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Mixed signals on demand but world will need more oil from OPEC but the group is cutting

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A world where OPEC(+) is in charge is a very different world than we are used to during the ultra-bearish 2015-19 period where US shale AND offshore non-OPEC production both were booming. Brent averaged USD 58/b nominal and USD 70/b in real terms that period. The Brent 5yr contract is trading at USD 66/b nominal or USD 58.6/b in real-terms assuming no market power to OPEC+ in 2028. Could be, but we don’t think so as US Permian shale is projected by major players to peak next 5yrs. When OPEC(+) is in charge the group will cut according to needs. For Saudi that is around USD 85/b but maybe as high as USD 97/b if budget costs rise with inflation

Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities at SEB
Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB

No major revisions to outlook by the IEA last week in its monthly Oil Market Report.

Total demand to rise 2 m b/d, 90% of demand growth from non-OECD and 57% from Jet fuel. Total demand to rise by 2 m b/d YoY to 101.9 m b/d where 90% of the gain is non-OECD. Jet fuel demand to account for 57% of demand growth as global aviation continues to normalize post Covid-19. Demand for 2022 revised down by 0.1 m b/d and as a result so was the 2023 outlook (to 101.9 m b/d). Non-OPEC supply for 2023 was revised up by 0.1 m b/d. Call-on-OPEC 2023 was reduced by 0.2 m b/d as a result to 29.5 m b/d. Call-on-OPEC was 28.8 m b/d in Q4-22. The group produced 28.94 m b/d in Mar (Argus).

World will need more oil from OPEC. Call-on-OPEC to rise 1.6 m b/d from Q4-22 to Q4-23. IEA is forecasting a call-on-OPEC in Q4-23 of 30.4 m b/d. The world will thus need 1.6 m b/d more oil from OPEC YoY in Q4-23 and 0.46 m b/d more than it produced in March. Counter to this though the OPEC group decided to cut production by 1 m b/d from May to the end of the year. So from May onward the group will produce around 28 m b/d while call-on-OPEC will be 29.1 m b/d, 30.3 m b/d and 30.4 m b/d in Q2,3,4-23.

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If the IEA is right about demand then the coming OPEC cuts  should drive inventories significantly lower and oil prices higher.

But the market doesn’t quite seem to buy into this outlook. If it had then prices would have moved higher. Prices bumped up to USD 87.49/b intraday on 12 April but have since fallen back and Brent is falling back half a percent today to USD 85.9/b.

Market is concerned for declining OECD manufacturing PMI’s. It is of course the darkening clouds on the macro-sky which is making investors concerned about the outlook for oil products demand and thus crude oil demand. Cross-currents in global oil product demand is making the situation difficult to assess. On the one hand there are significant weakening signals in global diesel demand along with falling manufacturing PMIs. The stuff which makes the industrial world go round. Manufacturing, trucking, mining and heavy duty vehicles all need diesel. (Great Blbrg story on diesel here.) Historically recessions implies a cyclical trough in manufacturing activity, softer diesel demand and falling oil prices. So oil investors are naturally cautious about buying into the bull-story based on OPEC cuts alone.

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Cross-currents is making demand growth hard to assess. But the circumstances are much more confusing this time around than in normal recession cycles because: 1) Global Jet fuel demand is reviving/recovering post Covid-19 and along with China’s recent reopening. IEA’s assessment is that 57% of global demand growth this year will be from Jet fuel. And 2) Manufacturing PMIs in China and India are rising while OECD PMIs are falling.

These cross-currents in the demand picture is what makes the current oil market so difficult to assess for everyone and why oil prices are not rallying directly to + USD 100/b. Investors are cautious. Though net-long specs have rallied 137 m b to 509 m b since the recent OPEC cuts were announced.

The world will need more oil from OPEC in 2023 but OPEC is cutting. The IEA is projecting that non-OPEC+ supply will grow by 1.9 m b/d YoY and OPEC+ will decline by 0.8 m b/d and in total that global supply will rise 1.2 m b/d in 2023. In comparison  global demand will rise by 2.0 m b/d. At the outset this is a very bullish outlook but the global macro-backdrop could of course deteriorate further thus eroding the current projected demand growth of 2 m b/d. But OPEC can cut more if needed since latest cuts have only brought Saudi Arabia’s production down to its normal level.

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OPEC has good reasons to cut production if it can. IEA expects global oil demand to rise 2 m b/d YoY in 2023 and that call-on-OPEC will lift 1.6 m b/d from Q4-22 to Q4-23. I.e. the world needs more oil from OPEC in 2023. But OPEC will likely produce closer to 28 m b/d from May to Dec following latest announced production cuts

Source: SEB graph, IEA, Argus

Market has tightened with stronger backwardation and investors have increased their long positions

Source: SEB calculations and graphs. Blbrg data

Net long specs in Brent + WTI has bounced since OPEC announcement on coming cuts.

Source: SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

Saudi Arabia’s fiscal cost-break-even was USD 85/b in 2021 projected the IMF earlier. Don’t know when it was projected, but looks like it was before 2020 and thus before the strong rise in inflation. If we add 15% US inflation to the 2021 number we get USD 97/b. Inflation should lift budget costs in Saudi Arabia as it is largely a USD based economy. Though Saudi Arabia’s inflation since Q4-19 is reported as 8% to data while Saudi cost-of-living-index is up by 11%. Good reason for Saudi Arabia to cut if it can cut without loosing market share to US shale.

Source: SEB graph, IMF data

Adjusting for inflation both on a backward and forward basis. The 5yr Brent price is today at USD 66.3/b but if we adjust for US 5yr inflation it is USD 58.6/b in real terms. That is basically equal to the average Brent spot price from 2015-2019 which was very bearish with booming shale and booming offshore non-OPEC. Market is basically currently pricing that Brent oil market in 5yrs time will be just as bearish as the ultra-bearish period from 2015-2019. It won’t take a lot to beat that when it comes to actual delivery in 2028.

Source: SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

Nominal Brent oil prices and 5yr Brent adj. for 5yr forward inflation expectations only

Source: SEB claculations and graph, Blbrg data

ARA Diesel cracks to Brent were exceptionally low in 2020/21 and exceptionally high in 2022. Now they are normalizing. Large additions to refining capacity through 2023 will increase competition in refining and reduce margins. Cuts by OPEC+ will at the same time make crude oil expensive. But diesel cracks are still significantly higher than normal. So more downside before back to normal is achieved.

Source: SEB graph and calculations. Blbrg data

Analys

Crude oil comment: Lack of clear direction

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This week, Brent crude prices have declined by USD 2.3 per barrel (2.8%) since Monday’s opening, driven by fundamental market factors. The current price is near its weekly low at USD 81.8 per barrel, down from Monday’s high of USD 84.5 per barrel.

Ole R. Hvalbye, Analyst Commodities, SEB
Ole R. Hvalbye, Analyst Commodities, SEB

The price has fallen by nearly USD 1 per barrel since yesterday afternoon. This week’s downward trend can be attributed to three main factors:

1. Upcoming OPEC+ Meeting:

OPEC+ is scheduled to meet on June 1st for the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC). Initially planned as a physical meeting in Vienna, it will now be fully digital, suggesting no major discussions or changes. We anticipate that the meeting will result in the extension of current production cuts into Q3 2024. OPEC+ aims to signal a tight yet well-supplied market, maintaining the status quo and minimizing significant market reactions.

2. U.S. Inventory Report:

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Wednesday’s U.S. inventory report had a bearish impact on the market, showing a build in commercial crude inventories (excl. SPR) by 1.8 million barrels, contrary to the expected 1.9-million-barrel draw. This was slightly more bullish than the American Petroleum Institute (API) forecast of a 2.5-million-barrel increase released on Tuesday.

Commercial crude inventories now stand at 458.8 million barrels, about 3% below the five-year average for this time of year. This build is counter-seasonal, as we usually see a draw at this time of the year. Gasoline inventories decreased by 0.9 million barrels, less than the anticipated draw of 1.2 million barrels. Distillate (diesel) inventories increased by 0.4 million barrels, against a consensus expectation of a 0.3-million-barrel draw, further defying typical seasonal trends and adding a bearish tone to the market, even though they remain about 7% below the five-year average. Overall, total inventories (crude + gasoline + distillate) rose by 1.3 million barrels.

Additionally, U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 16.5 million barrels per day last week, an increase of 227 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Refineries operated at 91.7% of their operable capacity, the highest since mid-January, as they ramp up following maintenance. Gasoline production averaged 10 million barrels per day, while distillate fuel production averaged 5.1 million barrels per day. A marginal improvement in refinery margins indicates healthier demand prospects leading into the driving season.

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3. FOMC Minutes and Economic Concerns:

The continued decline in oil prices can also be attributed to bearish pressure from hawkish Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) minutes, which raised concerns about persistent inflation. This could result in prolonged higher U.S. interest rates, potentially limiting future oil demand growth.

In summary, the combined effect of the upcoming OPEC+ meeting, the U.S. inventory report, and economic concerns highlighted in the FOMC minutes has contributed to the weakening of Brent crude prices this week.

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Analys

German solar power prices are collapsing as market hits solar saturation

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German solar power producers got a price haircut of 87% over the past 10 days. German solar power producers have over the past 10 days received a volume weighted power price of only EUR 9.1/MWh. The average power price during non-solar-power-hours was in comparison EUR 70.6/MWh. Solar power producers thus got an 87% cut in the power price they get when they produce vs. the power price during non-solar-power-hours. This is what happens to power prices when the volume of unregulated power becomes equally big or bigger than demand: Prices collapse when unregulated power produces the most.

Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB
Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB

Massive growth in solar power installations in Germany in 2023 is leading to destruction of solar hour prices and solar profitability. Germany installed a record 14,280 MW of solar power capacity According to ’PV Magazine International’. That is close to twice as much as in 2022. Total installed solar capacity reached 81.7 GW at the end of 2023 according to ’Renewables Now’. Average German demand load was in comparison 52.2 GW. So total solar capacity reached almost 30 GW above average demand. Solar power produces the most during summer when demand is lower. The overshoot is thus much larger than the 30 GW mentioned when it matters.

The collapse in solar-hour-power-prices implies a collapse in solar power producer earnings unless the earnings of the installations are secured with subsidies or by PPAs. It also means that there is a sharp reduction in the earnings potential for new solar power projects. The exponential growth in new installations of solar capacity we have seen to date is likely to come to an abrupt halt. There is however most likely still a large range of solar power projects under construction in Germany which will be finalized before growth in new capacity comes to a halt. The problem of solar power production curbs (you are not allowed to produce at all) and solar power price destruction is likely to escalate yet higher before new growth in supply comes to a halt. 

Focus will now shift from solar production capacity growth to grid improvements, batteries and adaptive demand. All consumers are of course happy for cheap power as long as they are able to consume it when it is cheap. At the moment they can’t. But the incentive to be inventive is now super high. The focus will now likely shift from solar power production growth to grids, batteries, adaptive demand and all possible ways to utilize ”free power”. This will over time exhaust the availability of ”free power” and drive solar-hour-power-prices back up. This again will then eventually open for renewed growth in solar power capacity growth.

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It is probably much worse down in the grid. What is worth noting is that these numbers are for all of Germany average. Solar power congestion is much worse in the local grids all around Germany along with local grid capacity constraints ect.

The problem of solar power is high concentration of production: 80% of German solar production was produced during 22.3% of the hours in the year in 2023. What is also worth mentioning is that solar power production is extremely concentrated in relatively few hours per year. It produces in the middle of the day and during summer. In 2023 German solar power produced 80% of its production in only 22.3% of the hours of the year. This basically implies that once solar power production reaches 22.3% of total power supply (without batteries), then solar-hour-power-prices will likely collapse. Solar power production reached 55 TWh in 2023. That’s a lot but it is still only 12% of total demand of 458 TWh in 2023. What it means is that the acute problem of solar-hour-power-price-destruction sets in much before the ”theoretical 22.3%” mentioned above.

On the 21 Feb 2024 we wrote the following note on this issue: ”The self-destructive force of unregulated solar power” where we highlighted these issues and warned that this will likely be a process of ”First gradually. Then suddenly”.

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German solar power capacity makes a big leap upwards in 2023 as the energy crisis hurt everybody. Demand went down. Now there is a large overcapacity in installed solar effect vs. demand load.

German solar power capacity makes a big leap upwards in 2023 as the energy crisis hurt everybody. Demand went down. Now there is a large overcapacity in installed solar effect vs. demand load.
Source: SEB calculations and graph, PV Magazine, Wikipedia, Blberg data on German power demand

German solar power producers got an 87% price haircut on average during last 10 days vs. those who produced during non-solar-power hours.

German solar power producers got an 87% price haircut on average during last 10 days vs. those who produced during non-solar-power hours.
Source: SEB calculations and graph, data by Blbrg

Volume weighted solar power prices vs. non-solar-hours. Bigger and bigger discount.

Volume weighted solar power prices vs. non-solar-hours. Bigger and bigger discount.
Source:  SEB calculations and graph, data by Blbrg

Volume weighted solar power prices vs. non-solar-hours. Bigger and bigger discount.

Volume weighted solar power prices vs. non-solar-hours. Bigger and bigger discount.
Source: SEB calculations and graph, data by Blbrg

Solar power production and German power prices over the past 10 days.

Solar power production and German power prices over the past 10 days.
Source: SEB calculations and graph, data by Blbrg

Solar power production and German power prices on 27 April 2024.

Solar power production and German power prices on 27 April 2024.
Source:  SEB calculations and graph, data by Blbrg
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Analys

Firm at $85

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This week, Brent Crude prices have strengthened by USD 1.2 per barrel since Monday’s opening. While macroeconomic concerns persist, market reactions have been subdued, with price fluctuations primarily driven by fundamental factors. Currently, the oil price stands at its weekly high of USD 84.4 per barrel, with Wednesday’s low recorded at USD 81.7 per barrel, indicating relatively normal price movements throughout the week.

Ole R. Hvalbye, Analyst Commodities, SEB
Ole R. Hvalbye, Analyst Commodities, SEB

The upward trajectory since Wednesday afternoon can be attributed to two main factors:

Firstly, Wednesday’s US inventory report, though mixed, conveyed a bullish sentiment to the market due to an overall decline in commercial inventories. The report from the US Department of Energy (DOE) revealed a draw in US crude inventories of 1.4 million barrels last week, surpassing consensus estimates of a 2.0-million-barrel draw –  the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) forecast of a 0.5-million-barrel build on Tuesday.

Additionally, a marginal improvement in refinery margins hints at healthier demand prospects leading up to the driving season. While commercial crude oil inventories (excluding Strategic Petroleum Reserve) decreased, standing approximately 3% below the five-year average for this period, total gasoline inventories saw a notable increase of 0.9 million barrels compared to the consensus forecast of a decrease of 1.1 million barrels. Distillate fuel inventories experienced a more moderate increase in line with expectations, rising by 0.6 million barrels but remaining approximately 7% below the five-year average. Overall, total inventories (crude + gasoline + distillate) showed a marginal increase of 0.1 million barrels, coupled with a 1% improvement in refinery utilization to 88.5% last week (see pages 11 and 18 attached).

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The substantial draw in commercial crude inventories, particularly compared to the typical seasonal build, has emerged as a key price driver (see page 12 attached).

Secondly, the third consecutive day of oil price gains can be attributed to renewed optimism regarding US rate cuts, supported by positive US jobs data suggesting potential Federal Reserve rate cuts this year. This optimism has boosted risk assets and weakened the dollar, rendering commodities more appealing to buyers.

In a broader context, crude oil prices have been moderating since early last month amidst easing tensions in the Middle East. Attention is also focused on OPEC+, with Russia, a key member, exceeding production targets ahead of the cartel’s upcoming meeting. Expectations are widespread for an extension of output cuts during the next meeting.

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Conversely, providing support to global crude prices is the Biden administration’s intention to increase the price ceiling for refilling US strategic petroleum reserves to as much as USD 79.99 per barrel.

With geopolitical tensions relatively subdued, but lingering, the market remains vigilant in analyzing data and fundamentals. Our outlook for oil prices at USD 85 per barrel for 2024 remains firm and attainable for the foreseeable future.

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