Oil alert as long, hot summer sets in

Look ahead: Oil markets are expected to be at the forefront of investors' minds during the week ahead after the price of crude dropped to the lowest levels in two years last week.

Non-OECD demand is forecast to be 45.7 million bpd next year, 600,000 bpd more than OECD demand, according to the IEA. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Oil markets are expected to be at the forefront of investors' minds during the week ahead after the price of crude dropped to the lowest levels in two years last week.

Brent crude futures, which fell US$7 during the week to settle at $90.62 on Friday, dipped as low as $88.99 per barrel on Thursday.

The European benchmark has fallen by as much as $39.11 per barrel since prices peaked in February.

Prices of West Texas Intermediate futures slid $4.67 during the week to $79.36.

The slowing pace of world growth led Bank of America Merrill Lynch to lower forecasts for the price of oil this year.

"The euro-zone crisis is infecting global oil prices as contagion spreads from banking woes to economic growth expectations," analysts wrote in a research report.

"Given weakening oil demand in Europe, softer growth in emerging markets and the US, plus stronger than expected supply growth, we lower our Brent and WTI crude oil forecasts for [the second half of this year] to $106 and $97 per barrel, respectively. For 2013, we see prices averaging $110 and $100 per barrel," the report added.

Oil prices could have even further to fall as a result of slack demand from Europe, analysts from Capital Economics wrote in a research report.

"Over the next 18 months we expect Brent to trade mostly in a range of $70 to $100 per barrel, with the risks on this horizon skewed to the downside," the report said. "The temptation is to lower our forecasts further. However, after such precipitate declines in oil prices, it would not be surprising to see a small, albeit temporary, bounce."

Despite the gloom on oil markets, the S&P AFE 40 Index of Arab blue-chip stocks closed the week unchanged at 52.54.

But stocks fell when trading resumed yesterday in Saudi Arabia, with the Saudi Tadawul All-Share Index falling 0.9 per cent to 6,774.26 yesterday.

Market heavyweights including Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic), Al Rajhi Bank and Zain Saudi Arabia were hardest hit, as Saudi trading pointed to a poor start for the UAE and other Arabian Gulf markets this week.

Stocks were mixed on Thursday after the failure of the UAE and Qatar to secure inclusion in the MSCI Emerging Markets index for the fourth year running. Despite falling after MSCI's announcement, the Dubai Financial Market General Index nevertheless closed the week 0.4 per cent higher at 1,470.45.

The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index rose 0.7 per cent to 2,508.59, the fourth straight week of gains.

Although the failure of the UAE and Qatar to gain an upgrade to emerging market status was a setback, it was unlikely to have much effect on local stocks as many traders had considered an upgrade to be a remote possibility, said Yazan Abdeen, a fund manager at ING Investment Management.

"MSCI was a non-event. I don't see the market reacting to it," he said.

Mr Abdeen expects few catalysts for the market until the third quarter of the year and the release of quarterly earnings.

However, he warned that with the summer setting in, local markets would be tied to developments in Europe for many of the coming weeks.

Macro-economic indicators from the United States pointed to struggling recovery, with the Markit Flash preliminary purchasing managers' index (PMI) of 52.9 the lowest reading in 11 months.

A PMI figure above 50 indicates economic expansion, while below 50 signals contraction.

On Thursday, the US Federal Reserve announced an extension of US$267 billion stimulus measures known as "Operation Twist" until the end of the year.

The European Central Bank lowered eligibility requirements for banks' asset-backed securities in an effort to increase the availability of collateral for struggling euro-zone lenders.