Shilling : “Oil is headed for $10 to $20 a barrel.”

If crude’s slump back to a six-year low looks bad, it’s even worse when you reflect that summer is supposed to be peak season for oil.

U.S. crude futures have lost 30 percent since the start of June, set for the biggest drop since the West Texas Intermediate crude contract started trading in 1983. That beats the summer plunges during the global financial crisis of 2008, the Asian economic slump in 1998 and the global supply glut of 1986.

It even surpasses the decline of 2011, when prices fell as much as 21 percent over the summer as the U.S. and other large oil-importing nations released 60 million barrels of oil from emergency stockpiles to make up for the disruption of Libyan exports during the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi.

WTI, the U.S. benchmark, fell to a six-year low of $41.35 a barrel Friday. It may slide further, according to Citigroup Inc.

“Summer is when refineries are all running hard, so actual demand for crude is as good as it gets,” Seth Kleinman, London-based head of energy strategy at Citigroup Inc., said by e-mail.

OPEC’s biggest members are pumping near record levels to defend their market share and U.S. production is withstanding the collapse in prices and drilling. The oil market is still clearly oversupplied and “it will get more so as refiners go into maintenance,” Kleinman said.

Oil demand usually climbs in the summer as U.S. vacation driving boosts purchases of gasoline and Middle Eastern nations turn up air-conditioning.

Crude has sunk this year even U.S. gasoline demand expanded, stimulated by a growing economy and low prices. Total gasoline supplied to the U.S. market rose to an eight-year high of 9.7 million barrels a day last month, according to U.S. Department of Energy data.

Crude could fall to $10 a barrel as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries engages in a “price war” with rival producers, testing who will cut output first, Gary Shilling, president of A. Gary Shilling Co., said in an interview on Bloomberg Television on Friday.

“OPEC is basically saying we’re not going to cut production, we’re going to see who can stand lower prices longest,” Shilling said. “Oil is headed for $10 to $20 a barrel.”

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Oil Bear Market Will Be Prolonged : Goldman Sachs

Oil dropped to the lowest in more than four months in New York on expectation a global glut that drove prices into a bear market will be prolonged.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimates the global crude oversupply is running at 2 million barrels a day and storage may be filled by the fall, forcing the market to adjust, analysts including Jeffrey Currie said in a report dated Thursday. U.S. crude supplies remain about 100 million barrels above the five-year seasonal average, Energy Information Administration data on Wednesday showed.

Oil moved into a bear market in July on signs the global surplus will persist as the U.S. pumps near the fastest rate in three decades and the largest OPEC members produced record volumes. The Bloomberg Commodity Index, which fell almost 11 percent in July, has resumed its decline.

“Prices are under pressure because we’ve got more and more crude coming out of the ground,” Michael Corcelli, chief investment officer of hedge fund Alexander Alternative Capital LLC in Miami, said by phone. “Questions about storage capacity have already been brought up.”

WTI for September delivery fell 49 cents, or 1.1 percent, to settle at $44.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It’s the lowest close since March 19. Prices are down 16 percent this year.

Supply, Demand

Brent for September settlement dropped 7 cents to end the session at $49.52 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. It touched $48.88, the lowest since Jan. 30. The European benchmark crude closed at a $4.86 premium to WTI.

“It’s the familiar theme of oversupply and shaky demand,” John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund, said by phone. “The negative reaction to yesterday’s inventory report set up for another drop today. We clearly have more than ample supply.”

About 170 million barrels of crude and fuel have been added to storage tanks and 50 million to floating storage globally since January, according to the Goldman report. Global oil oversupply has risen from 1.8 million barrels a day in the first half of 2015, Goldman said. The balance between supply and demand may only be restored by 2016, Goldman said.

Shoulder Months

“While we maintain our near-term WTI target of $45 a barrel, we want to emphasize that the risks remain substantially skewed to the downside, particularly as we enter the shoulder months this autumn,” the Goldman analysts said.

Crude supplies in the U.S. fell 4.4 million barrels to 455.3 million last week, the EIA said. Output expanded by 52,000 barrels a day to 9.47 million a day, the first gain in four weeks. Refinery utilization rose by 1 percentage point to 96.1 percent, the highest level since 2005.

Inventories of distillate fuel, a category that includes diesel and heating oil, rose 709,000 barrels to 144.8 million, the most since February 2012, the EIA report showed.

Ultra low sulfur diesel for September delivery rose 1.14 cents, or 0.7 percent, to settle at $1.5499 a gallon in New York. On Monday it closed at its lowest level since July 2009.

“Diesel isn’t up because of the fundamentals,” Tom Finlon, Jupiter, Florida-based director of Energy Analytics Group LLC, said by phone. “It’s getting support from the upcoming refinery-maintenance season, the harvest season and anticipation of thermal needs later this year.”

The Bloomberg Commodity Index of 22 raw materials dropped 0.3 percent. Eighteen of the components, which include gold, have declined at least 20 percent from recent closing highs, meeting the common definition of a bear market.

Braggin’ Rights In Oil Sector Avoid Call : A Race To The Bottom

 

We received the most angry email at info@jackbassteam.com with our articles to sell the sector and in particular Chesapeake ( then at $22), Linn Energy and Chevron-now here are today’s’ results:

Brent oil dropped below $50 a barrel for the first time since January as Iran vowed to boost production immediately after sanctions are lifted and manufacturing in China slowed.

Futures in London fell as much as 5.2 percent, extending July’s 18 percent drop. Irancan raise output by 500,000 barrels a day within a week of sanctions ending, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. A Chinese private factory gauge released on Monday slipped to a two-year low in July, while an official index on Saturday dropped to a five-month low.

Crude slid into a bear market last month, joining a broader slide in commodities amid expanding supplies and signs of slower Chinese growth. Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers fueled speculation about when and by how much it will lift output. Sanctions against the nation should be lifted by late November, the Iranian Oil Ministry’s Shana news agency said.

“The quick recovery of the market is becoming more of a mirage,” Helima Croft, chief commodities strategist at RBC Capital in New York, said by phone. “Right now we’re in a race to the bottom. Oil producers are pumping what they can in the hopes that someone else will cut first.”

Brent for September settlement dropped $2.23 to $49.98 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, at 12:48 p.m. in New York. The contract touched $49.52, the lowest level since Jan. 30. Prices are more than 20 percent below this year’s high on May 6, meeting a common definition of a bear market.

Bottom-Seeking

West Texas Intermediate for September delivery fell $1.72, or 3.7 percent, to $45.40 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It reached $45.11, the lowest intraday price since March 20. The U.S. benchmark crude traded at a $4.58 discount to Brent.

“We’re in a commodity downdraft and it’s spreading to other asset classes,” Mike Wittner, head of oil market research at Societe Generale SA in New York, said by phone. “China, Iran and Greece were the triggers for the move down. We’re not paying much attention to Greece anymore but China and Iran are still in the forefront.”

Iran plans to double exports, IRNA reported, citing Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh in an interview with state TV. The Islamic Republic produced an average of 2.85 million barrels a day last month, compared with 3.6 million at the end of 2011, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Iranian Payoff

BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc are among the energy companies that have expressed interest in developing Iran’s reserves, the world’s fourth-biggest, once sanctions are removed. Iran had the second-biggest output in OPEC before U.S.- led sanctions banned the purchase, transport, finance and insuring of its crude began July 2012.

“The biggest winner in OPEC over the past year is Iran,” Croft said. “‘They are getting a financial payoff as a result of the deal.’’

A China factory index for July released Monday by Caixin Media and Markit Economics came in at 47.8, a decline from 49.4 in June, indicating the effects of easier monetary policy have yet to kick in. The country’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index was 50 in July, down from 50.2 in the previous month. Numbers above 50 indicate expansion.

‘‘The Chinese data continues to look grim, which with the Iran headlines makes for a one-two punch for the oil market,” John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund, said by phone.

Hedge funds reduced bullish bets on WTI to the lowest level in five years. The net-long position in WTI contracted 7 percent in the week ended July 28, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Money managers cut their bullish stance on Brent during the same period by 37,527 contracts, the most in a year, according to data on Monday from ICE.

Portfolio Management : Engagement Process for Jack A. Bass Managed Accounts

Portfolio  Management : Engagement Process for Jack A. Bass Managed Accounts

The Engagement Agreement authorizes us to officially act on your  behalf and also provides for protection of confidentiality in regards to the dissemination and distribution of your sensitive financial information.Generally you will name Jack A. Bass as a person allowed to trade your portfolio – BUT without any authority to remove funds from your account.

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Money Managers Brace for Bond-Market Collapse

TheNewBondMarket

 

 

TCW Group Inc. is taking the possibility of a bond-market selloff seriously.

So seriously that the Los Angeles-based money manager, which oversees almost $140 billion of U.S. debt, has been accumulating more and more cash in its credit funds, with the proportion rising to the highest since the 2008 crisis.

“We never realize what the tipping point is until after it happens,” said Jack A. Bass,  head of trading for Jack A. Bass and Associates. “We’re as defensive as we’ve been since pre-crisis.”

Bass isn’t alone: Bond funds are holding about 8 percent of their assets as cash-like securities, the highest proportion since at least 1999, according to FTN Financial, citing Investment Company Institute data.

Cudzil’s reasoning is that the Federal Reserve is moving toward its first interest-rate increase since 2006, and the end of record monetary stimulus will rattle the herds of investors who poured cash into risky debt to try and get some yield.

The shift in policy comes amid a global backdrop that’s not exactly rosy. The Chinese economy is slowing, the outlook for developing nations has grown cloudy, and the tone of Greece’s bailout talks changes daily.

Distorted Markets

Of course, U.S. central bankers are aiming to gently wean markets and companies off zero interest-rate policies. In their ideal scenario, borrowing costs would rise slowly and steadily, debt investors would calmly absorb losses and corporate America would easily adjust to debt that’s a little less cheap amid an improving economy.

That outcome seems less and less likely to Cudzil, as volatility in the bond market climbs.

“If you distort markets for long periods of time and then you remove those distortions, you’re subject to unanticipated volatility,” said Cudzil, who traded high-yield bonds at Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank AG . He declined to specify the exact amount of cash he’s holding in the funds he runs.

Price swings will also likely be magnified by investors’ inability to quickly trade bonds, he said. New regulations have made it less profitable for banks to grease the wheels of markets that are traded over the counter and, as a result, they’re devoting fewer traders and money to the operations.

To boot, record-low yields have prompted investors to pile into the same types of risky investors — so it may be even more painful to get out with few potential buyers able to absorb mass selling.

“We think the market’s telling you to upgrade your portfolio,” Bass said. “Whether it happens tomorrow or in six months, do you want look silly before the market sells off or after?”

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Stock Market Top ? : The Q Ratio Indicator Says Watch Out Below

 

If you sold every share of every company in the U.S. and used the money to buy up all the factories, machines and inventory, you’d have some cash left over. That, in a nutshell, is the math behind a bear case on equities that says prices have outrun reality.

The concept is embodied in a measure known as the Q ratio developed by James Tobin, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Yale University who died in 2002. According to Tobin’s Q, equities in the U.S. are valued about 10 percent above the cost of replacing their underlying assets — higher than any time other than the Internet bubble and the 1929 peak.

Valuation tools are being dusted off around Wall Street as investors assess the staying power of the bull market that is now the second longest in 60 years. To Andrew Smithers, the 77-year-old former head of SG Warburg’s investment arm, the Q ratio is an indicator whose time has come because it illuminates distortions caused by quantitative easing.

“QE is a very dangerous policy, in my view, because it has pushed asset prices up and high asset prices, we know from history, are very dangerous,” Smithers, founder of Smithers & Co. in London, said in a phone interview. “It is very strongly indicated by reliable measures that we’re looking at a stock market which is something like 80 percent over-priced.”

Dissenting Views

Acceptance of Tobin’s theory is at best uneven, with investors such as Laszlo Birinyi saying the ratio is useless as a signal because it would have kept you out of a bull market that has added $17 trillion to share values. Others see its meaning debased in an economy whose reliance on manufacturing is nothing like it used to be.

Futures on the S&P 500 expiring next month slipped 0.1 percent at 9:36 a.m. in London.

To Smithers, the ratio’s doubling since 2009 to 1.10 is a symptom of companies diverting money from their businesses to the stock market, choosing buybacks over capital spending. Six years of zero-percent interest rates have similarly driven investors into riskier things like equities, elevating the paper value of assets over their tangible worth, he said.

Standard & Poor’s 500 Index members last year spent about 95 percent of their profits on buybacks and dividends, with stock repurchases exceeding $2 trillion since 2009, data compiled by S&P Dow Jones Indices show.

In the first four months of this year, almost $400 billion of buybacks were announced, with February, March and April ranking as three of the four busiest months ever, according to data compiled by Birinyi Associates Inc.

Slow Spending

Spending by companies on plants and equipment is lagging behind. While capital investment also rose to a record in 2014, its growth was 11 percent over the last two years, versus 45 percent in buybacks, data compiled by Barclays Plc show.

With equity prices surging and investment growth failing to keep pace, the Q ratio has risen to 58 percent above its average of 0.70 since 1900, according to data compiled by Birinyi and the Federal Reserve on market and asset values for non-financial companies. Readings above 1 are considered by some to be too high and the ratio has exceeded that threshold only 12 percent of the time, mostly between 1995 to 2001.

That’s nothing to be alarmed about because the American economy has become more oriented around services than manufacturing, according to George Pearkes, an analyst at Harrison, New York-based Bespoke Investment Group LLC. Nowadays, companies like Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. dominate growth, while decades ago, it was railroads and steelmakers, which rely heavily on capital.

Mean Reversion

“Does that necessarily mean that the Q ratio should be as high as it is right now? I don’t know,” Pearkes said by phone. “With those sorts of long-term indicators, they can sometimes mean that the market is overvalued. But the reversion to the mean on them is usually going to take a lot longer than most people’s time frame.”

Any investors who based their investment decisions on the Q ratio would have missed most of the rally since 2009, according to Jeffrey Yale Rubin, director of research at Birinyi’s firm. The measure rose above its historic mean three months into this bull market and since then, the S&P 500 has climbed 131 percent.

“The issue we have with Tobin Q is that it does a very poor job at timing the market,” Rubin said from Westport, Connecticut. “The followers of Tobin Q never told us to buy in 2009, yet now we are warned that we should sell. Our response is sell what? We were never told to buy.”

Bond Yields

Everyone from Janet Yellen to Warren Buffett has spoken cautiously on stock valuations in the past month. Both the Fed chair and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said prices are at risk of getting stretched should bond yields increase. The rate on 10-year Treasuries slipped last week to 2.14 percent while the S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent.

“It’s probably a sensible configuration for the stock market to be overvalued because competing investments are so poor,” Robert Brusca, president of Fact & Opinion Economics in New York, said by phone. “As an investor, you’re not just looking at the value of the firm, but the value of the firm relative to other things you can do with your money.”

At 2,260 days, the bull market that began in March 2009 this month exceeded the 1974-1980 rally as the second longest since 1956. While measures such as price-to-earnings ratios are holding just above historical averages, the bull market’s duration is sowing anxiety among professionals who watched the previous two end in catastrophe.

“We’re still close enough to that prior experience and that hold-over effect is still there,” Chris Bouffard, chief investment officer who oversees more than $10 billion at Mutual Fund Store in Overland Park, Kansas, said by phone. “When you start to see prior cycle peaks on the chart like Tobin Q and any other valuation metrics that people are putting up there, it looks dramatic, stark and scary.”

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Oil Hits Two-Week High on Dollar-Fueled Rally – Yemen:Shipping Chokepoint

Oil storage in tanks on the edge of town in Cushing, Okla.

 

Trader cites added impact of Middle Eastern conflicts on pricing
Updated March 25, 2015 4:06 p.m. ET

Oil prices surged to their longest winning-streak in more than a month as the weakening dollar continues to fire up a rally despite a historic glut of oil.

U.S. oil pushed to the verge of $50 a barrel for the first time since March 9. Four straight sessions of gains matched a winning streak from late January and early February. The market hasn’t had a five-session winning streak since June, when Islamic State militants were threatening the Iraqi capital.

Middle Eastern conflicts could have played a role Wednesday as news spread of Saudi Arabia building up forces near Yemen, said trader Tariq Zahir. But the dollar was likely the main factor behind the rally, Mr. Zahir and others said.

Oil has been rallying for most of the past week, since the Federal Reserve ratcheted back expectations for a rate increase. That news started the dollar’s retreat from a historic high, which has since fueled an inverse price move in oil.

Oil prices moved in tandem with the dollar, especially in the past four months, analysts said. Dollar-priced commodities like oil become more affordable for holders of other currencies as the dollar depreciates.

Some traders have been buying on expectation of the tandem move. Others have been buying oil simply because they are looking for other trades now that the dollar’s long rally may be over, traders and brokers said.

“It’s the hope of U.S. dollar going down and production going down in the U.S.—without [the traders] fully thinking about it,” said Mr. Zahir, who is bearish on oil prices.

Light, sweet crude for May delivery settled up $1.70, or 3.6%, to $49.21 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That is its highest settlement since March 9.

Brent, the global benchmark, gained $1.37, or 2.5%, to $56.48 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, its highest settlement since March 12.

It could be a panic move and a mistake, said Bob Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA Inc., comparing the rise to the last winning streak when traders bought into oil as rig counts started to fall precipitously. With rigs out of work, hopes grew that production would soon decline. Instead, production has kept growing.

“They think they have this newfound gem of an information point, and then they realize” the fundamentals rule, Mr. Yawger said.

 

I
The market briefly lost ground on news that U.S. producers added to a historic glut, but rebounded within about 90 minutes and kept rallying for the rest of the afternoon.

U.S. oil inventories rose by 8.2 million barrels in the week ended March 20 to 466.7 million barrels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said, outdoing a 5.6-million-barrel increase expected in a Wall Street Journal survey of traders and analysts.

Stockpiles are at a high in weekly data going back to 1982. In monthly data, which don’t exactly line up with weekly data, inventories haven’t been this high since 1930.

Stockpiles in Cushing, Okla., a key storage hub and the delivery point for the Nymex contract, rose by 1.9 million barrels to 56.3 million barrels, adding to its highest level on record in data going back to April 2004. The EIA said in September that Cushing’s working storage capacity was 70.8 million barrels.
Domestic crude production also slightly edged out the weekly record it set last week of 9.4 million barrels.

“Bottom line, we’re filling up those stockpiles and as long as refinery operations are subdued, we’re going to see these” additions, said Mark Waggoner, president of brokerage Excel Futures. “This is about the time we ought to sell.”

Gasoline stockpiles fell by 2 million barrels, more than the 1.7 million-barrel drop expected by analysts surveyed by the Journal.

Front-month gasoline futures settled up 2% at $1.8365 a gallon.

Distillate stocks, including heating oil and diesel fuel, fell by 34,000 barrels, less than the 500,000-barrel drop that analysts had expected.

Diesel futures settled up 1.3% at $1.7283 a gallon.

Bloomberg) — While Yemen contributes less than 0.2 percent of global oil output, its location puts it near the center of world energy trade.

The nation shares a border with Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, and sits on one side of a shipping chokepoint used by crude tankers heading West from the Persian Gulf. Global oil prices jumped more than 5 percent on Thursday after regional powers began bombing rebel targets in the country that produced less than Denmark in 2013.

Yemen’s government has collapsed in the face of an offensive by rebels known as Houthis, prompting airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The Gulf’s main Sunni Muslim power says the Houthis are tools of its Shiite rival Iran, another OPEC member, and has vowed to do what’s necessary to halt them.

“While thousands of barrels of oil from Yemen will not be noticed, millions from Saudi Arabia will matter,” said John Vautrain, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the energy industry and is the head of Vautrain & Co., a consultant in Singapore. “Saudi Arabia has been concerned about unrest spreading from Yemen.”

Yemen produced about 133,000 barrels a day of oil in 2013, making it the 39th biggest producer, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Output peaked at more than 440,000 barrels a day in 2001, the Energy Department’s statistical arm said on its website.

Shipping Chokepoint

Brent, the benchmark grade for more than half the world’s crude, gained as much as $3.23, or 5.7 percent, to $59.71 a barrel in electronic trading on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange on Thursday. West Texas Intermediate futures, the U.S. marker, jumped 5.6 percent to $51.98 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“Yemen is not an oil producer of great significance but it is located geographically and politically in a very important part of the Middle East,” said Ric Spooner, a chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

 

The U.S. Has Too Much Oil and Nowhere to Put It = another drop in prices

 

The bottom line: A record 449 million barrels of oil are being stored in the U.S. Shrinking storage capacity will lead to another drop in prices.

Seven months ago the giant tanks in Cushing, Okla., the largest crude oil storage hub in North America, were three-quarters empty. After spending the last few years brimming with light, sweet crude unlocked by the shale drilling revolution, the tanks held just less than 18 million barrels by late July, down from a high of 52 million in early 2013. New pipelines to refineries along the Gulf Coast had drained Cushing of more than 30 million barrels in less than a year.
As quickly as it emptied out, Cushing has filled back up again. Since October, the amount of oil stored there has almost tripled, to more than 51 million barrels. As oil prices have crashed, from more than $100 a barrel last summer to below $50 now, big trading companies are storing their crude in hopes of selling it for higher prices down the road. With U.S. production continuing to expand, that’s led to the fastest increase in U.S. oil inventories on record. For most of this year, the U.S. has added almost 1 million barrels a day to its stash of crude supplies. As of March 11, nationwide stocks were at 449 million barrels, by far the most ever.
Not only are the tanks at Cushing filling up, so are those across much of the U.S. Facilities in the Midwest are about 70 percent full, while the East Coast is at about 85 percent capacity. This has some analysts beginning to wonder if the U.S. has enough room to store all its oil. Ed Morse, the global head of commodities research at Citigroup, raised that concern on Feb. 23 at an oil symposium hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “The fact of the matter is, we’re running out of storage capacity in the U.S.,” he said.

If oil supplies do overwhelm the ability to store them, the U.S. will likely cut back on imports and finally slow down the pace of its own production, since there won’t be anywhere to put excess supply. Prices could also fall, perhaps by a lot. Morse and his team of analysts at Citigroup have predicted that sometime this spring, as tanks reach their limits, oil prices will again nosedive, potentially all the way to $20 a barrel. With no place to store crude, producers and trading companies would likely have to sell their oil to refineries at discounted prices, which could finally persuade producers to stop pumping.
Oil investors appear to be coming around to the notion that a lack of storage capacity could lead to another price crash. In the futures market, hedge funds have spent the past few weeks cutting their bets that oil prices will rise. Instead, they’ve built up a record short position, increasing their wagers that prices will fall. During a March 11 interview on CNBC, Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn said he’s concerned the U.S. is running out of storage, particularly as refineries enter their seasonal maintenance period, to prepare for the summer driving season. Around this time they usually cut the amount of crude they buy. Cohn said prices could go as low as $30 a barrel.
Oil Inventories at Highest Levels We’ve Seen
The math on this can be a bit tricky. The U.S. Department of Energy measures oil storage capacity twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. As of September 2014, the U.S. had 521 million barrels of working capacity, up from 500 million in 2013. That includes the space inside tank farms and on-site at refineries. It doesn’t, however, include the amount of oil that can be stored in pipelines or storage tanks near oil wells; nor does it include the amount of capacity in tankers off the coast, in transit from Alaska, or on trains. Of the 449 million barrels of total crude stocks, about 327 million are stored in tank farms or on-site at refineries.
According to data from the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. is using about 63 percent of its storage capacity, up from 48 percent a year ago. “We have more space than some people tend to believe,” says Andy Lipow, an energy consultant in Houston. The most recent estimate of storage capacity also doesn’t include tanks built since September in North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, and Texas, he says.
Still, the amount of space available in the tanks at Cushing is getting tight. The storage hub will run out of room by Memorial Day, says Stephen Schork, who runs energy consulting company Schork Group. As long as oil stays cheap, he says, traders have an incentive to store it. Cushing has room for roughly 71 million barrels of oil, up from about 50 million in 2010. One of the biggest owners of tanks there is Canadian energy distributor Enbridge. “We don’t have much room left, but we’re still answering the phones,” says Mike Moeller, who manages the company’s Cushing tank farm. “Not everybody who calls is going to get space.” He says monthly lease rates in the spot market have gone from dimes per barrel to more than a dollar in some cases.
“These producers have kept chugging away when they should have been shutting down”
Even with prices less than half what they were last summer and storage capacity growing scarcer, U.S. oil output has continued to rise. Through February, U.S. daily crude production reached 9.3 million barrels, about 1 million barrels more than a year ago. The massive storage buildup has provided oil companies with a phantom demand for their crude. Many hedged production before prices got too low, taking out futures contracts that guarantee a certain price. That’s allowed them to sell oil for a price higher than the going rate of $49 a barrel, keeping many profitable despite lower prices.
Running out of room inside the nation’s storage tanks might be the only way to keep companies from pumping more oil. “These producers have kept chugging away when they should have been shutting down,” says Dominick Chirichella, co-president of the Energy Management Institute, a New York-based advisory group. “At some point, the fact that supply is outstripping demand has to have its moment of truth.”

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