What's next for the oil price rally — Business Extra Podcast

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The outlook for oil prices, thanks to supply-side factors, is further dampened by the expectation that United States president Donald Trump will not extend the waiver of sanctions against Iran, possibly resulting in supply cuts to the tune of ~1 mbpd.

Oil prices briefly surpassed US$75 a barrel earlier this week on the back of fears that the USA will pull out of the multi-nation Iran nuclear deal, in favor of levying heavy sanctions against the Middle Eastern country.

Iran is now the third-largest oil producing country, only trailing behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq, all members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

A top adviser to Iran's supreme leader said Tehran would not accept any change to its nuclear deal, as Western signatories prepare a new package in the hope of persuading U.S. President Donald Trump to stick with the accord.

Focus within the oil market remains on whether President Trump will decide to reimpose sanctions on Iran in coming weeks.

Venezuela's crude production has fallen from nearly 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in early 2016 to around 1.5 million bpd due to political and economic turmoil.

Venezuela's plunging output and looming USA sanctions against Iran come against a backdrop of strong demand, especially in Asia, the world's biggest oil consuming region.

Meanwhile, surging USA production, which hit 10.59 million bpd last week, has encouraged record-high US exports.

USA crude oil inventories rose by 2.2-million barrels in the week to April 20 to 429.74-million barrels.

USA crude oil and gasoline inventories unexpectedly rose last week even as exports hit record highs, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday in an overall bearish report that raised some concerns about oversupply.

US West Texas Intermediate futures were down 12 cents, or 0.2%, at $67.58 a barrel, also off the late-2014 highs of $69.56 a barrel marked earlier in April.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 2.6 million barrels, versus expectations for a 861,000-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.

With US output and exports surging, some analysts warn that the 20% climb in Brent prices since February is starting to look overdone.

"Market sentiment is turning increasingly bullish towards the commodity", said Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at futures brokerage FXTM.

Dutch bank ING said "the wide discount for WTI to Brent saw exports rising 582,000 bpd week-on-week to a record high of 2.33-million bpd".

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