OPEC’s Biggest Supply Boost Since ’11 Spurs Bear Market
OPEC increased oil production by the most in almost three years, helping to drive prices toward a bear market. Iran and Saudi Arabia offered their oil at the deepest discounts since 2008, adding to speculation that members of the group are competing for market share.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which supplies 40 percent of the world’s oil, increased output by 402,000 barrels a day in September to 30.47 million, the group’s Vienna-based secretariat said in a monthly report. Iran matched Saudi Arabia yesterday by cutting the price of its main export grade to Asia by $1 a barrel, according to two people with knowledge of the pricing decision.
Brent futures, the international benchmark, traded at a four-year low today. Saudi Arabia told OPEC it raised output 11 percent last month, adding to speculation it will seek to preserve its share of export markets. Crude production is mounting in the U.S., Russia and Libya, while the pace of demand growth is lower as the economy slows in China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer.
“It’s a fight for market share out there at the moment,” Ole Sloth Hansen, an analyst at Saxo Bank A/S, said by e-mail today. “OPEC will have to come up with something otherwise the market will view it as a free invitation to carry on selling.”
OPEC production last month climbed by the most since November 2011 and was the highest in more than a year, the group’s data show. Libya bolstered supplies by 250,600 barrels a day to 787,000 and Iraq added 134,500 to 3.164 million, according to secondary sources cited by the report. That more than compensated for an estimated drop of 50,400 barrels a day in Saudi output to 9.605 million.
Saudi Arabia’s own communications to the group showed an increase of 107,100 barrels a day to 9.704 million in September, according to separate data in the report.
Price cuts announced last week by Saudi Arabia, matched by Iran yesterday, fueled speculation it may let oil fall rather than cut production and cede market share. OPEC members in West Africa are also showing signs of greater competition, said Julian Lee, an oil strategist at Bloomberg First Word in London. Nigerian sales of crude for November have been slower than usual after Angola moved more quickly to reduce prices, he said.
Brent for November settlement slid to $88.11 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange today, the lowest in almost four years. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, dropped as low as $83.33 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the least since July 3, 2012.
OPEC’s September production increase contributed to the fall of more than 20 percent in both grades from their June peaks, said Saxo Bank’s Hansen. A drop of that size meets a common definition of a bear market.
“Saudi Arabia is leaning back a bit to force better co-operation” from other members on production cuts, Thina Saltvedt, an analyst at Oslo-based Nordea Markets, said by phone. “The demand side is getting weaker and weaker. It doesn’t look good if OPEC isn’t willing to tighten things up.”
OPEC’s output in September was about 300,000 barrels a day higher than the daily average of 30.2 million the group expects is needed in the fourth quarter. Its 12 members will probably cut either their output or formal production target of 30 million barrels a day when they next meet on Nov. 27 in Vienna, said 11 of 20 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News yesterday. Estimates ranged from a reduction of 500,000 to 1 million barrels a day.
The organization kept unchanged annual forecasts for global oil demand, and the amount of crude OPEC will need to provide, for this year and next.
“The recovery in gasoil consumption for industry and transportation use, along with emerging winter demand” will support the market in coming months, it said.