Crude ended the week on a high note — with Brent closing above $67/ barrel and WTI above $63 — as sentiment in the global financial markets continued to recover from a fresh jolt Wednesday. US stocks gained the most at Friday’s market close after equities in Europe and Asia made modest recoveries. However, stocks remain vulnerable to volatility and more sell-off, which we expect to be mirrored in crude. Bullish bets by speculators in ICE Brent and NYMEX WTI crude futures dropped consistently from a record high in the two weeks to February 20 but remain well above historical norms.
Crude began reconnecting with its own fundamentals this week as the financial markets appeared to be consolidating after the previous two weeks’ extreme volatility. But the unease around inflation and interest rates, which maintained pressure on equities, was a driver in the crude markets too. This was especially evident in the intraday price movements of Brent and WTI futures round the clock, which were often in sync with the movements in the respective region’s stock indexes.
Understanding the ongoing relationship between the turmoil that racked the financial markets across the world starting February 2 and crude prices is important. As long as the financial markets remain volatile — current signals suggest continued turbulence — we see the linkage remaining intact. That means looking at just the usual oil price drivers will yield only part of the picture. The US dollar has re-established a strong inverse correlation with crude prices since December and will also be buffeted by the shifting expectations on interest rate hikes. That offers another reason to keep a close watch on the financial markets.
Fears over a more hawkish Fed re-emerged following the release Wednesday of the minutes of the January Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The minutes showed several members of the Fed policy-making body had revised up their forecasts for economic growth in the US and elsewhere in the near term compared with their outlook in the December 2017 meeting. The market interpreted that as bullish and confirming expectations of three quarter-point interest rate hikes by the Fed through 2018.
The benchmark US 2-year Treasury yield closed at 2.26% Wednesday, its highest in nearly a decade, and the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average indexes tumbled. The dollar closed at its highest level in a week. Brent settled a mild 17 cents higher on the day, while WTI eased 22 cents.
Crude climbed 1.5-1.8% Thursday after the US Energy Information Administration reported a surprise decline of nearly 1.62 million barrels in commercial crude inventories in the country for the week to February 16. However, Brent and WTI futures were alternating between green and red in intraday trading Friday, moving in step with the mood in each region’s stock markets, before being led to a strong finish by a rally in the US stocks.
Understand the mechanics of oil pricing. Learn how global benchmark oil prices are set and how that information percolates down to the price tag at the petrol pump.
Attend "What Determines the Price of Oil" - https://goo.gl/fz3YrL with Vandana Hari this March 2018 in Singapore
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The amount of natural gas held in storage in 2019 went from a relatively low value of 1,155 billion cubic feet (Bcf) at the beginning of April to 3,724 Bcf at the end of October because of near-record injection activity during the natural gas injection, or refill, season (April 1–October 31). Inventories as of October 31 were 37 Bcf higher than the previous five-year end-of-October average, according to interpolated values in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report.
Although the end of the natural gas storage injection season is traditionally defined as October 31, injections often occur in November. Working natural gas stocks ended the previous heating season at 1,155 Bcf on March 31, 2019—the second-lowest level for that time of year since 2004. The 2019 injection season included several weeks with relatively high injections: weekly changes exceeded 100 Bcf nine times in 2019. Certain weeks in April, June, and September were the highest weekly net injections in those months since at least 2010.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report
From April 1 through October 31, 2019, more than 2,569 Bcf of natural gas was placed into storage in the Lower 48 states. This volume was the second-highest net injected volume for the injection season, falling short of the record 2,727 Bcf injected during the 2014 injection season. In 2014, a particularly cold winter left natural gas inventories in the Lower 48 states at 837 Bcf—the lowest level for that time of year since 2003.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 4 November 2019 – Brent: US$62/b; WTI: US$56/b
Headlines of the week
South Sudan was officially recognized as an independent nation state in July 2011 following a referendum held in January 2011. The South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession, which led to Sudan losing 75% of its oil reserves to South Sudan. Although South Sudan now controls a substantial number of the oil–producing fields, it is dependent on Sudan for transporting oil through its pipelines for processing and export. The transit and processing fees South Sudan must pay to Sudan to transport its crude oil are an important revenue stream for Sudan.
After an agreement was reached on the transit dispute that led to a temporary shutdown of crude oil production, the governments of Sudan and South Sudan shifted their focus from border conflicts to the mitigation of their respective domestic opposition factions. The domestic political dynamics and the security situations in both countries will continue to be a potential risk for disrupting the countries’ oil supplies and exports.
In Sudan, the economic shock of the secession has had a significant effect on the economy, which has been hurt by economic mismanagement, corruption, and unsustainably high levels of spending on the military. The partial lifting of U.S. sanctions on Sudan in October 2017 has allowed for increased foreign investment, but Sudan has made little progress toward developing the upstream sector. In August 2019, Sudan’s military and civilian leaders signed a power-sharing deal that paved the way for a transitional government led by Abdalla Hamdok, an economist, to take power in the hope this government would address the country’s problems. However, Sudan remains on the U.S. government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, which prevents the country from receiving debt relief through the World Bank-International Monetary Fund’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC).
In South Sudan, President Salva Kiir and the leader of the main opposition faction, Riek Machar, reached a peace agreement in September 2018, which led to reduced violence from the civil war in South Sudan. Although the peace agreement indicates progress, whether the agreement will bring prolonged stability and an inclusive and stable form of governance is unclear. The current agreement is similar to the previous one, which was signed in 2016 and collapsed after two months, and the current iteration does not address crucial elements such as power sharing between the factions and security arrangements that would allow Machar to safely return from exile. Without significant progress in improving the security and political environment, South Sudan’s ability to attract investors and restart production at its fields to increase production will be limited.
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