World oil indexes rallied last week to their highest level since November 2014 supported by disruptions in the Gulf of Mexico related to Hurricane Michael. However there is downward correction on the market at the moment: API reported a major build of 9.75 million barrels of United States crude oil inventories for the week ending October 5. Anyway there is a number of uncertainties which may cause a state of high vulnerability for the fuel indexes in a short-term. On the supply side, there’s uncertainty about how much Iranian oil the United States will man-age to choke off. Then there’s uncertainty about how much spare capacity Iran’s fellow OPEC members and non-OPEC Russia could summon to replace Iranian losses. Finally, on the demand side, there’s uncertainty whether oil prices at four-year highs and consequently, fuel prices at multiple year highs, are already denting oil demand growth.
MABUX World Bunker Index (consists of a range of prices for 380 HSFO, 180 HSFO and MGO at the main world hubs), finally demonstrated irregular changes in the period of Oct.04 – Oct.11:
380 HSFO – down from 491.57 to 490.93 USD/MT (-0.64)
180 HSFO – up from 533.00 to 535.21 USD/MT (+2.21)
MGO – down from 762.36 to 752.71 USD/MT (-9.65)
Goldman Sachs said in a note that the oil market could swing into a surplus in early 2019 as spare capacity is deployed. As per Bank, production in Libya and Nigeria was higher than expected, by 300,000 bpd, and coupled with Saudi Arabia’s production ramp-up and the political stabilization of Iraq, which improved prospects for higher output from Kurdistan, it could provide a supply buffer for the final quarter of the year. The investment bank’s warning might not have an immediate effect on prices as traders are at the moment too preoccupied with the worry that OPEC’s spare capacity is at a historic low, but once it sinks in, prices could reverse their climb.
The U.S. State Department in turn criticized Saudi Arabia for not using its spare capacity. A State Department official said that the U.S. was working with Saudi Arabia to use the spare capacity that they are not deploying, while also insisting that the U.S. was doing its part. The U.S. State Department also said OPEC and non-OPEC producers including Russia continue to withhold production.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered its outlook for the global economy, expecting a growth rate of 3.7 percent this year and next, down from the 3.9 percent the Fund expected back in April. The IMF cited the uneven nature of the economic expansion, the increase in the likelihood of negative shocks, and the unsustainable policy support behind much of the growth. Robust economic growth underpins the assumed strong increase in oil demand, so any faltering in the global economy exposes downside risk to oil prices.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that rising oil prices may hurt demand in some of the world’s fastest-growing nations unless producers take steps to boost supplies. India is among emerging market economies struggling with a combination of a weakening currency and rising oil prices. The country, which enjoyed a 12th straight month of demand growth in August, could see its trade deficit worsen because of the high crude. India moved to cut retail fuel prices on Oct.04.
Meantime, India discussed last week the possibility of trading oil with Russia, Venezuela, and Iran either in Indian rupees or under a barter agreement. The idea to use rupees or a barter system comes as U.S. sanctions on Iran draws near and are just over four weeks away. It was also discussed the possibility of creating a rupee-yuan payment mechanism for trading with China.
At the same time, Indian buyers reduced U.S. crude purchases and loaded up on Iranian oil ahead of the restart of U.S. sanctions next month. U.S. oil shipments to India fell to 84,000 barrels per day (bpd) last month, down 75 percent from a record high of 347,000 bpd in June. India accounted for 12 percent of U.S. crude exports in June. Meantime, Indian buyers lifted purchases of Iranian crude to 502,000 bpd in September, up 111,000 bpd over August. It was also reported that India has plans to purchase 9 million barrels of oil from Iran in November, contra-ry to earlier reports that led the market to believe India had no plans to do so.
Iran’s crude oil exports plunged to 1.1 million bpd in the first seven days of October, sliding further down from 1.6 million bpd in September. According to tanker tracking, not a single tanker headed to Europe in the first seven days of October. Iran’s tankers were bound instead for China, India, and the Middle East. Besides, some one dozen Iranian oil tankers may have shut off their position devices last month. As a result, nearly 207,000 bpd of Iran’s oil exports that left Iranian oil terminals last month is reportedly unaccounted for.
A tanker collision a month ago at a critical Venezuelan port may take longer to repair than initially expected. One of the docks will take probably another month before it can come back online, which will likely lead to steeper oil export losses. Venezuela’s exports fell to just 1.1 million bpd in September.
A trade war between the United States and China is still a potential catalyst: as it escalates global oil demand is sure to suffer. While China hasn’t officially placed a tariff on U.S. oil, refiners and traders appear to be increasingly wary of purchasing oil from the U.S. – suggesting they believe the tariffs may be on the agenda.
It was reported a dip of 2 in the oil and gas rig count in the United States last week, bringing the total number of active oil and gas rigs to 1,052 (the number of active oil rigs decreasing by 2 to reach 861). The oil and gas rig count is now 116 up from this time last year.
The Yemeni Houthi rebels have detained 10 vessels, including fuel tankers, at the port of Hodeidah, and are preventing them from offloading their cargo. The vessels waiting to unload at Hodeidah, and some of them had been held up at the port for as long as six months. The port city is currently a battlefield between the Iran-backed Houthis and the coalition of Saudi and Emirati forces. Yemen’s oil reserves have been estimated at 3 billion barrels. Even before the start of the civil war, the country wasn’t a major oil producer, especially compared to the other countries in the Middle East.
Persisting uncertainties on both the supply and demand side are making the market and participants nervous. Fuel indexes could be more vulnerable than usual to hints, news, and comments until the U.S. sanctions on Iran return in four weeks. We assume bunker prices may change irregular next week.
All prices stated in USD / Mton
All time high Brent = $147.50 (July 11, 2008)
All time high Light crude (WTI) = $147.27 (July 11, 2008)
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