Look Out Below :Oil prices hit 11-year low as global supply balloons ( Reuters plus Bloomberg charts) )

LONDON (Reuters) – Brent crude oil prices hit their lowest in more than 11 years on Monday, driven down by a relentless rise in global supply that looks set to outpace demand again next year.

Oil production is running close to record highs and, with more barrels poised to enter the market from nations such as Iran, the United States and Libya, the price of crude is set for its largest monthly percentage decline in seven years.

Brent futures (LCOc1) fell by as much as 2 percent to a low of $36.05 a barrel on Monday, their weakest since July 2004, and were down 49 cents at $36.39 by 1332 GMT.

While consumers have enjoyed lower fuel prices, the world’s richest oil exporters have been forced to revalue their currencies, sell off assets and even issue debt for the first time in years as they struggle to repair their finances.

OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, will stick with its year-old policy of compensating for lower prices with higher production, and shows no signs of wavering, even though lower prices are painful to its poorer members.

The price of oil has halved over the past year, dealing a blow to economies of oil producers such as Nigeria, which faces its worst crisis in years, and Venezuela, which has been plunged into deep recession.

Even wealthy Gulf Arab states have been hit. Last week Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain raised interest rates as they scrambled to protect their currencies.


“With OPEC not in any mood to cut production … it does mean you are not going to get any rebalancing any time soon,” Energy Aspects chief oil analyst Amrita Sen said.

“Having said that, long term of course, the lower prices are today, the rebalancing will become even stronger and steeper, because of the capex (oil groups’ capital expenditure) cutbacks … but you’re not going to see that until end-2016.”

Reflecting the determination among the biggest producers to woo buyers at any cost, Russia now pumps oil at a post-Soviet high of more than 10 million barrels per day (bpd), while OPEC output is close to record levels above 31.5 million bpd.

Oil market liquidity usually evaporates ahead of the holiday period, meaning that intra-day price moves can become exaggerated.

On average, in the last 15 years, December is the month with least trading volume, which tends to be just 85 percent of that in May, the month which sees most volume change hands.

Brent crude prices have dropped by nearly 19 percent this month, their steepest fall since the collapse of failed U.S. bank Lehman Brothers in October 2008.

U.S. crude futures (CLc1) were down 26 cents at $34.47 a barrel, their lowest since 2009.

“Really, I wouldn’t like to be in the shoes of an oil exporter getting into 2016. It’s not exactly looking as if there is light at the end of the tunnel any time soon,” Saxo Bank senior manager Ole Hansen said.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS.N) believes it could take a drop to as little as $20 a barrel for supply to adjust to demand.

Thanks to the shale revolution, the U.S. has been pumping a lot of oil on the cheap, helping to drive down prices to six-year lows and to fill up storage tanks. Indeed, we’re running out of places to put it.


The U.S. has 490 million barrels of oil in storage, enough to keep the country running smoothly for nearly a month, without any added oil production or imports. That inventory doesn’t include the government’s own Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to be used in the now highly unlikely event of an oil shortage. Nor does it include oil waiting at sea for higher prices. The lower 48 states also boast about 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in storage — a far bigger cushion than Americans have needed so far during a very warm winter.

For their part, OECD countries (including the U.S.) have nearly 3 billion barrels of oil in storage — or enough to keep factories lit and houses heated in those countries for two months, cumulatively, without added production or imports.

The glut is going to continue worldwide unless some major producers stop pumping. OPEC announced recently that it was abandoning output limits.

So what happens when there’s too much oil to store? Producers will try to rid themselves of it by cutting prices. In that scenario, the price would plummet so far that some producers would shutter their wells altogether — which is, perhaps, the only way that the oil glut will ease.

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The US Energy Sector on the Verge of a Cataclysmic Default


The U.S. E&P sector could be on the cusp of massive defaults and bankruptcies so staggering they pose a serious threat to the U.S. economy, according to Paul Merolli, a senior editor and correspondent for Energy Intelligence, an energy sector news and analysis aggregator. Merolli’s report calls out the over-leveraged, under-hedged U.S. E&P sector, which has been trying to keep up appearances over the past 12 months by slashing operating costs and capex to keep production costs lower than oil prices.

But experts believe that lower costs and improving efficiency won’t be enough for the sector as it grapples with some $200 billion-plus in high-yield debt, which the U.S. E&P sector used to finance the shale oil boom. According to Standard and Poor’s, there have already been 19 U.S. energy sector defaults so far in 2015, while another 15 companies have filed for bankruptcy. The default category also includes companies that have entered into “distressed exchanges” with their creditors.

Moreover, a Nov. 24 report from S&P Capital IQ titled “A Cautionary Climate” shows that the total assets and liabilities of U.S. energy companies filing for bankruptcy protection have grown in each quarter of 2015, and the third quarter was no exception with assets totaling more than $6.2 billion and liabilities totaling more than $8.9 billion. Each quarter of 2015 was larger than the total for all U.S. energy bankruptcies in 2014.

Also see: Oil Patch Bankruptcies Total $13.1 Billion So Far This Year

U.S. E&P Sector: Junk rating

According to Energy Intelligence, Standard & Poor’s applies ratings to around 100 E&P firms. Of these, 77% now have high-yield or “junk” ratings of BB+ or lower, 63% are rated B+ or worse, and 31% or 51 companies are rated below B-. Companies rated B- or below are effectively on life support, while those rated C+ are “maybe looking at a year, year-and-a-half before they default or file for bankruptcy,” according to Thomas Watters, managing director of S&P’s oil and gas ratings, speaking to Energy Intelligence.

High-yield E&Ps are expected to see negative free cash flow of $10 billion during 2016, even after all the recent capex cuts and efficiency measures. Unfortunately, capital markets are closing rapidly to new E&P debt issues. Last year, the U.S. E&P sector raised $29 billion from 44 issuances of public debt in 2014, but this year only $13 billion has been raised across 23 issuances, almost all of which occurred during the first half of the year.

What’s more, the U.S. E&P sector is woefully under-hedged. Energy Intelligence’s data shows that small producers have 27% of their oil production hedged at an average price of $77/bbl, mid-sized firms have 26% hedged at $69, and large producers have just 4% hedged at $63.

U.S. E&P sector: a final lifeline

It is believed that the U.S. E&P sector will really start to cave in April when banks are due to start their next review of borrowing bases. Borrowing bases are redeterminedevery six months, and banks use market oil prices to calculate the value of company oil reserves, which companies are then able to borrow against.

Haynes and Boone’s Borrowing Base Survey is predicting an average cut of 39% to borrowing bases when the next round of revaluations take place. In September, The Financial Times reported on a research note from Bank of America which pointed out that only a fifth of “higher-quality” energy companies had used up more than half of their borrowing base capacity. For junk-rated companies, however, it’s a different picture. Citi points out that only 21% of the junk-rated energy companies it covers have any borrowing base capacity left at all.

So with borrowing bases set to fall at the beginning of next year and capital market access drying up, it looks as if many oil companies are going to find their liquidity deteriorating significantly going forward. Another source of concern for E&Ps and their lenders are price-related impairments and asset write-downs which have already amounted to $70.1 billion so far this year, compared to the $94.3 billion total for the previous 10-year period of 2005-14. And there could be further write-downs on the horizon:

“Year-to-date, there has been $70.1 billion in asset write-downs in 2015, approaching the $94.3 billion total for the previous 10-year period of 2005-14, according to Stuart Glickman, head of S&P Capital’s oil equities research. And he expects even more write-downs and impairments to emerge at year-end. “Companies are putting this off for a long as they can. You don’t want to be negotiating in capital markets with a weakened hand,”

“Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest US independent producers, shocked earlier this month by indicating a $13 billion reduction in the so-called PV-10, or “present value,” of its oil and gas reserves to $7 billion. Had Chesapeake used 12-month futures strip prices — instead of Securities and Exchange Commission-mandated trailing 12-month prices for PV values — the value would’ve fallen to $4 billion.” — Source: Energy Intelligence, “Is Debt Bomb About to Blow Up US Shale?

This conclusion is also supported by research from S&P Capital IQ:

“Using data from SNL Financial, we looked at natural gas-focused companies across the value chain to see whether there is a relationship between their level of revolver usage and their forward multiples. Within this subset of companies, exploration and production (E&P) companies have the greatest usage of their revolving credit facilities — 57% on average, excluding those with either no revolving credit or no usage on their revolving credit lines. As of late September 2015, this sub-industry also had a forward EBITDA multiple of about 6.2x.” — Source: S&P Capital IQ, “A Cautionary Climate.”

E&P sector waiting for a bailout

All in all, it looks as if the U.S. E&P sector has a rough year ahead of it, but for strong companies with investment-grade credit ratings, next year could become an “M&A playland” according to Energy Intelligence. The six-largest integrated majors together hold a war chest of some $500 billion, and there’s a further $100 billion in private equity sitting on the sidelines.

Whatever happens, it looks as if the U.S. E&P sector is about to undergo a period of significant change.

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$20 Oil If OPEC Doesn’t Act : Venezuela

  • Don’t Cry for Me Venezuela
  • It won’t be easy, you’ll think it strange
    When I try to explain how I feel
    That I still need your love after all that I’ve doneI had to let it happen, I had to change
    Couldn’t stay all my life down at heel
    Looking out of the window, staying out of the sun
  • OPEC member seeks `equilibrium price’ of $88 a barrel
  • Saudis, Qatar to consider proposal, Venezuelan minister says

Oil prices may drop to as low as the mid-$20s a barrel unless OPEC takes action to stabilize the market, Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino said.

Venezuela is urging the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to adopt an “equilibrium price” that covers the cost of new investment in production capacity, Del Pino told reporters Sunday in Tehran. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are considering his country’s proposal for an equilibrium price at $88 a barrel, he said.

OPEC ministers plan to meet on Dec. 4 to assess the producer group’s output policy amid a global supply glut that has pushed down crude prices by 44 percent in the last 12 months. OPEC supplies about 40 percent of the world’s production and has exceeded its official output ceiling of 30 million barrels a day for 17 months as it defends its share of the market. Benchmark Brent crude settled 48 cents higher at $44.66 a barrel in London on Friday.

“We cannot allow that the market continue controlling the price,” Del Pino said. “The principles of OPEC were to act on the price of the crude oil, and we need to go back to the principles of OPEC.”

OPEC ministers will meet informally on Dec. 3 in Vienna, a day before the group’s formal session, he said.

Oil Guru Who Called 2014 Rout Sees $ 70 Oil in 2016

  • PIRA sees demand growth at 1.7 million barrels a day in 2016
  • Production from non-OPEC nations including U.S. seen declining

OPEC will probably hold production steady at its meeting next month as the gap between supply and demand for oil closes, according to the analyst who correctly predicted last year’s rout in prices.

“I don’t think they have to do anything,” Gary Ross, founder and chairman of PIRA Energy Group, said in an interview in Singapore on Monday, referring to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Global consumption of crude will continue to grow while output from non-OPEC countries will decline next year, helping to bring the market toward equilibrium, he said.

Oil tumbled more than 48 percent last year as U.S. stockpiles and production expanded, creating a global oversupply that the International Energy Agency estimates will persist until at least the middle of 2016. OPEC’s strategy to defend market share has exacerbated the glut as the group, which kept its production target unchanged at 30 million barrels a day at the last meeting in June, exceeded the quota for the past 17 months.

“There has to be a tightening of balances,” said Ross, who last year turned bearish on oil before prices shrank by almost half. While OPEC volumes have increased, both demand and production from outside the group have responded to low prices, he said.

Brent crude for December delivery was unchanged at $49.56 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange at 12:50 p.m. Singapore time. Prices have decreased 14 percent this year.

$70 Brent

PIRA forecasts demand for crude to grow 1.7 million barrels a day in 2016, compared with 1.9 million a day this year. Output outside OPEC is expected to decline next year by “several hundred thousands of barrels a day,” Ross said. Among the 12 members of OPEC, production is predicted to increase only in Iran and Iraq.

“Total non-OPEC crude and condensate production is forecast to fall below last
year’s levels,” said Ross, predicting that Brent may rise to $70 by the end of 2016. “Supply growth is limited to OPEC, which grows just 500,000 to 600,000 barrels a day.” On average, Iran’s output will rise 300,000 barrels a day and Iraq’s will increase 240,000 barrels a day, compared with a year earlier, he estimated.

OPEC, which supplies about 40 percent of the world’s oil, is scheduled to gather in Vienna on Dec. 4, when Iran will officially notify the group of its plans to boost production by 500,000 barrels a day as soon as international sanctions against the Persian Gulf state are lifted, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said in an interview with Mehr news agency.


Russian Crude Output Hits Post-Soviet Record

Russian oil production broke a post-Soviet record in October for the fourth time this year as earlier investments boosted output and producers prove resilient to lower crude prices.

Production of crude and gas condensate, which is similar to a light oil, averaged 10.776 million barrels a day during the month, according to data from the Energy Ministry’s CDU-TEK unit. That is an increase of 1.3 percent from a year earlier and up 0.3 percent from the previous month.

“Russian oil production is still reflecting oil prices above $100 a barrel due to long lead times in the investment cycle,” Alexander Nazarov, an oil and gas analyst at Gazprombank JSC, said by e-mail from Moscow. “The reason behind growth this year dates back to 2010-2014, when a number of projects were financed.”

Output has kept growing even as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries chose to defend market share rather than cut output amid a supply glut last year, a decision that sent prices tumbling. Gazprom Neft PJSC and Novatek OJSC are ramping up output at one of the country’s biggest new projects. Russia’s tax policies insulate the industry from swings in oil prices, with the state bearing most of the risk and reward.

The ruble’s slump over the past year, which has tracked weaker crude prices, has made oilfield services, including drilling, cheaper and supported operating margins, Nazarov said.

Russian crude exports rose to 5.42 million barrels a day in October, a 10 percent gain from the previous year and up 1.7 percent from the previous month.

Credit Suisse: Oil Has Stabilized Because Saudis Got What They Wanted


Forget wealth effect. The global equity market can’t have a smooth bull run if oil prices are tanking.

This is because commodity-related capital expenditure accounts for around 30% of total capex globally, so even though consumers may benefit from cheaper oil, companies are hit first.Credit Suisse estimates that the fall in commodities capex has taken at least 0.8% off the U.S. economic growth in the first half this year and 1% off global growth over the last year.

But the worst is over, according to analyst Andrew Garthwaite and team. They listed three reasons: 1. demand for oil has stabilized; 2. non-OPEC production has peaked; 3. Saudi Arabia has achieved its goal of deterring new entrants.

Since Saudi Arabia is the wild card, Credit Suisse analysts took pains to explain their position:

We believe that the key variable is Saudi Arabia. If it were not for Saudi Arabia, then we fear that oil would have to behave like other commodities and if there is excess supply fall to levels where a third of production is below the cash cost and, given the likely fall in commodity currencies, this in turn would lead to a much lower oil price (maybe down to $30/barrel).

This leads to the question ‘Can Saudi Arabia support the oil market?’. We think the answer is yes. They control the vast majority of spare capacityaccording to our oil team and 13% of output.

Their clear aim was to restore market share against non-OPEC and avoid being a swing producer (and thus not repeat the 1980 to 1985 experience, when their oil production fell by 70% as they sought to defend the oil price) and also limit the growth in alternative energies. The key is clearly at what point they have achieved their objective. The issue is nearly always the same – costs fall much more quickly than expected, partly because commodity currencies fall and partly because of cost deflation.

Moody’s highlight that the breakeven for median shale is around $51pb. Thus it may be the case that around the current oil price, Saudi Arabia believe they have achieved their objective of pricing out new shale projects.

Additionally the reduction in the oil price has come at a cost, with the budget deficit estimated to be 20% of GDP in 2015 (IMF Article IV – Saudi Arabia). While government debt to GDP is very low at c1%, we view the recent selling of Sama reserves and the first sovereign bond issue since 2007 as signs that there is some degree of stress.

Brent crude jumped another 2.2% to trade at $49.58 recently after a 5% rally overnight.

Oil stocks rallied. CNOOC (883.Hong Kong/CEO) advanced 12.1%, China Oilfield Services(2883.Hong Kong) gained 9.5%, PetroChina (857.Hong Kong/PTR) was up 7.8%. Sinopec(386.Hong Kong/SHI) jumped 6.8%. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index advanced 4%. Overnight, the United States Oil Fund (USO) rose 4.9%.

Oil jumps $2, breaking range as supply seen ebbing


NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices jumped more than $2 a barrel on Tuesday, breaking out of a month-long trading range on a mix of technical buying and industry talk as well as U.S. government data suggesting the global supply glut could be ebbing.

Global benchmark Brent crude (LCOc1) rallied for a third straight day and settled above $50 a barrel for the first time in a month. This convinced some dealers that there was little chance prices would slide back to the 6-1/2-year lows touched in August.

Early gains were fueled by a U.S. government forecast for tighter oil supplies next year, and indications that Russia, Saudi Arabia and other big producers might pursue further talks to support the market. The rally accelerated above $50 on chart-based buying and a weakening dollar.

Brent settled up $2.67, or 5.4 percent, at $51.92 a barrel, breaking out of the $47 to $50 band it had traded since early September. Its session peak, a penny shy of $52, was the highest since Sept. 3, and took three-day gains to more than 7 percent.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the U.S. crude benchmark (CLc1), settled up $2.27, or 4.9 percent, at $48.53.

“We have reduced the probability of a return to the $37 to $38 area per nearby WTI,” said Jim Ritterbusch of oil consultancy Ritterbusch & Associates in Chicago. “We will maintain a longstanding view that price declines below this support level are virtually off of the table.”

Chris Jarvis, analyst at Caprock Risk Management in Frederick, Maryland, concurred, saying: “Steeper U.S. production declines over the near term have created a bid for oil prices.”

Even so, analysts told a Reuters survey that U.S. crude stockpiles likely rose last week for a second straight week as more refineries went into maintenance works. [EIA/S]

The American Petroleum Institute industry group will issue at 4:30 p.m. (2030 GMT) preliminary data on U.S. crude inventories for last week, before official numbers on Wednesday from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Global oil demand will grow by the most in six years in 2016 while non-OPEC supply stalls, the EIA said in its monthly report on Tuesday that suggested a surplus of crude is easing more quickly than expected.

Total world supply is expected to rise to 95.98 million barrels a day in 2016, 0.1 percent less than forecast last month, the EIA said in its Short-Term Energy Outlook. Demand is expected to rise 270,000 bpd to 95.2 million barrels, up 0.3 percent from September’s forecast.

Oil executives at an industry conference in London, meanwhile, warned of a “dramatic” decline in U.S. output that could lead to a price spike if fuel demand escalates. Mark Papa, former head of U.S. shale producer EOG Resources, told the “Oil and Money” conference that U.S. production growth would tail off this month and start to decline early next year.

Russia’s energy minister said Russia and Saudi Arabia discussed the oil market in a meeting last week and would continue to consult each other.

OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri said at a conference in London that OPEC and non-OPEC members should work together to reduce the global supply glut.

Iran’s crude sales were on track to hit seven-month lows as its main Asian customers bought less.

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.