The price spread between the world’s most traded crude oil blends and the most actively traded commodities in the world generally track one another, but divergences often reflect technical, supply/demand, or geopolitical issues. Over the course of history, the spread between Brent crude and WTI blends has grown, shrunk, crossed paths, and reversed again countless times. As a result of reduced U.S. pipeline constraints, ongoing OPEC+ production cuts, and China purchasing record amounts of WTI crude oil, the spread between Brent and WTI crude oil prices has begun to shrink close to zero. The future may hold a reversal giving WTI prices the upper hand.
When the coronavirus pandemic destroyed global crude oil demand, supply was slow to respond until dramatic actions were taken. Now, with demand picking up at a rapid rate, supply is again being outpaced by its counterpart drawing down crude oil inventories around the world. While global forecasting agencies and oil companies alike predict slow demand growth to pre-pandemic levels, the supply picture will continue to lag behind well into the foreseeable future.
COVID-19’s impact on the aviation industry has been significant, but the decrease in demand for jet fuel is a only drop in the crude oil bucket. With the media focusing so much of their attention on jet fuel decimation, market participants are associating this fact to the overall global demand picture. Until the media’s portrayal of oversupply in processed aviation fuels is corrected, the negative demand outlook for the oil industry as a whole cannot be fixed.
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As crude oil demand was decimated at the start of the global coronavirus pandemic, storage around the world began to rapidly fill causing commodity prices to tank. The supply and demand imbalance was corrected when producers came together to make global production cuts thus stabilizing prices. When economies began to restart and consumers began to leave their homes, demand started to climb to outpace supply. As storage levels began to fall, prices remained constant but when there was a tiny inventory build at the beginning of September, prices went into a freefall highlighting the growing disconnect between free market principles of supply and demand and emotion driving the actual price of crude oil. Instead of following commodity principles, pricing has become largely influenced by market sentiment.
The cost to produce a barrel of oil varies throughout the world and impacts the determination of global benchmark prices. If only a portion of global supply is economic at current commodity prices, global demand will be what influences the price floor. Once inventories are drawn down, supply/demand economics will drive up the price of oil to ensure supply can meet demand. Be sure to check out the periodical below for an in depth analysis of the economic price to produce a barrel of oil around the world, and why global demand will be the driver for oil prices to set a $55-60/bbl floor for the foreseeable future.
The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new age and as the world begins to adjust to the new normal, demand for commodities like oil and natural gas has and will continue to change. Due to lockdown orders and social distancing guidelines, many individuals altered their in person shopping habits to online ordering. As a result, the freight industry has been able to remain busy during the pandemic ensuring goods reach their final destination in a timely manner. This demand does not appear to be going away anytime soon. Part two of our four part series on post-COVID oil demand will investigate the change in global oil demand for fuel used in freight transportation.
Financial markets attempted to buoy benchmark prices as oil and gas markets became volatile in Q1 2020. This created a disconnect in the price spreads between the NYMEX WTI futures benchmark and regional spot prices. The disconnect continued to grow at the beginning of the year until it reached a tipping point in April when prices plunged. Ultimately supply and demand at the regional level through purchasers like storage companies, airlines, and refineries will be what control the true value of crude prices and bring the market back into equilibrium.
The dual black swan events of the COVID-19 pandemic and oil price war have created a unique analytical opportunity within petroleum products. As oil prices crashed, natural gas prices have largely remained unchanged due to the markets in which the commodities are used. Transportation which is the main use of oil has almost entirely stopped, whereas electricity generation and heating, the destination for most natural gases has remained similar to pre-2020 levels. Such modifications to consumption caused markets to go haywire and commodity prices to crash. With crude production cuts now occurring at a faster pace than anticipated and states lifting restrictions, supply and demand dynamics for liquids compared to natural gas has changed since April. As the United States begins returning to normal, an update to these commodity market assumptions is in order.
The worst of the coronavirus induced oil crash seems to have bottomed out as storage inventories saw fairly dramatic drawdowns in the final weeks of May, a reversal of events from the past several months. Such relief may be all but eliminated in the ensuing week as an influx of nearly fifty million barrels of foreign crude oil is about to reach the U.S. Gulf and West coasts. The volume of incoming crude may offset most of the production cuts generated by domestic operators and extend low oil prices until the inventories can be worked back down.
The dual black swan events of 2020 have thrown supply and demand far out of equilibrium but with China purchasing crude again and various parts of the United States starting to open back up, global oil demand is beginning to return. As the world begins to recover to pre-pandemic levels, market forces will support the shift back towards equilibrium just like the shift we are currently seeing in China.
Speculator sentiment towards future pricing of commodities can create a wedge between regional and benchmark prices even though they are based on the same supply-demand principles. As long as financial markets continue to buoy WTI futures, these price spreads will continue to widen.
The dual black swan events of the COVID-19 pandemic and oil price war have created a unique analytical opportunity within petroleum products as the strip price for natural gas is showing larger percentage increases than crude or NGLs because the market is pricing in the assumption that continued electricity demand will not fall as quickly as the oversupply of natural gas.
In this episode your host Tavis talks about, you guessed it, the virus. Huge drops in energy demand, no more nail salons for Nana, and the government asking a celebrity
In this episode your host Tavis talks about how he is out of toilet paper, supertankers are making BANK, and the Saudi Prince’s choice to detain friends and family. A