Crude Oil Price Movements
The OPEC Reference Basket averaged $55.50/b in October, gaining $2.06 over the previous month and reaching the highest value in more than two-and-a-half years, with a year-to-date average of $50.68/b. Crude futures also reached levels not seen since mid-2015. ICE Brent ended $2.13 higher at $57.65/b, while NYMEX WTI increased $1.72, reaching $51.59/b, keeping the Brent-WTI spread above $6/b. Prices have been supported by rising global demand data and expectations that major producing nations will extend a deal to adjust output and bring the oil market to a balance. Hedge funds raised net long positions in NYMEX WTI and ICE Brent futures and options by 29,456 and 21,592 contracts, respectively, to 281,244 and 530,237 lots. Brent and Dubai remained in backwardation, while the WTI contango eased. Sweet/sour differentials narrowed in Asia and Europe, but widened on the US Gulf Coast.
The global economic growth dynamic has continued its momentum, with the forecast for 2017 revised up to 3.7%, from 3.6% in last month’s report. Similarly, the 2018 forecast has been adjusted higher as well to stand at 3.7%, compared to 3.5% in the previous month. Particularly OECD economic growth in 2017 was better than expected so far. The OECD is seen growing by upwardly revised 2.3% in 2017 and 2.2% in 2018. Good momentum – and a potential tax reform – in the US, the ongoing dynamic in the Euro-zone and to some extent in Japan, solid growth in China and India and an improving situation in Russia and Brazil are supporting the growth trend in the short-term.
World Oil Demand
World oil demand growth is expected to rise by 1.53 mb/d in 2017 after an upward adjustment of 74 tb/d to account for the better-than-expected performance of China in 3Q17. In 2018, world oil demand is foreseen reaching 1.51 mb/d, around 130 tb/d higher than in the previous assessment.
World Oil Supply
Non-OPEC oil supply is now projected to grow by 0.65 mb/d y-o-y in 2017, representing a downward revision of 0.02 mb/d from last month’s report. For 2018, growth in non-OPEC oil supply has also been revised down by 0.07 mb/d to stand at 0.87 mb/d. OPEC NGLs and non-conventional liquids are expected to grow by 0.18 mb/d in 2018, following an increase of 0.17 mb/d in 2017. In October 2017, OPEC crude oil production decreased by 151 tb/d, according to secondary sources, to average 32.59 mb/d.
Product Markets and Refining Operations
Product markets in the Atlantic Basin weakened in October due to seasonally-lower gasoline demand following the end of US driving season. Nonetheless, US refining margins have exhibited some improvement y-o-y on the back of firm product demand and amid low stock levels. In Europe, solid middle-of-the-barrel demand offset weakness at the top and bottom. Product markets in Asia also weakened slightly, but remained at healthy levels, supported by the onset of refinery maintenance.
Sentiment in the dirty tanker market generally strengthened in October, as freight rates for different classes showed improvements on most major trading routes. Average dirty tanker spot freight rates rose 16% compared to the previous month, on the back of improved seasonal tonnage demand, as well as port and weather delays, among other factors. Despite healthy gains in October, the shipping market remains in surplus, capping further increases in spot freight rates. Meanwhile, clean tanker freight rates experienced a relative decline, although remaining above the levels of the same month last year.
Total OECD commercial oil stocks fell in September to stand at 2,985 mb. At this level, OECD commercial oil stocks are 154 mb above the latest five-year average. Crude and products stocks indicated a surplus of around 129 mb and 25 mb, respectively, above the seasonal norm. In terms of days of forward cover, OECD commercial stocks stood at 62.3 days in September, some 1.9 days higher than the latest five-year average.
Balance of Supply and Demand
Based on the current global oil supply/demand balance, OPEC crude in 2017 is estimated at 33.0 mb/d, around 0.71 mb/d higher than in 2016. OPEC crude in 2018 is estimated at 33.4 mb/d, about 0.46 mb/d higher than in 2017.