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Commodities

Oil falls, investors mull possible conflict escalation

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Oil falls after Saudi pledge; investors keep wary eye on Israel
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Oil rigs are seen at Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas drilling, in the Patagonian province of Neuquen, Argentina January 21, 2019. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo

By Robert Harvey

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices fell on Wednesday, as fears of disruption to supplies due to conflict in the Middle East receded a day after top OPEC producer Saudi Arabia pledged to help stabilise the market.

fell 78 cents, or 0.89%, to $86.87 a barrel by 1225 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell by 84 cents, or 0.98%, to $85.13.

Brent and WTI had surged more than $3.50 on Monday on concern the clashes between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas could escalate into a broader conflict.

Prices settled slightly lower on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia said it was working with regional and international partners to prevent an escalation, and reaffirmed it backed efforts to stabilise oil markets.

Prices continued losses into Wednesday. WTI traded $1.01 a barrel lower at its intraday trough on Wednesday.

“Both WTI and Brent retreated yesterday as concerns of a sudden and unexpected supply disruption have been swept aside for now,” PVM analyst Tamas Varga said.

Trading house Mercuria sees oil prices reaching $100 a barrel if the situation in the Middle East escalates further, deputy CEO Magid Shenouda said on Wednesday.

Russia and Saudi Arabia met in Moscow on Wednesday, when Russian president Vladimir Putin said that OPEC+ coordination will continue “for the predictability of the oil market.”

Putin also urged companies to prioritise the Russian domestic market. The country’s ban on gasoline and some diesel exports was rolled back again last week as diesel exports that arrive at ports by pipeline were permitted.

Elsewhere, investors will be looking ahead to the release of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s September policy meeting minutes due later on Wednesday for clues on future interest rate decisions.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Wednesday that she still expected the U.S. economy to experience a soft landing, despite “additional concerns” brought about by the situation in Israel.

In Europe, the German government confirmed it expects the economy to contract by 0.4% this year because of persistently high inflation.

Commodities

Crude oil edges higher on supply concerns; API stocks rise

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Investing.com — Oil prices edged higher Wednesday, with elevated tensions in the Middle East providing support after U.S. inventories rose more than expected. 

By 08:45 ET (12.45 GMT), the futures traded 0.2% higher at $80.90 a barrel and the contract climbed 0.3% to $85.55 a barrel. 

Middle East tensions on the rise

Both crude contracts gained around 1% on Tuesday, after Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz warned of a possible “all out war” with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, just as the country’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza appeared to be settling down.

The U.S., Israel’s main backer, is attempting to avoid a broader conflict between Israel and the Iran-backed group, as an escalating war risks supply disruption in this key oil-producing region.

Additionally, reports suggested a Ukrainian drone strike led to an oil terminal fire at a major Russian port, potentially impacting the supply of crude from this major supplier.

US crude inventories rise

This enhanced tension has overshadowed data showing an increase in domestic crude stocks just as many were expecting a pick up in demand in the summer driving season to result in falling inventories.

U.S. fell by around 2.3 million barrels for the week ended June 14, according to data from the American Petroleum Institute, compared with a draw of 2.4 million barrels the previous week. 

“The surprise crude build means the report was moderately bearish,” said analysts at ING, in a note.

UBS looks for crude rebound

UBS expects Brent to rebound to the mid to high-$80s, supported by the OPEC+ cuts extension and the seasonal rebound in demand. 

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, a group known as OPEC+, announced plans earlier this month to gradually phase out its voluntary cuts potentially as early as October 2024.

Brent is then set to move to $80/bbl next year, UBS added, as OPEC+ starts to bring back production gradually from the second quarter. 

“We do expect a negative impact on oil demand from slower GDP growth and higher prices but continue to expect demand to grow until the late 2020s,” UBS said.

 

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Commodities

Gold slips lower; central bank buying set to boost demand

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Investing.com– Gold prices drifted lower Wednesday in tight trading ranges, with the Juneteenth holiday in the U.S. limiting activity. 

At 07:30 ET (11:30 GMT), dropped 0.1% to $2,328.84 an ounce, while fell 0.2% to $2,343.20 an ounce. 

Gold set for central bank boost 

Gold and broader metal prices have retreated in recent sessions after the Federal Reserve said it expected to cut interest rates only once in 2024, compared to earlier forecasts for three cuts.

This has boosted the dollar, which makes gold, and other commodities denominated in the greenback, more expensive for foreign buyers, as well as increasing the opportunity cost of investing in non-yielding assets.

Gold hit a high of almost $2,450 in May an ounce, helped by strong demand from central banks, due to concerns about geopolitical instability and persistent inflation.

Last year, central banks added the second-highest amount of gold ever at 1,037 tons. In 2022, a record 1,082 tons of gold was purchased by central banks.

More buying is likely in the near future, as the World Gold Council’s annual survey, which polled 70 central bankers, found 29% of them plan to raise their gold reserves over the next 12 months.

That’s the highest level since the annual survey began in 2018.

The other precious metals have also traded in a tight range Wednesday. rose 0.8% to $984.75 an ounce, while rose 0.1% to $29.598 an ounce. 

Copper bounce after recent selloff 

Among industrial metals, copper prices rose Wednesday, rebounding slightly after having fallen to its lowest level in two months earlier this week.

Benchmark on the London Metal Exchange rose 1.3% to $9,800.30 a tonne, while one-month copper futures rose 1.4% to $4.5550 a pound.

The slump in copper’s price following disappointing industrial output data from China, the metal’s biggest market, as the housing and construction slump in the second largest economy in the world worsens.

Copper’s price had reached a record high above $11,000 a tonne in May of this year but has rapidly cooled due to worries about rising global inventory levels and weakness in China.

 

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Commodities

Oil market still set to tighten in second half of 2024 – UBS

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Investing.com – The major energy agencies have all recently made revisions to the likely oil balances this year and next, but they still point to the crude market tightening in the second half of 2024, according to UBS.

These revisions included a bearish update from the International Energy Agency, seeing lower demand growth, a bullish update from the Energy Information Administration, with higher demand, and a neutral one from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

“With the extension of the OPEC+ voluntary cuts, the IEA and EIA see market tightness persisting for the rest of the year assuming that OPEC+ production will increase only marginally,” analysts at UBS said, in a note dated June 18.

The agencies made mixed revisions to demand growth forecasts this month: the IEA cut forecasts, the EIA raised and OPEC left them unchanged again.

The IEA’s downward revision was driven by weaker OECD and base effects, while the EIA also noted lackluster OECD demand, but raised forecasts on increased bunker fuel demand caused by Red Sea disruptions. 

With this in mind, “we marginally cut demand growth estimates to 1.1Mb/d in 2024 and 1.0Mb/d in 2025,” UBS said.

Turning to supply, the agencies kept their non-OPEC+ supply forecasts broadly unchanged, except for the EIA’s 2024 growth estimates, up 0.1 million barrels a day (b/d) on better-than-expected U.S. supply in 1H24.

Additionally, despite OPEC+’s announced plan to gradually phase out its voluntary cuts potentially as early as October 2024, we continue to model the first return of OPEC+ barrels in the second quarter of 2025 when market balances should allow for a gradual ramp-up.

In the very near term, UBS expects to rebound to the mid to high-$80s, supported by the OPEC+ cuts extension and the seasonal rebound in demand. 

Brent is then set to move to $80/bbl next year as OPEC+ starts to bring back production gradually from the second quarter. 

“We do expect a negative impact on oil demand from slower GDP growth and higher prices but continue to expect demand to grow until the late 2020s,” UBS said.

Rising efficiency and EVs’ increasing impact should see demand growth slow down sharply though, to around 0.5Mb/d within 3-4 years and peak oil by 2029. Despite this demand slowdown, we expect global spare capacity to remain stable at an average level by historical standards as supply growth slows down too. 

In the near term, we see the main upside risks coming from more restricted supply. 

“Extended OPEC+ cuts and potentially a larger drop in Russian production, combined with robust demand could lift Brent above $90/bbl in the near-term in our view. Further escalation in the Middle East and disruption to supply could send it closer to $100/bbl,” UBS added.

The bank’s downside scenario assumes a greater negative impact on oil demand from a global economic slowdown to the tune of around 1.0Mb/d versus its forecasts. 

“Combined with a reduced geopolitical risk premium, this could see Brent prices drop below our long-term oil price of $75/bbl.”

 

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