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Oil Update—September 2019

I expect West Texas Intermediate oil prices to range between $52.50 and $62.50, consistent with the range in my last two months’ forecast.

There was a lot of volatility in oil prices in September. There was an attack on Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure, and although Saudi Arabia’s exports have recovered to near prior levels, there are still questions remaining as to how quickly Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure can be fully repaired. Adding to the uncertainty is the impeachment investigation in the US. My own view is that one should largely tune out the political noise until such time as there are consequences that affect supply and demand.

On October 27, the Wall Street Journal published an article “Banks Stay Gloomy on Oil, Shrugging Off Attacks” (subscription required). While I am not gloomy, I am certainly not a raving optimist either. Instead, I expect more range-bound to slightly higher oil prices.

Oil prices have shed the roughly 15% gains they notched on Sept. 16, in the aftermath of the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s energy infrastructure. Among the factors pressuring prices are an increase in U.S. inventories, a backdrop of deepening political and economic uncertainty, and reassurances from Saudi officials that crude exports won’t be interrupted.

“The level of Saudi Arabia’s domestic inventories and production spare capacity both suggest that maintaining export levels is achievable,” said Damien Courvalin, head of energy research at Goldman Sachs.

The incident is likely to have “a negligible impact” on commercial inventories held by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, Mr. Courvalin said.

Every month seems to bring a new source of volatility. Now, there is the fallout from the attack on Saudi Arabia and the impeachment investigation in the US. In mid-October, the China-US negotiations are scheduled to resume in earnest. So, October promises to be an interesting month.

All that said, my price forecast remains at $52.50 to $62.50 for October.

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