints. It is only in 2019 H2 that the eventual arrival of new pipelines will likely trigger a re-acceleration of energy capital spending.

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Putin: Trump Is To Blame For Higher Oil Prices

Just hours after President Trump implicitly threatened Saudi Arabia with a withdrawal of military protection (a threat that was possibly inspired by OPEC+ ignoring Trump’s demands to raise production at its Algiers meeting last month) Russian President Vladimir Putin said out loud what many oil traders have been thinking: That the recent run up in oil prices is Trump’s own fault.

Putin

During a speech at the Energy Week conference in Moscow, Putin said higher prices are “to some extent the result of the US administration” and its decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran (which will take effect next month) as well as its sanctions against Venezuela – not to mention the disastrous US military intervention in Libya, which was masterminded by Trump’s erstwhile political rival, Hillary Clinton. Before Trump decided to withdraw from the Iran deal, OPEC and other major exporters (including Russia) had more or less pushed the global market back into balance after several years of oversupply. Putin also said he believes a “good range” for oil prices would be between $65 and $75 a barrel and that Russia has the capacity to ramp up production by 200,000-300,000 barrels a day (and according to media reports, Russia is indeed planning to ramp up production through the end of the year).

“President Trump has said he thinks the oil price is too high. Well, probably to some extend he’s right, but we are absolutely OK with it at $65 to $75 per barrel to ensure the efficient operation of oil companies and ensure investment,” Putin said Wednesday during an address to delegates at the Russia Energy Week forum in Moscow.

“But let’s be frank, such oil prices are to some extent the result of the U.S. administration. I’m talking about sanctions against Iran, about political problems in Venezuela and just looking at what’s happening in Libya.”

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How Much Spare Capacity Does Saudi Arabia Really Have?

How Much Spare Capacity Does Saudi Arabia Really Have?

Hawtah field

Saudi Arabia has pledged to cover any supply gap that may emerge as Iranian oil goes offline, but how much spare capacity does it really have?

The massive reserve of spare capacity located in the Saudi desert is the stuff of legend, taken as gospel in the world of oil. After all, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that can ramp up or down millions of barrels of production on short notice. And the Saudis have never let us down.

But Saudi Arabia’s mythical spare capacity may finally be tested. Saudi officials insist that they can produce up to between 12.0 and 12.5 million barrels per day (mb/d) if needed. With output at about 10.4 mb/d in August, the latest month for which data is available, that suggests that they have around 1.5 to 2 mb/d of spare capacity.

Not everyone buys that figure. Indeed, the precise amount of spare capacity has been the subject of much debate for years and even decades. Now, because Iranian supply is going offline at a rapid clip, the world may soon find out if Saudi Arabia’s confidence is backed up by reality or if it has all been a bunch of bluster.

The EIA says that total OPEC spare capacity is set to average 1.49 mb/d in the fourth quarter, which is rather low by historical standards. The EIA sees OPEC spare capacity falling to 1.19 mb/d by the fourth quarter of 2019.

There are a few times in the relatively recent past when spare capacity was that low, including two years ago, when spare capacity plunged to 1 mb/d. However, this was during the depths of the oil market downturn, and it was a reflection of Saudi Arabia producing flat out in order to flood the market in an attempt to edge out U.S. shale. Spare capacity was low, but there was a glut of supply.

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$100 Oil Is A Distinct Possibility

$100 Oil Is A Distinct Possibility

oil storage

An oil price spike is starting to look increasingly possible, with a rerun of 2008 not entirely out of the question, according to a new report.

The outages from Iran are worse than most analysts expected, and bottlenecks in the U.S. shale patch could prevent non-OPEC supply from plugging the gap. To top it off, new regulations from the International Maritime Organization set to take effect in 2020 could significantly tighten supplies.

Put it all together, and “the likelihood of an oil spike and crash scenario akin to the one observed in 2008 has increased,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote in a note. BofAML has a price target for Brent at $95 per barrel by the end of the second quarter 2019. In 2008, Brent spiked to nearly $150 per barrel.

The supply picture is looking increasingly worrying, with Venezuela and Iran the two principal factors driving up oil prices in the fourth quarter. Notably, the bank increased its estimate of supply losses from Iran 1 million barrels per day (mb/d), up from 500,000 bpd previously.

U.S. shale can partially make up the difference, but the explosive growth from shale drillers is starting to slowdown, in part because of pipeline bottlenecks. BofAML sees U.S. supply growth of 1.4 mb/d in 2018 but only 1 mb/d of growth in 2019.

That means that there isn’t the same upward pressure on WTI as there is on Brent, largely because infrastructure bottlenecks in the shale patch keep supplies somewhat stuck within the United States. And it isn’t just in West Texas where the constraints are causing problems. “[B]ottlenecks in the Permian basin could well extend to other areas such as the Bakken or the Niobrara, and we do not even rule out temporary export capacity constraints in the Gulf Coast as domestic output overwhelms logistics,” BofAML said in a note.

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Global Stocks Slide As Trade War Enters New Phase; Oil Surges

U.S. stock futures followed European and Asian shares lower in thin volume after China called off planned trade talks with the U.S. and the Trump administration imposed another $200 billion in “Phase II” China tariffs just after midnight; oil jumped 2.4% as OPEC+ members defied Trump’s calls for lower oil prices during a weekend conference, refusing to boost output.

Asia set the downbeat tone as Hong Kong stocks fell, while thinner than average volumes across Asia due to holidays in China, South Korea and Japan.  “Given that the trade talks are off, investors will be watching what happens after the implementation of the tariffs and particularly whether the U.S. will move to the next phase, which would be tariffs on a further $267 billion of Chinese goods,” said Dushyant Padmanabhan, a currency strategist at Nomura in Singapore. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on NPR’s Morning Edition that “the president was crystal clear in his statement: if China retaliates, the process will move forward on the additional amount.”

European stocks followed lower, with miners and carmakers, both sectors heavily exposed to global trade, among the biggest decliners in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, while futures on the S&P 500 and Dow pointed to a weaker open. Randgold Resources and bucked the trend to rally on merger news following news of a merger with Barrick, creating the world’s largest gold miner; Sky also rose after Comcast beat Fox in the auction for the broadcaster with a $39 billion bid, a deal that has been two years in the making. Comcast will start buying Sky shares in the market in order to reach the 50% threshold before the Oct. 11 deadline. Current shareholders just got an extra 9% for their patience as Comcast will pay 1,728p for the shares.

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OPEC, Russia Defy Trump Demand To Boost Oil Production

Less than three months after Trump’s latest tweet slamming OPEC, in which he warned the petroleum cartel that it must “REDUCE PRICING NOW!”, Trump was at it again and on Thursday morning, with Brent hitting $80 per barrel and higher gasoline prices creating another headache for Republicans ahead of the midterm elections, the president lashed out at OPEC, saying that the US protects the countries of the Middle East, and warning these nations that “they would not be safe for very long without us, and yet they continue to push for higher and higher oil prices! We will remember.

Trump’s latest threat, however, was summarily ignored on Sunday when OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and its biggest non-OPEC oil-producer ally, Russia, ruled out additional increase in crude output, defying Trump’s calls for action to cool the market.

“I do not influence prices,” said the Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih during a press conference in Algiers for a meeting that ended with no formal recommendation for any additional supply boost, Reuters reports.

In recent weeks, oil prices have moved back to 4 year highs, a rally that according to analysts has been mostly due to a perceived decline in oil exports from Iran due to fresh U.S. sanctions, stemming from Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran Nuclear deal. As a result, as much as 1.5 million barrels of output are in danger of being taken off the market.

And while Falih said Saudi Arabia had spare capacity to increase oil output, he said that no such move was needed at the moment. Instead, Falih blamed refiners for not converting enough product: “My information is that the markets are adequately supplied. I don’t know of any refiner in the world who is looking for oil and is not able to get it” he said.

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