Goldman: For peek into oil market’s future, go back to 1990s

  • Business
  • Wednesday, 10 Apr 2019

Revised upward: An employee stands on an oil storage tank against a backdrop of cracking towers in an oil refinery in Szazhalombatta, Hungary. Goldman has raised its second-quarter forecast for global benchmark Brent crude to US$72.50 a barrel from US$65. — Bloomberg

SINGAPORE: The future of the oil market may resemble the past – specifically the 1990s – according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

That’s when prices remained steadily in backwardation, a market structure where near-term futures are costlier than later contracts – reflecting tight supplies in the present and ample barrels further out, analysts including Damien Courvalin wrote in a report.

The phenomenon may persist as Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) exits its current output cuts aimed at averting a global glut, adding supply back to the market in a move that would weigh on long-dated prices, Goldman said. That will maintain backwardation and lead US shale drillers to limit activity, according to the bank.

“We view this as the most compelling outcome for Opec, and the market structure most likely to be sustainable,” the analysts wrote in the report. “But having been waiting for this shift since 2016, we are not yet ready to base case it, even though the maturing shale producer landscape should eventually help achieve it.”

Goldman also raised its second-quarter forecast for global benchmark Brent crude to US$72.50 a barrel from US$65, and said a rally that’s taken prices over US$70 is reflective of a larger deficit than it predicted. Opec’s cuts, an acceleration in global economic activity, tighter US oil sanctions on producers such as Iran and an only moderate gain in shale production will continue to squeeze supplies through 2019, according to the bank.

Brent futures in London traded little changed at US$71.18 a barrel as of 12:50pm Singapore time yesterday. West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the US benchmark, was up 0.2% at US$64.53 a barrel in New York.

While a risk-on investor sentiment and the threat of disruptions may drive spot prices even higher, Goldman expects them to decline gradually from this summer as production from shale fields and the Opec increases. “We therefore find more compelling opportunities for corporates and investors in timespreads, differentials and product cracks,” the analysts wrote.

Unlike last year, there is well identified global spare production capacity at the moment, the bank said. Further, new pipeline and export capacity will connect the Permian – the cheapest and largest shale basin in America – to the global market by this fall, according to Goldman. — Bloomberg

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