Oil posts third straight weekly decline as focus shifts to demand concerns

Disappointing data out of China and the US this week has stoked bearish sentiment in the oil market, consultancy BMI says

Saudi Arabia's Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said oil demand was healthy and that speculators were to blame for the recent drop in crude prices. Reuters
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Oil prices closed higher on Friday but recorded their third straight weekly decline as concerns about demand continued to outweigh tighter supply prospects.

Brent, the benchmark for two thirds of the world’s oil, settled 1.77 per cent higher at $81.43 a barrel on Friday, while West Texas Intermediate, the gauge that tracks US crude, closed up 1.89 per cent at $77.17 a barrel.

On Thursday, Brent settled 0.59 per cent higher at $80.01 a barrel while WTI closed 0.54 per cent up at $75.74 a barrel.

“As supply-side concerns ebb, demand fears are retaking hold,” BMI, a Fitch solutions company, said in a research note on Thursday.

“The global economy is slowing and disappointing data releases out of China and the US this week have fuelled bearish sentiment in the oil market,” the market intelligence company said.

Concerns over potential disruption of Iran oil exports as a result of the war appears to be fading.

Less than a week ago, the US passed the Stop Harbouring Iranian Petroleum bill, intended to clamp down on Tehran’s illicit exports.

Consensus opinion is that the bill – which must still pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Joe Biden – will probably have “little impact” on the ground, BMI said.

Iran’s oil production recently grew to 3.4 million barrels per day, its Oil Minister said.

The country’s output reached about 3.1 million bpd in September, compared with 2.55 million bpd in 2022, Opec data showed.

Meanwhile, oil market fundamentals remain “remarkably stable” despite the uncertainty and potential for volatility, S&P Global Commodity Insights said.

Growth in non-Opec+ supply, decelerating demand growth in China and sizeable Opec spare capacity point to a well-supplied market in coming months, S&P Global said.

“Oil prices have remained below where they were in late September – a week before the Hamas attack,” said Jim Burkhard, vice president and head of research for oil markets, energy and mobility at S&P Global Commodity Insights.

“Strong oil market fundamentals are prevailing over any fears at the moment.”

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Thursday that oil demand was healthy and that speculators were to blame for the recent drop in crude prices.

“It’s not weak,” Prince Abdulaziz was quoted as saying by Bloomberg on the sidelines of an event in Riyadh. “People are pretending it’s weak. It’s all a ploy.”

The minister said some oil market participants had been misunderstanding increases in oil exports in recent months from Opec and their correlation with those countries’ production.

Shipments are seasonal and should not be viewed as reflecting fluctuations in output, he said.

The Opec+ group of oil producers is set to meet in Vienna on November 26 to set output targets for the first half of 2024.

Saudi Arabia and Russia are expected to extend their voluntary production cuts of a combined 1.3 million bpd into the new year if the downward pressure on oil prices continues, according to MUFG.

“Russian seaborne crude oil exports have grown in recent months and data shows that it is currently close to the highest seen in more than four months, suggesting that Russia may be shirking, somewhat, on its voluntary production cuts,” the Japanese lender said.

Updated: November 12, 2023, 4:10 AM