Any sense of bullish optimism seemed to get lost after the American Petroleum Institute blindsided the market with a reported 6.3 million barrel build in crude oil supply. The number was about 5 times larger than market expectations and came as traders were trying to asses conflicting reports from different reporting agencies and conflicting OPEC comments. In the end, though, after the whopping increase in weekly supply, the focus turned to the near-term oil glut.
Not only did API report a massive overall build, it also reported a much larger than expected 2.5 million barrel increase in the all important Cushing, Oklahoma delivery point for crude oil futures. The builds seemed to overshadow the fact that the API reported gasoline inventories fell by 3.2 million barrels. Maybe it was because distillate stocks fell by only 500,000 barrels. Of course normally when we get an API report that is so out of line with market expectations we would eagerly await the Energy Information Administration (IEA) report to see if the folks at API are onto something or just out of their minds. But due to the Veteran’s Day holiday we will have to wait until tomorrow.
We did get a longer-term outlook from the API for oil in their Short Term Energy Outlook.
The EIA is warning that the OPEC oil war is going to take its toll on U.S. oil output saying that it will cause non-OPEC production to fall for the first time since 2008. The EIA revised down its 2016 production forecast to 8.77 million bpd, down 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) compared to previous forecast. Oil output is expected to fall by 520,000 bpd rather than 390,000 bpd. This comes as U.S. drillers have cut the number of rigs in use by 63 percent in the past year cutting production 450,000 barrels from its June peak.
They are also predicting lower heating bills because of high natural gas inventories and expected warmer than normal weather will lead to lower natural gas prices this winter, which could reduce the heating expenditures for households that heat primarily with natural gas by an average 13% compared to last year.
The EIA is also saying that U.S. gasoline demand this year is on track to be the highest since record levels were set in 2007 due in large part to low pump prices and more people working which is always a good thing.
Of course the big question for this market is whether or not OPEC will cap production or face an era of prolonged low prices that could financially destroy some OPEC members. The IEA issued a warning to OPEC saying the price war they are waging pushing crude oil prices to $50.00 per barrel is unsustainable. A more likely scenario would be the cartel showing some restraint and prices would then head up to the $80.00 per barrel area.
This comes after OPEC hinted that they may raise their production quota 1.0 million barrels a day to 31 million barrels. It might be a signal ton the market that there may be some restraint leaving OPEC output in the future at near current levels. They also hinted that there may be some adjustments in production to accommodate the return of Iranian oil.
The other concern for oil is weak Asian demand after weak data from China and Japan. But interestingly enough, when it comes to China they are still using a lot of oil. Dow Jones reported that China crude oil imports dipped in October from September but are still up 9.4% from a year ago. In absolute terms, additional crude import growth has averaged 540,000 bpd in the first 10 months of the year, compared with an additional 510,000 bpd during the same period in 2014, says Howe Robinson. "Expectations of increased refining runs, access to imported crude from independent teapot refineries and new storage capacity coming online next year, has translated into a projection of 400,000-525,000 b/d growth in China's crude imports in the coming year."
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