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WTI futures Jan17a

Speculators’ tail wags oil market dog as paper trading dominates

Trading oil markets used to be hard work. You had to talk to all the major players all the time (not just message them), and learn to judge whether they were telling the truth or inventing a version of it.  You had to watch for breaking economic and political news.  And you needed your own […]

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WTI v natgas Jan17

OPEC’s oil output gamble set to face reality as speculative buying peaks

Oil prices, and those of natural gas, have been on a wild ride over the past year, as the chart confirms.  It shows US WTI prices divided by 6, as this enables a comparison with natural gas prices in terms of energy content:    Oil prices have come down a long way from their […]

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OPEC move supports US oil production rise, and smart meters

OPEC is living in the past with its recent announcement of new quotas. The simple fact is that the arrival of US shale production means OPEC are no longer the swing producer, able to control the world market. The quotas will have little effect in themselves, as most of the participants will cheat.  Instead, they […]

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Futures markets, US shale, the big winners from OPEC meeting

There were only two winners from the past 3 months of OPEC’s “Will they?, Won’t they?” debate on output cutbacks. Iran wasn’t one of them – although the talks did emphasise its renewed ability to control the OPEC agenda.  Nor was Saudi Arabia, forced to accept the lion’s share of the proposed cutbacks. Instead, the […]

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3 key questions for the oil market poker game, ahead of OPEC’s meeting

Volatility continues to dominate oil markets, as the above chart confirms.  Some weeks have seen prices move by over 18%.  These are extraordinary moves in a market which is very well supplied, with near-record inventory levels.  Some recent daily moves are equally extraordinary, with prices jumping $2.50/bbl on Tuesday. The volatility highlights the power of […]

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ExxonMobil, Saudi Arabia, differ on oil outlook – or do they?

If asked about the outlook for prices, oil company CEOs normally duck the question.  And they certainly never disagree in public with Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil producer.  This is what makes the recent speech by ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson, so interesting: “I don’t quite share the same view that others have that we are somehow […]

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Oil markets enter the “post-fact economy”, where details of supply/demand no longer seem to matter

Once upon a time, oil markets were based on facts.  Producers and consumers focused on trying to understand what “would” happen”, whilst the speculators placed their bets on what “could” happen. In those days – even 20 years ago, as the chart shows – the role of the speculators on the futures markets was very […]

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Lack of affordability limits gasoline demand growth

How much of your day’s wage does it cost you to buy a US gallon of gasoline?  This chart from Bloomberg shows the answer for 61 countries, based on prices for 95 octane grade at the end of Q2:   Bankrupt Venezuela is most affordable at 1% of a day’s income (based on GDP/capita)  […]

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Wrong assumptions on China growth and oil prices mean danger lies ahead for refiners and polymer producers

It could be a very difficult H2 for anyone involved in the Asian oil and polymer markets.  And given the global importance of these markets, everyone around the world will also feel the impact.  The issue is that most business strategies have been based on 2 increasingly unlikely assumptions:   Companies all assumed that oil […]

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Oil heads back to $30/bbl and probably lower

There was never any fundamental reason why oil prices should have doubled between January and June this year. There were no physical shortages of product, or long-term outages at key producers. But of course, there was never any fundamental reason for prices to treble between 2009 – 2011 in the Stimulus rally, or to jump […]

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