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Glut Or Deficit: Where Are Oil Markets Headed?

Glut Or Deficit: Where Are Oil Markets Headed?


A flurry of recent oil market forecasts have sent a lot of mixed messages about what to expect both in the near-term and over the next several years. Is U.S. shale about to flood the market, setting off another bust? Or is demand so strong that with the oil market already rapidly tightening, another price rally is in store?

Obviously, nobody knows how to untangle the long list of variables that will ultimately decide what happens next, but the divergence in opinions is rather striking.

By and large, the discrepancy is over the difference between the short-term and the medium-term. Surging U.S. shale production is keeping the market well supplied right now, but soaring demand and the lack of major conventional projects in the works will lead to a price spike somewhere down the line.

Nevertheless, there is also disagreement over the immediate future. We are currently in the “calm before the storm,” according to Gary Ross, global head of oil analytics and chief energy economist at S&P Global Platts. “Pressure is going to build on crude prices,” he said in an interview with the WSJ. “We’re not feeling it now, but we will.”

Ross argues that oil demand is growing so quickly, that the market will absorb all the extra supply. He says China and India alone will take on an additional 1.1 million barrels per day (mb/d). Meanwhile, oil inventories are sharply down, thanks to the OPEC cuts. After refineries finish up maintenance season, the oil market will wake up to the fact that supplies are incredibly tight, Ross argues. “The world is going to be short come peak season,” he told the WSJ. “When the music stops, someone’s not going to have a seat.”

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