Commodity Weekly: Crude Oil Frets Geopolitics, Sluggish Demand Bounce – FX Empire

We maintain our bullish outlook for both metals, not least gold now that its premium to silver has narrowed. The main reasons why we cannot rule out reaching a fresh record high over the coming years are:

Gold acts as a hedge against Central Bank monetization of the financial markets
Unprecedented government stimulus and political need for higher inflation to support debt levels.

The inevitable introduction of yield controls in the US forcing real yields lower
A rising global savings glut at a time of negative real interest rates and unsustainably high stock market valuation. Raised geo-political tensions as the Covid-19 blame game begins Rising inflation and a weaker US dollar.

The crude oil rally that emerged following the sub-zero collapse on April 20 is showing the first signs of pausing. This after the WTI futures contract hit $35 resistance and Brent failed to challenge $37.2/b, both levels being the 38.2% retracement of the January to April sell-off. The brief collapse into negative territory last month on the expiring May WTI contract probably was the single biggest contributor to support the strong rally that followed.

The event on April 20 sent a shockwave through the global oil market with producers realizing that something dramatic had to be done in order to rescue the market from even more pain. This probably led to the very strong and rapid compliance that major producers have been exhibiting during May.

In their latest monthly Oil Market Report the International Energy Agency saw global supply drop by 12 million barrels/day in May to reach a nine-year low at 88 million. Demand meanwhile was expected to recover from being down 22 million barrels/day year-on-year in May to down 13 million in June.

Supporting the process has been the rapid and in most cases involuntary reduction in US shale oil production, now estimated by the IEA to reach 2.8 million barrels/day year-on-year in 2020. Previous production cuts by OPEC+ always attracted some level of hesitancy as members of the group risked yielding further market share to producers in North America. That risk evaporated with the slump in WTI as it left many producers out of pocket, thereby forcing them to halt production.

Having potentially reached the consolidation phase, it is worth considering what could trigger renewed weakness. There are several risks with the most relevant being:

Easing lockdowns sparking a resurgence of Covid-19 outbreaks. Whether OPEC+ can maintain the current high level of compliance. Cash strapped US producers desperate to increase production with WTI back above $30/b.
Post-pandemic changes in global consumer habits (less flying and more working from home). A break above $35/b on the July WTI futures contract could signal a potential extension towards $40/b while support should emerge at $30/b. Only a break below $28/b would raise concerns of a deeper correction.

Apart from the risk of a new trade war between the US and China, as well as a weaker-than-expected demand recovery, the oil market focus in early June will once again turn to Vienna where OPEC and the OPEC+ group convene to discuss a path forward. Some concerns that Russia may struggle to commit to current cuts beyond July may once again create some nervousness prior to the June 8 to 10 meetings. This on the grounds that the recovery in crude oil prices so far has primarily been driven by supply cuts, that can easily be reversed, and not yet a solid recovery in demand.

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