A New Day in the Oil Price Comeback

01/12/2021 10:00 am EST

Focus: COMMODITIES

Phil Flynn

Senior Energy Analyst, The PRICE Futures Group

Oil prices are rising as the market is coming to grips with the fact that cap spending on petroleum is going to be woefully short of what we need, says Phil Flynn of the PRICE Futures Group.

Already Saudi Arabia is sensing an opening, cutting production to raise prices without any fear of a tweet and is now free to manipulate prices higher. President-Elect Joe Biden could unleash a rash of regulations that will constrict US energy production giving the Saudis more price power. Shale producers will have a hard time reacting as not only are they drowning in debt, many banks, because of goals trying to get carbon neutral, will not lend money to the industry for energy projects. Even if they get the money, it is unlikely that will mean more production.

The Wall Street Journal reported that, “Most American [oil] companies will have to give priority to paying off debts over boosting production in the wake of the pandemic, analysts say. Even with oil at $50, it would take the 20 largest US shale companies 3.4 years on average to bring debt levels down to healthy levels relative to their overall capitalization, according to consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. In the meantime, we are seeing power and electricity prices spike in Japan and Europe. Strong demand and erratic plans to reduce carbon have left countries struggling to keep the lights on! What is this? California?

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Oil prices are still in an uptrend. We expect that the breakout in oil is signaling a new day in the oil price comeback. The Wall Street Journal says that “another factor driving bullish sentiment: busier traffic patterns in large US cities. Congestion during rush hour in December rose in 27 of the 40 cities tracked by analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Gains were led by demand centers in New York, Chicago, and Houston.”

Global cash cargoes are tight, and China's demand is already exceeding pre-Covid levels. On top of that, we should see US crude supply fall this week in the inventory reports. Oil bears that were betting that OPEC+ could not reduce supply or that Covid would keep demand depressed forever, are wrong and must cover. Another case where low prices miraculously cure low prices and for oil when they went below zero, that was as low as they ever got. 

Learn more about Phil Flynn by visiting Price Futures Group.

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