Brent crude oil prices continued to climb in recent weeks on the back of strong demand, reduced supply by key oil producers and escalating geopolitical risks. On 7 September, oil prices traded at USD 76.0 per barrel, which was 5.1% higher than on the same day last month. Moreover, the benchmark price for global crude oil markets was up 13.8% on a year-to-date basis and was 40.3% higher than on the same day last year. Despite heightening trade tensions between China and the United States, the global economy continues to post strong growth rates, propelling demand for the black gold. Moreover, global oil output remains constrained despite increased oil production in key countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia. Venezuela’s oil production has collapsed as a result of years of underinvestment and mismanagement in the oil sector. Angola’s output is also suffering from the country’s high relative cost of production and entangled bureaucratic system. Moreover, security threats in Libya and Nigeria continue to dampen oil production. Nevertheless, Iran is currently the most serious risk to global oil supply as the U.S. reiterates its wish to reduce Iran’s oil shipments to “zero” by November. Recent data suggests that U.S. efforts have already started to bite with Iranian oil shipments down from April’s peak of 3.1 million barrels per day (mbpd) to around 2.1 mbpd in August. Looking forward, planned supply increases by OPEC and Russia in order to fill the gap left by other key producers in recent months will keep Brent crude oil prices under control. FocusEconomics panelists see prices averaging USD 73.9 per barrel in Q4 2018, before slipping to an average of USD 71.6 per barrel in Q4 2019. 5 of our panelists upwardly adjusted their Q4 2018 forecasts compared to last month. Meanwhile, 24 forecasters kept their projections unchanged, and 7 cut their forecast. The spread between the minimum and the maximum oil price forecasts remains relatively large, with numerous developments simultaneously affecting the oil markets in recent weeks. The panelist forecast range for Q4 2018 runs from a minimum of USD 64.0 per barrel to a maximum of USD 82.0 per barrel.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices recovered in the second half of August after they hit a two-month low on 15 August. This trend was partially reversed during the first week of September on trade war concerns and economic woes in emerging markets. WTI crude oil prices benefited from strong demand in the U.S. and fears of reduced global supply in the wake of the drop-off in Iran oil exports. WTI crude oil prices traded at USD 67.7 per barrel on 7 September, which was 2.1% lower than on the same day last month. Moreover, the price was up 12.0% on a year-to-date basis and it was 37.9% higher than on the same day last year. Oil prices are buoyed by strong demand in the United States due to rapid economic growth. According to the Energy Information Administration, crude oil inventories fell by 4.3 million in the week ending 31 August. Oil prices also climbed due to fears of reduced global oil supply as U.S. sanctions against Iran threaten to put pressure on global output. Tropical Storm Gordon, which barreled the eastern Gulf of Mexico and forced some offshore oil platforms to shut production, also supported oil prices at the start of September. That said, the impact was relatively modest and the region’s energy platforms resumed production shortly after. Although oil prices will remain elevated throughout the end of this year, panelists acknowledge that increased oil production and an uncertain global economic outlook will exert a slight downside pressure on prices. For Q4 2018, analysts expect prices to average USD 69.0 per barrel. They see prices decreasing slightly in Q4 2019 to USD 67.5 per barrel. In response to recent mixed messages about what to expect in the evolution of oil prices, 6 of our forecast panelists upgraded their projections for Q4 2018 from last month. Meanwhile, a majority of 22 left their forecasts unchanged, while 3 made a cut to their projection. Although oil prices will remain high this year, our analysts foresee some volatility going forward. For Q4 2018, the maximum price forecast is USD 80.0 per barrel, while the minimum is USD 60.0 per barrel.
Natural gas prices fell in August and early September, due to expectations of milder weather in upcoming weeks and a significant increase in supply capacity as new pipelines become operational. Recent weeks have seen inventories replenished at an average pace and, although total stocks remain nearly 20% below their five-year average, lower predicted demand in late September and October should lead to stronger injections going forward, which is putting additional downward pressure on prices. On 7 September, the Henry Hub Natural Gas price was USD 2.78 per one million British thermal units (MMBtu). The price was 4.2% lower than on the same day in the previous month and was down 6.0% on a year-to-date basis. In addition, the price was 6.9% lower than on the corresponding date in 2017. Record-high supply levels should limit price increases over the near-term, with U.S. shale production capable of rapidly ramping up production in response to higher demand. However, potential colder-than-average temperatures heading into the winter season could still provide some support to gas prices due to the still-low level of inventories. In addition, lower expected production from several key players, including Australia and the Netherlands, will also somewhat tame increases in U.S. and Russian output going forward. Looking over the medium-term, fundamentals should remain strong despite higher supply, as demand growth is expected to be robust, both in the U.S. and abroad. Most notably, China’s efforts to transition away from coal to cleaner energy sources will be a major force in market growth. As a result, prices are likely to rise in the future. FocusEconomics panelists see the spot price averaging USD 2.96 per MMBtu in Q4 2018. They expect it to climb to USD 3.09 per MMBtu in Q4 2019. In light of recent developments, 14 panelists left their forecasts unchanged this month, while 1 decided to upgrade their price forecasts for the commodity. Meanwhile, 3 revised down their projections. The maximum price forecast for Q4 2018 was USD 3.30 per MMBtu, while the minimum forecast was USD 2.50 per MMBtu.
Por Focus Economics - https://www.focus-economics.com/ - Desde Barcelona España