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Oil Update—October 2019

For the fourth straight month, I expect West Texas Intermediate oil prices to range between $52.50 and $62.50.

With all the uncertainties surrounding trade, global growth, and future oil supply and demand, oil prices remain reasonably volatile. The US-China trade war should become less severe after the mid-November meeting where both countries are expected to sign the first phase of a trade deal. With a little luck, there might be a resolution, or perhaps just more clarity, of the ongoing Brexit saga early in January. With reduced trade frictions, global growth should tick higher. Oil supply and demand, however, are extraordinarily difficult to predict.

The Financial Times article “Investors starve US shale drillers of capital” (subscription required) shows the difficulty shale companies face.

The money pipeline is running dry for large portions of the US shale oil sector, tipping drillers into bankruptcy and threatening the industry”s breathtaking growth in oil production.

Spooked by lower oil prices, equity and bond investors are now shunning the smaller, independent shale explorers that lifted the US to the top rank of global oil producers. Meanwhile, say analysts, banks have pulled in their horns, and are likely to further restrict companies’ capacity to borrow when they begin their twice-annual reviews of loans secured by oil and gas reserves.

Last Friday, Baker Hughes indicated that there were 17 fewer oil rigs operating in the US, supporting the thesis that money is now tight. The capital starvation and reduced number of rigs might damp the expected supply of oil for next year.

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia is going forward with its IPO. That has led to speculation that there might be deeper production cuts announced at OPEC+’s meeting in December.

As mentioned, if trade friction is substantially reduced, demand might be higher than expected.

There are a lot of uncertainties. Those who are bearish will find ample arguments to support their thesis. And similarly for the bulls, they, too, will find ample arguments.

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

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