Phil Flynn is writer of The Energy Report, a daily market commentary discussing oil, the Middle East, American government, economics, and their effects on the world's energies markets, as well as other commodity markets. Contact Mr. Flynn at (888) 264-5665
In my rant on the 5% sell-off in oil on black and blue Friday, I erroneously stated the massive sell-off was on light volume. Well actually, the volume was very high, higher than the recent average. It’s amazing how many contracts computers can trade. Oh sure, just because we get these massive moves on holiday-shortened trading days and they are becoming more common, I suppose it could just be a coincidence. The massive sell-off last black Friday and last Christmas Eve really had nothing to do with the 5% selloff we saw on black and blue Friday. Nothing to see here people, keep on moving.
There were some circumstances. For example uncertainty about OPEC. Rumors that OPEC might not get a deal. Rumors that Russia was balking at compliance. Yet at the same time, we have reported that Saudi Arabia is trying to get a bigger surprise production cut and that might get the market in a festive buying mood. OPEC+ Russia is reportedly looking at increasing its current supply cuts of 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) by an additional 400,000 bpd while extending the pact till June, 2020. Of course, Reuters ruined the surprise.
Ongoing concerns over the global economy and the U.S.-China trade war continue to weigh on prices but U.S. crude inventories are expected to have declined last week which may lend some support to prices. A Reuters poll estimates that U.S. crude inventories likely dipped by 1.8 million barrels in the week to November 29, following a 1.6 million barrels build in the previous week.
There was the snowstorm that hurt gasoline demand and grounded a lot of diesel-burning flights. That as well could have contributed to the Black and blue Friday massacre. Or it could be because traders are fearing that the U.S.-China trade deal will fall apart. Or it could be that based on recent trade shortened holiday trading days, the market is susceptible to ridiculous moves just because it happened to be a holiday.
Of course, oil did recover a bit even as it faced some potentially bearish headlines. Steel tariffs on Brazil and Argentina, some say are in part retaliation from the Trump administration on those countries’ moves to take advantage of the trade war and to take some of the U.S. farmer’s China market share. Comments by President Trump at the NATO summit in London said, “In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal, but they want to make a deal now and we will see whether or not the deal is going to be right” is also adding to the drama surrounding global trade.
The oil market is also expected to see a draw in crude inventory in tonight’s American Petroleum Institute report. Not only did private forecasters report that supply in the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery hub fell by over 1.0 million barrels, but a Reuters poll also estimates that U.S. crude inventories likely dipped by 1.8 million barrels in the week to November 29, following a 1.6 million barrels build in the previous week.
Natural gas has had a tough time as the weather forecast turned milder. How long will that last? Bret Walts ay Bamwx says that, “Following big discrepancies in the warmer EPS and colder GEFS yesterday – we have seen major colder trends on both models overnight. The aforementioned warm-up over the next 7 days looks to be rather brief – but warmth could linger into early week 2 ahead of a storm system. A blast of cold air is likely by the middle of next week behind with the North Pacific pattern becoming more favorable for cold shots. This will allow for heating demand to rise back above normal following a below normal week for the demand for the next 7 days. There certainly still appear to be colder risks on the table in December and we remain on quite a different trajectory vs. last year. We are still targeting the last third of the month for more consistent colder risks in the Eastern US.” This is why natural gas is bouncing back today. Nothing to do with the Holiday shortened trading Friday I assure you. I think.
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