16-07-2018

High volatility in global bunker market, expert says

World oil indexes prices have demonstrated rather volatile fluctuations during the week: fears of the escalating U.S.-Chinese trade war and increased production by Saudi Arabia and Russia pulled against concerns over supply disruptions from Venezuela and Libya as well as the looming sanctions on Iran. However, despite a significant draw in U.S. inventories by nearly 13 million barrels, fuel indexes fell on Jul.11 as Libya restored production and the U.S. softened its stance regarding Iranian oil sanctions. At the moment there are some signs that the market is recouping some of heavy losses from the previous session.

MABUX World Bunker Index (consists of a range of prices for 380 HSFO, 180 HSFO and MGO at the main world hubs) resulted in insignificant irregular changes in the pe-riod of Jul.05 – Jul.12:

380 HSFO – down from 447.71 to 445,36 USD/MT (-2.35)
180 HSFO – up from 483.86 to 485,50 USD/MT (+1.64)
MGO – down from 680.79 to 678.29 USD/MT (-2.50)

Barclays raised its oil price forecasts for Brent Crude and WTI Crude for 2018 and 2019, and sees Brent Crude averaging $73 per barrel, and the U.S. benchmark averaging $65 a barrel next year, as it expects lower supply from Iran and Libya to further tighten the oil market. According to the bank, OPEC and Russia’s decision to reverse some of the production cuts would deplete the global spare capacity and push prices up, but OPEC’s leader Saudi Arabia, as well as Russia, would be making efforts to cap a big upside in oil prices because much higher prices would destroy oil demand growth.

U.S. tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods began on Jul.06, with retaliatory tariffs from China immediately implemented. China said the U.S. has now initiated the largest trade war in history. The escalation of the trade war is showing no signs of reaching a resolution and raising threats to global economic growth. Besides, a tariff of 25 percent on U.S. oil is under consideration in China. If that happens, Chinese demand would then shift to other suppliers driving oil/fuel prices further up (China is expected to import around 400,000 bpd from the U.S. in July).

Meantime, Russia also imposed extra duties of 25-40 percent on some imports from the United States in response to Washington’s tariff move. The extra duties will apply to imports of fiber optics, equipment for road construction, oil and gas industry, metal processing and mining. Be-fore it was declared that Russia will impose duties on goods which have Russian-made substitutes.

Despite of started trade war Goldman Sachs maintained its bullish outlook on commodities, arguing in a research note that the trade war will not derail rising prices. The investment bank predicted a 10 percent return on commodities over the next 12 months.

The Russian Finance Ministry has warned that the long-term equilibrium price level for crude oil is currently around US$50-60 a barrel, but actual prices are substantially higher than that and the current growth should be regarded as temporary. If oil prices continue to remain above long-term equilibrium levels, the price collapse will repeat again. The report, however, noted that the next price collapse could be avoided by boosting production in countries including the United States, Angola, Canada, and Brazil.

Saudi Arabia ramped up production in June to 10.5 million barrels per day, or an increase of 500,000 bpd from a month earlier. Saudi Arabia’s all-time record high stands at about 10.7 mil-lion bpd and it looks like the country is planning to breach that level this month. It also seems that Saudis follow President Trump’s several demands published in twitter last week for more production.

Libya saw its output fall to 700,000 bpd in June, down from 955,000 bpd in May. However, the standoff with General Khalid Haftar appeared to be on its way to some sort of resolution, with the militia handing the ports back over to the internationally-recognized NOC in Tripoli. As is always the case with Libya, the situation is fluid, and any return of production does not come with a guarantee that it will be sustained.

The Trump administration is pushing countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil from November when the U.S. reimposes sanctions against Tehran. Last month, the State Department toughened its stance, insisting that imports of Iranian crude be reduced to zero, which naturally boosted international prices further. Meantime, last comments from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to soften America’s position and opened up the possibility that the U.S. won’t take a zero tolerance policy towards countries importing oil from Iran, or that there could be some sort of phased implementation.

In such a situation world powers and Iran appeared to make no concrete breakthrough on Jul.06 in talks to provide Tehran with an economic package to compensate for U.S. sanctions. Ministers from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia met their Iranian counterpart in Vienna for the first time since U.S. President Donald Trump left a nuclear accord in May. Iranian officials have said that key for them is to ensure measures that guarantee oil exports do not halt, and that Tehran still has access to the SWIFT international bank payments messaging system or an alternative.

It was reported an increase in the number of active oil rigs in the United States last week. The overall rig count increased by 5 rigs, with all of that increase coming from oil rigs (bringing the total count to 863), the number of gas rigs stayed the same. The steady upward climb that U.S. oil production has been on throughout 2018 appears to have leveled off at 10.9 million bpd, where it has remained for five weeks now.

Syncrude Canada’s 350,000-bpd outage at its oil sands facility was expected to last through July, but restoration could take longer than expected. The facility could be brought back online in phases, and full output might not be achieved until September or October.

Still, we think that increased production may not be enough, and prices will be supported by the continuous drop of Venezuela’s and Iranian loss of exports. We expect bunker prices may continue slight upward evolution 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)

Source: Marine Bunker Exchange

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