Crude Oil Price Movements
In March, the OPEC Reference Basket (ORB) increased by less than 0.5% to $63.76/b. Oil futures ended about 1% higher in a relatively volatile month, following US equity market movements and supported by robust oil demand growth forecasts, tightening US crude stocks and geopolitical tensions. ICE Brent was 99¢, or 1.5%, higher at $66.72/b from the previous month, while NYMEX WTI gained 59¢, or 0.9%, to average $62.77/b. Year-to-date, ICE Brent was $12.66 higher at $67.23/b. The NYMEX WTI/ICE Brent spread widened slightly month-on-month, as the steep inventory declines in Cushing, Oklahoma, subsided. Hedge funds increased net long positions in ICE Brent and NYMEX WTI in March to 1.08 million contracts. For the month, the Dubai structure flipped back into contango, while Brent and WTI structure remained in backwardation, albeit at a reduced level.
The global GDP growth forecast remains at 3.8% for both 2017 and 2018. Expected US growth in 2018 is unchanged from the previous month at 2.7%, after growth of 2.3% in 2017. Growth in the Euro-zone was revised up to 2.3% in 2018, following growth of 2.5% in 2017. Japan’s 2018 growth forecast remains at 1.5%, after actual growth of 1.7% in 2017. India’s and China’s 2018 GDP growth forecasts remain unchanged at 7.2% and 6.5%, respectively, following 2017 GDP growth of 6.3% and 6.9%.
World Oil Demand
World oil demand growth for 2017 was adjusted higher by around 30 tb/d to 1.65 mb/d, mainly to account for up-to-date data in both OECD and non-OECD regions. Total world oil demand is now pegged at 97.07 mb/d for the year. Similarly, world oil demand growth in 2018 was revised higher by 30 tb/d, compared to last month’s report, to now stand at 1.63 mb/d. This mainly reflects the positive momentum in the OECD in the 1Q18 on the back of better-than-expected data, and supported by development in industrial activities, colderthan-anticipated weather and strong mining activities in the OECD Americas and the OECD Asia Pacific. In the non-OECD region, Other Asia saw an upward revision of 30 tb/d in the 1Q18 as a result of better-thanexpected demand in the industrial and transportation sectors in the first two months of the year. In contrast, oil demand growth was adjusted lower by 30 tb/d in the 1Q18 in the Middle East region. This mainly reflects slower-than-expected regional oil demand developments. Total world oil demand for the year is forecast to average 98.70 mb/d.
World Oil Supply
Non-OPEC supply for 2017 was revised up by 0.03 mb/d, mainly due to updated Canadian production data, to now show growth of 0.9 mb/d for the year. For 2018, non-OPEC supply was also revised up by 0.08 mb/d from the previous month’s assessment, to now show growth of 1.71 mb/d year-on-year. This is on the back of higher-than-expected output in the 1Q18, mainly in the FSU and the US, as well as some upward adjustments elsewhere. Non-OPEC supply is now estimated to average 59.61 mb/d for 2018. OPEC NGLs and non-conventional liquids’ production is estimated to grow by 0.18 mb/d year-on-year to average 6.49 mb/d in 2018. In March, OPEC crude production decreased by 201 tb/d to average 31.96 mb/d, according to secondary sources.
Product Markets and Refining Operations
Product markets in the Atlantic Basin exhibited strong gains during March, strengthening sharply amid the onset of the spring refinery maintenance season. In the US, support came from higher gasoline demand, gasoline price adjustments from the winter-to-summer Reid Vapour Pressure (RVP) grade switch, and higher gasoline drawdowns. In Europe, product markets strengthened, supported by higher middle distillate demand and tighter middle distillate inventories. Meanwhile, product markets in Asia weakened slightly, with losses seen across the barrel due to lower arbitrage opportunities, and lower heating requirements.
Average dirty tanker spot freight rates were flat in March. Generally, dirty tanker rates were depressed for all classes despite some relative gains for Suezmax from a month earlier. Weak freight rates were registered on all major trading routes as the market continues to suffer from tonnage oversupply, while the level of activities remains insufficient to relieve the imbalance. Moreover, reduced delays and fleet expansions pressured freight rates in March. In the clean tanker market, average freight rates declined slightly affected by weaker rates in the direction West of Suez.
Preliminary data for February shows that total OECD commercial oil stocks fell by 17.4 mb to stand at 2,854 mb, which is 43 mb above the latest five-year average. Crude stocks indicated a surplus of 55 mb, while product stocks saw a deficit of 12 mb below the five-year average. In terms of days of forward cover, OECD commercial stocks rose in February to stand at 60.6 days, which is 0.6 days lower than the latest five-year average.
Balance of Supply and Demand
In 2017, demand for OPEC crude is estimated to stand at 32.9 mb/d, 0.6 mb/d higher than the 2016 level. In 2018, demand for OPEC crude is forecast at 32.6 mb/d, 0.3 mb/d lower than in 2017.
Source: OPECPrevious Next
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