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Iran talks offer hope on oil prices

Iran has been at the centre of all the major oil market price spikes in the past few decades: Today’s record prices on an annual basis are partly due to market fears over supply disruptions due to the Iran/Israel nuclear issue Fears over a nuclear showdown also led prices to jump to $150/bbl in July 2008, when the […]

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Oil market hype fails to take prices out of their triangle

Pity for a moment those poor souls whose income depends on finding ever-more creative ways of justifying today’s record levels of oil prices.  One by one, all their favourite stories have disappeared.  Even the traditional summer warnings of record hurricane disruption have so far failed to deliver. How different it is from the start of the crisis, when the […]

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Pension fund speculation boosts oil prices as consumers suffer

Think back over the past 5 years.  Can you remember a single time when oil supplies were actually difficult to find?  If you can’t, then you have the same memory as the blog. Official statistics support this view.  Thus last week’s US EIA report noted that “U.S. crude oil inventories are near the upper limit […]

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High oil prices take European operating rates to record lows

Life doesn’t get any easier for Europe’s olefin producers and the consumers who depend on them.  As the chart shows, based on latest APPE data, operating rates averaged just 78% in H1.  This is almost as bad as H1 2009, when they were 76%.  And it is a long way away from the 90% levels […]

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Speculative Brent rally lifts oil prices just $3/bbl

Last week should have been a great week for the speculators.  As in July 2008, they were able to spread the rumour of imminent Middle East war and upheaval.  5 years ago it was the threat of Israel bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, and leading to a blockade of the Straits of Hormuz.  This time it […]

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WTI v natgas Jun13.png

What goes up, usually comes down

Something very strange has happened to oil prices since 2009, as the chart of the ratio between US oil and natural gas prices shows: • Between 1986-2008, the ratio averaged 9.6, and was typically in the 6 – 14 range (6 is oil’s relative energy content versus natgas, whilst 14 was seen during the first […]

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Brent Jun13.png

‘The Trend is Your Friend’, until it isn’t

The blog still owns the lapel button it was given when running ICI’s feedstock and petchem trading office in Houston, Texas. Its advice for any trader is excellent – ‘The Trend is Your Friend’. But as all traders learn over time, there are moments when the trend can change. And sometimes, when change happens, it […]

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ICB May13.png

Oil markets risk rapid repricing – Part 2

As the blog discussed yesterday, central banks have now kept oil prices above the historical $10-30/bbl range for 10 years. But can they remain there forever? What might bring them back in line with the fundamentals of supply/demand? And what would be the risks if this happened? The background can be simply stated: • Investors […]

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Brent May13.png

Oil markets risk rapid repricing – Part 1

Since 1900, as the chart shows, oil prices have never been so high for so long as now. Until 2003, they had only been above $30/bbl for 4 years between 1979-1982, during the OPEC production cuts in the Iran crisis. But since 2004, they have been continuously above this level. The reason is the misguided […]

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Japan’s liquidity programme sends oil, gold prices tumbling

Brent crude oil prices have now dropped $20/bbl since their February peak at $119/bbl. The major drop has occurred this month, following the Bank of Japan’s decision to introduce its own massive liquidity programme. This confirms the blog’s long-standing argument that the fundamentals of supply/demand had nothing to do with oil’s rise from $30/bbl to […]

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