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Andrew Saks
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WTI and Brent Crude Oil

Those 55 miles per hour speed limits on the highway in the 1970s were largely down to shortages of supply and were designed to ensure less fuel was used by motorists as a result of war rather than for the purposes of road safety which they were largely perceived as.

Today, very little has changed, despite the substantial investment in renewable energy and alternative methods of generating motive power for everything from central heating to transport, and the value of the sticky black stuff is still inexorably dependent on the utterings of government leaders.

Over the past year, to consider oil to have been a volatile commodity is an understatement, its value having dropped into negative equity around one year ago for the first time in history, and the ensuing lockdowns and travel bans having created lower prices in the Western markets whilst demand in South and South East Asia has remained very high.

Today, crude oil is absolutely under the microscope. Even the OPEC countries are publicly discussing its immediate future, with Ihsan Abdul Jabbar, the Oil Minister of Iraq, OPEC’s second largest producer, noted that oil could probably remain around US$65 a barrel.

Standard data is scheduled for release within the next 24 hours in the United States, in the form of the weekly inventories from the American Petroleum Institute, which will be compared to the unexpected climb last week to 90,000 barrels, however this is a bland, routine spreadsheet exercise.

The matter of real interest is that commercial consumers and distributors will likely be assessing a huge increase in purchasing refined petroleum products such as gasoline for cars, and perhaps more specifically, kerosene for aircraft, meaning that more crude oil will be bought by refineries, as the perpetually locked down European Union and its Trans-Atlantic neighbours on the entire North American continent begin to lift travel restrictions.

A combination of pent-up will to travel after a year of blocked borders and a desperate travel industry wanting to regenerate its lost earnings would result in skies full of aircraft, especially as the summer begins and the lure of cut-price tourism gives those seeking refuge from the four walls of constraint.

Companies such as Wizz Air, easyJet and Ryanair have all been advertising cheap flights recently, and have been targeting members of the public who would look to fly within Europe as soon as the travel ban is lifted. This means lots of reservations and therefore a demand for fuel.

The European Commission put forward a proposal on Monday this week to expand the list of countries whose citizens may visit the European Union for nonessential reasons and its president, Ursula von der Leyen tweeted “Time to revive EU tourism industry & for cross-border friendships to rekindle – safely. We propose to welcome again vaccinated visitors & those from countries with a good health situation.”

The decision to lift further restrictions for tourism and non-essential travel will be up to the member states and the proposal was discussed at length yesterday.

India has been a huge consumer of oil in recent weeks, and despite Iraq’s oil minister’s predictions, there is speculation within India that it may rise to $80 by the summer of this year, substantially higher than Mr Abdul Jabbar’s prediction of $65.

India, the world’s third-largest oil importer, has increased its use so dramatically recently that OPEC+, out of its own necessity, has intervened in the oil market on the supply side of the equation to offset the oil demand.

As of April 6, the EIA saw global oil demand at 97.7 million bpd this year. Compared to Brent prices that were near $65 per barrel in March, the EIA sees not much movement in the price of Brent, estimating $65/barrel in Q2 2021, $61 per barrel in H2 2021, and even worse–$60 per barrel in 2022.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has overseen a global oil demand at 97.7 million barrels per day this year as of April 6, the EIA Compared to Brent prices that were near $65 per barrel in March, the EIA sees not much movement in the price of Brent, estimating $65/barrel in Q2 2021, $61 per barrel in H2 2021, and even worse–$60 per barrel in 2022, which is a contrasting forecast to what the market analysts and OPEC commentators are expecting!

Such diverging views is a clear sign that volatility is likely to remain for some time yet.

Go figure!

Andrew Saks, Head of Research and Analysis at ETX Capital


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