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The Oil Price – Some (Mar-16) Observations and Thoughts

In this post I present some selected parameters I monitor which may help understand near term (2-3 years) oil price movements and levels.

It has been my understanding for some time that the formulations of fiscal and monetary policies also affects the commodities markets. Changes to total global debt has and will continue to affect consumers’/societies’ affordability and thus also the price formation of oil.

I have earlier asserted;

Any forecasts of oil (and gas) demand/supplies and oil price trajectories are NOT very helpful if they do not incorporate forecasts for changes to total global credit/debt, interest rates and developments to consumers’/societies’ affordability.

  • The permanence of the global supply overhang could be prolonged if consumption/demand developments soften/weakens and it is not possible to rule out a near term decline.
  • Recent demand/consumption data for total US petroleum products supplied show signs of saturation which provides headwinds for any upwards movements in the oil price.
  • While prices were high many oil companies went deeper into debt in a bid to increase production of costlier oil. Many responded to the price collapse with attempts to sustain/grow production in efforts to moderate cash flow declines and thus ease debt service.
  • If the forward [futures] curve moves from a present weak contango (ref also figure 02) to backwardation, this would erode support for the oil price.
  • Some suggest that growth from India will take over as China’s growth slows.
    Looking at the data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) there is nothing there that now suggests India (refer also figure 05) has started to accelerate its debt expansion. The Indian Rupee has depreciated versus the US dollar, thus offsetting some of the stimulative consumption effects from a lower oil price.

The recent weeks oil price volatility has likely been influenced by several factors like short squeezes, rumors and fluid sentiments.

Near term factors that likely will move the oil price higher.

  • Continued growth in debt primarily in China and the US. {This will go on until it cannot!}
  • Another round with concerted efforts of the major central banks with lower interest rates and quantitative easing.

And/or

  • A tightening in the global oil demand/supply balance from whatever reasons.

I also believe that D E M A N D (consumption) developments now are more important than widely recognized and that demand/consumption developments will play a major factor in as from when oil prices will regain support to move to a sustainable higher level.

I now hold it 90% probable that the oil price will enter a new leg down, and that the low in January 2016 could be taken out.

Recently the total US petroleum demand growth had two components

  1. Growth in consumption, mainly driven by the collapse of the oil price
  2. Noticeable growth in petroleum stocks (primarily crude oil) since late 2014 driven by a favorable contango.

The combined effects from these grew annualized US petroleum demand by 1.3 Mb/d relative to January 2014 (ref also figure 01). US consumption growth has now stalled, which may suggest saturation from the lower oil price is about to be reached.

Figure 01: The chart above shows development in annualized [52 weeks moving averages] US total petroleum consumption [blue line] and storage build [red line] both rh scale. The black line, lh scale, shows development in the oil price (WTI). Consumption and storage developments are relative to Janaury 2014 (baseline). NOTE, changes in consumption and stocks are stacked, thus the red line also shows total annualized changes in demand.

Figure 01: The chart above shows development in annualized [52 weeks moving averages] US total petroleum consumption [blue line] and storage build [red line] both rh scale. The black line, lh scale, shows development in the oil price (WTI). Consumption and storage developments are relative to Janaury 2014 (baseline).
NOTE, changes in consumption and stocks are stacked, thus the red line also shows total annualized changes in demand.

In the last 6 months total US petroleum consumption developments have stalled and there are some relative changes amongst the products (ref below).

A weakened contango (ref also figure 02) will likely reduce demand for storage.

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The Oil Price and EMEs growth in Credit and Petroleum Consumption since 2000

In this post I present a closer look at the credit growth for 6 Emerging Market Economies (EME) together with the developments in their and the net oil exporters petroleum consumption for the period 2000 to 2014.

The 6 EMEs are; Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

  • Where did the lion’s share of growth in global petroleum consumption end up since 2000?
  • What was the likely mechanism/vehicle that allowed for this?

This post is an update and expansion to my post “Changes in Total Global Credit Affect The Oil Price”

  • The credit growth for the EMEs was strong in absolute and relative terms (also as a percentage of GDP) since 2009. As from 2013 the EMEs credit growth slowed (decelerated).
  • The EMEs credit growth gained momentum as the big central banks lowered interest rates and started Quantitative Easings (QE), refer also figures 02 and 04.
  • As the EMEs enter debt saturation (little room left on their balance sheets {little remaining quality collateral} to take on more credit/debt) expect this to affect their consumption and their potential to pay for higher priced oil.
  • Potential for continued [global] credit growth will for some time become one of the vital factors that define the sustainable ceiling for the oil price.
  • Demand is what one can pay for. In other words, demand is monetary in nature. Credit acts as money and adds to aggregate demand.
    Credit growth also made it possible to bid up and pay for higher priced oil during the recent years.
  • If the oil price, for whatever combination of reasons, moves to a sustainable higher level, it should be expected that those who are left with limited/no access to more credit will reduce their consumption/demand for oil.

Figure 01: The stacked areas in the chart show the growth in petroleum consumption for the 6 EMEs and the net oil exporters from 2000 to 2014 [2000 has been used as a baseline]. Total growth for the 6 EMEs are shown by the black dotted line. The red dashed line shows the change in total global petroleum consumption since 2000. [These are shown versus the right axis]. The development in the oil price is shown by yellow circles connected by a grey line versus the left axis.

Figure 01: The stacked areas in the chart show the growth in petroleum consumption for the 6 EMEs and the net oil exporters from 2000 to 2014 [2000 has been used as a baseline]. Total growth for the 6 EMEs are shown by the black dotted line.
The red dashed line shows the change in total global petroleum consumption since 2000. [These are shown versus the right axis].
The development in the oil price is shown by yellow circles connected by a grey line versus the left axis.

The chart above shows several interesting developments.

  • The strong growth in petroleum consumption from the 6 EMEs and net oil exporters since 2000.
  • Early in the previous decade the OECD countries also grew their petroleum consumption as a response to central banks’ lowered interest rates that allowed for further credit expansion [kicking the can until there is no more road left].
  • A shift occurred post the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008.
    The 6 EMEs and net exporters outbid OECD (and others) for a portion of their petroleum consumption.
    (This is shown by the growth in global petroleum consumption [the red dotted line] which since 2008 did not fully meet growth in consumption from the 6 EMEs and net oil exporters.
    The 6 EMEs and the net oil exporters increased their total petroleum consumption with 17.1 Mb/d (from 26.7 Mb/d in 2000 to 43.7 Mb/d in 2014), while global consumption grew by 15.2 Mb/d to 92.1 Mb/d.
  • OECD reduced its petroleum consumption from 48.0 Mb/d (2008) to 45.1 Mb/d (2014).
    OECD countries slowed and/or reversed credit expansion (deleveraged [default is one way to deleverage]) and introduced austerity measures in a bid to manage their credit overhang.
  • The net oil exporters (countries/regions) that saw noticeable growth in their petroleum consumption in the period are; Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan and the regions Middle East and Africa. There are other small net oil exporters like Denmark, Trinidad&Tobago which had small changes to their petroleum consumption.
  • Indonesia became a net petroleum importer as of 2003 and Malaysia as of 2011.

The net oil exporters spent some of the increased revenues from higher priced oil for social programs to improve living standards and as leverage for increased investments to sustain and/or grow oil supplies (which require energy!) for what looked like a sustained growth in demand/consumption that would support a lasting high oil price.

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Written by Rune Likvern

Saturday, 5 September, 2015 at 19:01

World Crude Oil Production and the Oil Price, August 2015

In this post I present some of my observations and thoughts about the developments in the oil price, supply and demand, exchange rates (relative to the US dollar), petroleum stocks and what near term factors are likely to influence the oil price.

  • The price of oil (and other commodities) appears to have been influenced by the central banks’ policies post the GFC of 2008 (Global Financial Crisis, primarily the Fed as the US dollar is the world’s major reserve currency) with low interest rates which allowed for growth in total global credit/debt.
  • As the Fed confirmed its end of QE3 (QE; Quantitative Easing) program by the fall of 2014, the oil price started to decline. This decline became amplified by an oversupply resulting from years of debt fueled high capital expenditures by the oil companies to develop supplies of costlier oil for the market to meet expectations of growth in consumption.
  • With the end of QE3 the US dollar rapidly appreciated versus most other major currencies, which offset some of the decline in the oil price in most economies (oil is priced in US dollar), the exceptions being the US and China (which has its currency pegged to the US dollar).
  • Demand and consumption of oil (actual data so far only for the US) responded to the price collapse by some growth. However the world’s growth has not been sufficient to close the gap between supplies and consumption, thus sustaining a downward pressure on the oil price.
  • The oil price collapse motivated oil companies with low variable costs (OPEX) to compensate some of the loss of cash flow by increasing their production (volumes), thus creating a dynamic where growing supplies went looking for demand.
  • The oil price collapse and a period with a favorable contango spread incentivized a strong build in stocks and as stocks remain at elevated levels, it may take some time before stocks return to “normal” levels.

Figure 1: The chart above shows the developments in the oil price [Brent spot, black line. The red line is the smoothed one year moving average] and the time of central banks’ announcements/deployments of available monetary tools to support the global financial markets which the economy relies heavily upon. The financial system is virtual and thus highly responsive. NOTE: The chart suggests some causation between FED policies and movements to the oil price. The US dollar is the world’s major reserve currency and most currencies are joined to it at the hip.

Figure 1: The chart above shows the developments in the oil price [Brent spot, black line. The red line is the smoothed one year moving average] and the time of central banks’ announcements/deployments of available monetary tools to support the global financial markets which the economy relies heavily upon. The financial system is virtual and thus highly responsive.
NOTE: The chart suggests some causation between FED policies and movements to the oil price. The US dollar is the world’s major reserve currency and most currencies are joined to it at the hip.

The big unknown is how demand will develop. A global economy struggling with too much debt while running out of quality collateral will at some point experience the drags from growth in the services of the growing total debt. Continued growth in global credit/debt will increasingly be directed towards the services of the growing total amount of debt (kicking the can down the road as the economic productivity from additional credit/debt diminishes).

  • As growth in global credit/debt slows, comes to halt or deleveraging sets in, this will affect demand and prices, also for oil.

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Are We In The Midst Of An Epic Battle Between Interest Rates And The Oil Price?

What follows are the continuance of my research, discussions, observations and thoughts around the nexus of debts, interest rates and the oil price.
I now believe these relations are poorly understood and with total global debt levels at all time highs (and growing), years of low interest rates, which are kept low (by concerted efforts by central banks) while the oil price in recent months has collapsed may hide a SIGNAL that struggles with attention from too much noise.

  • A collapsing oil price while interest rates remain low is likely the proverbial canary.

Global Crude Oil Supplies, The Oil Price And Interest Rates

Figure 1: The green area [left hand axis] in the chart above shows the world’s development of crude oil and condensates supplies between 1980 and 2013. The pink line shows the development in the interest rate (yield) for US 10 Year Treasuries [right hand axis]. The price of oil (Brent), black line nominal, yellow line inflation adjusted in $2013 [both right hand axis]. NOTE: The oil price has been divided by 10 to accommodate it on the same scale as the interest rate [right hand axis]. The US 10 Year Treasury (US10T) interest rate has been in decline and is presently around 2.0%.

Figure 1: The green area [left hand axis] in the chart above shows the world’s development of crude oil and condensates supplies between 1980 and 2013.
The pink line shows the development in the interest rate (yield) for US 10 Year Treasuries [right hand axis].
The price of oil (Brent), black line nominal, yellow line inflation adjusted in $2013 [both right hand axis].
NOTE: The oil price has been divided by 10 to accommodate it on the same scale as the interest rate [right hand axis].
The US 10 Year Treasury (US10T) interest rate has been in decline and is presently around 2.0%.

Cause and effects amongst the oil price and interest rates are of course subject to (some informed and gripping) discussions.

  • The price of oil appears to have been the leading indicator.
  • Any (small) increase to the interest rate now will likely affect demand for oil and thus its price, thus further slowing investments for new supplies.

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Growth in Global Total Debt sustained a High Oil Price and delayed the Bakken “Red Queen”

The saying is that hindsight (always) provides 20/20 vision.

In this post I present a retrospective look at my prediction from 2012 published on The Oil Drum (The “Red Queen” series) where I predicted that Light Tight Oil (LTO) extraction from Bakken in North Dakota would not move much above 0.7 Mb/d.

  • Profitable drilling in Bakken for LTO extraction has been, is and will continue to be dependent on an oil price above a certain threshold, now about $68/Bbl at the wellhead (or around $80/Bbl [WTI]) on a point forward basis.
    (The profitability threshold depends on the individual well’s productivity and companies’ return requirements.)
  • Complete analysis of developments to LTO extraction should encompass the resilience of the oil companies’ balance sheets and their return requirements.

Figure 01: The chart above shows development in Light Tight Oil (LTO) extraction from January 2009 and as of August 2014 in Bakken North Dakota [green area, right hand scale]. The top black line is the price of Western Texas Intermediate (WTI), red middle line the Bakken LTO price (sweet) as published by the Director for NDIC and bottom orange line the spread between WTI and Bakken LTO wellhead all left hand scale. The spread between WTI and Bakken wellhead has widened in the recent months.

Figure 01: The chart above shows development in Light Tight Oil (LTO) extraction from January 2009 and as of August 2014 in Bakken North Dakota [green area, right hand scale]. The top black line is the price of Western Texas Intermediate (WTI), red middle line the Bakken LTO price (sweet) as published by the Director for NDIC and bottom orange line the spread between WTI and Bakken LTO wellhead all left hand scale. The spread between WTI and Bakken wellhead has widened in the recent months.

What makes extraction from source rock in Bakken attractive (as in profitable) is/was the high oil price and cheap debt (low interest rates). The Bakken formation has been known for decades and fracking is not a new technology, though it has seen and is likely to see lots of improvements.

LTO extraction in Bakken (and in other plays like Eagle Ford) happened due to a higher oil price as it involves the deployment of expensive technologies which again is at the mercy of:

  • Consumers affordability, that is their ability to continue to pay for more expensive oil
  • Changes in global total debt levels (credit expansion), like the recent years rapid credit expansion in emerging economies, primarily China.
  • Central banks’ policies, like the recent years’ expansions of their balance sheets and low interest rate policies
    • Credit/debt is a vehicle for consumers to pay (create demand) for a product/service
    • Credit/debt is also used by companies to generate supplies to meet changes to demand
    • What companies in reality do is to use expectations of future cash flows (from consumers’ abilities to take on more debt) as collateral to themselves go deeper into debt.
    • Credit/debt, thus works both sides of the supply/demand equation
  • How OPEC shapes their policies as responses to declines in the oil price
    Will OPEC establish and defend a price floor for the oil price?

I have recently and repeatedly pointed out;

  • Any forecasts of oil (and gas) demand/supplies and oil price trajectories are NOT very helpful if they do not incorporate forecasts for changes to total global credit/debt, interest rates and developments to consumers’/societies’ affordability.

Oil is a global commodity which price is determined in the global marketplace.

Added liquidity and low interest rates provided by the world’s dominant central bank, the Fed, has also played some role in the developments in LTO extraction from the Bakken formation in North America.

As numerous people repeatedly have said; “Never bet against the Fed!” to which I will add “…and China’s determination to expand credit”.

Let me be clear, I do not believe that the Fed’s policies have been aimed at supporting developments in Bakken (or other petroleum developments) this is in my opinion unintended consequences.

In Bakken two factors helped grow and sustain a high number of well additions (well manufacturing);

  • A high(er) oil price
  • Growing use of cheap external funding (primarily debt)

In the summer of 2012 I found it hard to comprehend what would sustain the oil price above $80/Bbl (WTI).

The mechanisms that supported the high oil price was well understood, what lacked was documentation from authoritative sources about the scale of the continued accommodative policies from major central banks’ (balance sheet expansions [QE] and low interest rate policies) and as important; global total credit expansion, which in recent years was driven by China and other emerging economies.

I have described more about this in my post World Crude Oil Production and the Oil Price.

 

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