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Oil Update—July 2018

My expectation for the West Texas Intermediate oil price for August is the same as it was for July, namely WTI will range between $65 and $75 per barrel. While it might deviate from that range for a few days, I expect that WTI prices will fall within that range for most of the month.

The US Energy Information Administration predicts lower prices in the months ahead. In its latest “Short-Term Energy Outlook” (PDF), it states the following:

Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $74 per barrel (b) in June, a decrease of almost $3/b from the May average. EIA forecasts Brent spot prices will average $73/b in the second half of 2018 and will average $69/b in 2019. EIA expects West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices will average $6/b lower than Brent prices in the second half of 2018 and $7/b lower in 2019. NYMEX WTI futures and options contract values for October 2018 delivery that traded during the five-day period ending July 5, 2018, suggest a range of $56/b to $87/b encompasses the market expectation for October WTI prices at the 95% confidence level.

Yet others believe that prices are on the cusp of a bull market. On July 28, the Wall Street Journal in an article titled “As Oil Industry Recovers From a Glut, a Supply Crunch Might Be Looming” (subscription required) stated the following:

“The years of underinvestment are setting the scene for a supply crunch,” said Virendra Chauhan, an oil industry analyst at consultancy Energy Aspects. He believes a production deficit could come as soon as the end of next year, potentially pushing oil above $100 a barrel.

. . .

Veteran oil investor Pierre Andurand is betting on a multiyear bull run in oil. Mr. Andurand said Brent could hit highs of $100 a barrel this year and top $150 by the early 2020s. Others forecast more modest price gains but still believe a supply deficit will raise prices.

Oil price uncertainty continues to rage on. I am waiting to see how trade tensions play out over the fall, how Venezuela manages in the months ahead, and how oil markets react to Iran sanctions in November. I expect substantial oil price uncertainty will remain for the next several months.

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