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MABUX: Bunker prices may continue upward trend next week

World oil indexes changed irregular in the beginning of the week but then turned into upward trend on concerns about outages in Iran and turmoil in Libya and Iraq, although that bullish sentiment was offset by ongoing concerns about emerging markets. Also, a boost for prices is Hurricane Florence—a Category 4 hurricane that is expected to hit the U.S. this week.

MABUX World Bunker Index (consists of a range of prices for 380 HSFO, 180 HSFO and MGO at the main world hubs), demonstrated irregular changes in the period of Sep.06 – Sep.13:

380 HSFO – up from 439.00 to 448.79 USD/MT (+9.79)
180 HSFO – up from 487.14 to 494.86 USD/MT (+7.72)
MGO – down from 710.57 to 709.43 USD/MT (-1.14)

Barclays revised up its medium-term oil price forecast for 2020 from $55 to $75 per barrel, and for 2025 from $70 to $80. The investment bank noted several major changes since last year’s forecast, including ongoing capital discipline in the oil industry, cohesive market management from OPEC+, more aggressive sanctions from the U.S., and the catastrophic production de-clines in several OPEC countries.

Hurricane Florence, which is moving towards the U.S. Gulf Coast, helped push fuel prices higher. Unlike the 2017 hurricane season that caused serious production outages in the Gulf of Mexico and at Gulf Coast refineries, this year’s hurricanes are thought to be fewer and weaker. But still, any hurricane approaching the U.S. coast will affect prices in the current volatile state of the market, with demand concerns adding to the already high geopolitical risk premium.

The Trump administration is potentially moving forward on some $200 billion in tariffs. That would surely spark a response from China, and the back-and-forth retaliatory trade attacks could decelerate global growth. Also, China, specifically, is a major consumer of oil and one of the largest sources of demand growth, so a slowdown there could also undercut oil/fuel demand forecasts.

OPEC and its non-OPEC partners hope to formalize a cooperative agreement at the next meeting in December. The move would be a way of institutionalizing the ongoing production cut agreement that began in early 2017, and provide a framework for indefinite cooperation.

Iran’s oil exports are falling much faster than most forecasts had predicted. Banks are backing away from involvement in the trade of Iranian oil, and shippers are having trouble finding insurance for cargoes. European refiners, despite political support for Tehran in Brussels, have al-ready moved to sharply cut purchases of Iranian crude. Various estimates point to a loss of 500,000 bpd or even more than 1 million bpd. According to ship tracking data, Iranian oil and condensate exports fell below 2.1 million bpd in August—the lowest levels since March 2016, with crude oil exports at their lowest since January this year.

Meantime, China imported Iranian crude at an average daily rate of 874,000 barrels last month. China has said it will continue to do business as usual with Iran, including in oil, despite a promise that Beijing officials made to a U.S. delegation last month that Chinese refiners will not increase their intake of Iranian crude further. As for how Chinese refiners would continue buying crude from Iran without attracting sanctions from the Department of Treasury, one way would be by using tankers owned and insured by the National Iranian Oil Company. Another, less public way would be to accept illegal shipments that Iran has suggested it could resort to under sanctions.

Last week, rioters burned down several buildings in Basra, a major city in Southern Iraq and home to most of the country’s oil production. Despite its oil riches, southern Iraq remains deeply unequal, which has caused resentment among the population even as international companies continue to ramp up production. The violence adds Iraq to the growing list of unstable OPEC countries that has rattled the oil market.

In another troubling development, several gunmen attacked the headquarters of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) in Tripoli on Sep.10 and rockets were fired at the only functioning air-port in the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Sep.12.The renewed violence threatens once again Libya’s oil industry that has just been recovering from the attack on oil ports in June and a subsequent port blockade that reduced significantly Libyan oil shipments in June and July. As of the end of August, Libya’s oil production held at around 1 million bpd for several weeks.

Currently, U.S. shale growth is one of the most overlooked supply-side factors, that will likely offset many of the losses from production problems elsewhere in the short term. As per IEA, U.S. tight oil production is forecast to grow by a record 1.3 million bpd to over 5.7 million bpd, due to increased investment in 2017 and 2018. OPEC in turn expects U.S. tight oil production to grow by 1.22 million bpd on a yearly basis, to average 5.91 million bpd in 2018, unchanged from last month’s assessment. The big question is for how long U.S. tight oil growth can offset declining production in other parts of the world.

Goldman Sachs expects scrubbed high-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) consumption to be a total of 1.0 million barrels per day by 2020 and 1.4 million bpd by 2025. According to the investment banking company, the global shipping industry burned a total of 3.3 million barrels per day of high-sulphur marine fuels in 2017. Scrubber orders from high-profile shipping companies in recent months has seen forecasters adjust initial outlook revisions. As per Bank, at an 80% compliance rate it is expected that the market can reach equilibrium at a distillate-HSFO spread near current forwards.

We expect bunker prices will turn into 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 Exchanges

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