OIL Declines – (as we forecast) – Expect ” more of the same “

Oil Falls to 5 1/2-Year Low as Russia, Iraq Boost Output

Oil dropped to the lowest since May 2009 amid growing supply from Russia and Iraq and signs of manufacturing weakness in Europe and China.

Futures headed for a sixth weekly loss in New York and London. Oil output in Russia and Iraq surged to the highest level in decades in December, according to data from both countries’ governments. Euro-area factory output expanded less than initially estimated in December. A manufacturing gauge in China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer, fell to the weakest level in 18 months, government data showed yesterday.

Prices slumped 46 percent in New York in 2014, the steepest drop in six years and second-worst since trading began in 1983, as U.S. producers and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ceded no ground in their battle for market share. OPEC pumped above its quota for a seventh month in December even as U.S. output expanded to the highest in more than three decades, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Oil Prices

“We’re seeing more of the same,” John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund that focuses on energy, said by phone. “The Chinese and European PMI figures signal weaker demand, while there’s ever-increasing supply. Nobody is cutting back on output and now the Russians are posting post-Soviet production highs.”

Brent for February settlement fell 53 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $56.80 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange at 11:31 a.m. It declined to $55.48, the lowest since May 7, 2009. Volume for all futures traded was 30 percent below the 100-day average. The European benchmark slumped 48 percent last year, the second-biggest annual loss on record behind a 51 percent tumble in the 2008 financial crisis. Brent traded at of $3.24 premium to WTI.

West Texas Intermediate for February delivery rose 32 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $53.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after dropping to $52.03, the least since May 1, 2009. Volume for all futures traded was 34 percent below the 100-day average. Prices are down 3.2 percent this week.

The surge in oil supplies in Iraq and Russia signaled no respite in early 2015 from the glut that’s pushed crude prices lower. The two countries provided 15 percent of world oil supply in November, according to the International Energy Agency.

Russian oil output rose 0.3 percent in December to a post-Soviet record of 10.667 million barrels a day, according to preliminary data e-mailed today by CDU-TEK, part of the Energy Ministry. Iraq exported 2.94 million barrels a day in December, the most since the 1980s, Oil Ministry spokesmanAsim Jihad said.

The final two burning crude-storage tanks were extinguished at Es Sider, Libya’s biggest oil port, National Oil Corp. spokesman Mohammed Elharari said by phone from Tripoli. The fires started Dec. 25, when Islamist militants shot rockets at the port in a second attempt to capture it.

OPEC Production

OPEC’s production slid by 122,000 barrels a day from November to 30.24 million last month, led by losses in Saudi Arabia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates, a Bloomberg survey of companies, producers and analysts shows. The 12-member group has a collective target of 30 million a day.

U.S. oil production averaged 9.12 million barrels a day in the week ended Dec. 26, according to the Energy Information Administration. Output increased to 9.14 million a day through Dec. 12, the most in weekly data that started in January 1983.

Inventories of gasoline surged in the week ended Dec. 26 as production climbed to a record, EIA data showed.

Gasoline futures declined 3.14 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $1.4407 a gallon in New York. Diesel decreased 3.18 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $1.8018.

Regular gasoline at U.S. pumps fell to the lowest level since May 2010. The average retail price slipped 0.9 cent to $2.231 a gallon yesterday, according to Heathrow, Florida-based AAA, the nation’s biggest motoring group.

Sector will respond to the lower commodity price but their share price will decline – example;

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Linn Energy LLC LINE, +15.20% said Friday it has approved a 2015 budget that cuts oil and natural gas capital spending to $730 million from about $1.55 billion in 2014, the latest company to respond to the recent slide in crude oil prices. “After careful consideration, LINN’s senior management proposed and the Board of Directors approved a 2015 budget that contemplates a significantly lower current crude oil price than in 2014,” Chief Executive Mark Ellis said in a statement. The budget assumes an unhedged NYMEX price of $60 a barrel. The company is cutting its annual dividend to $1.25 a share from $2.90, he said. Linn Energy has signed a non-binding letter of intent with GSO Capital Partners LP, the credit arm of The Blackstone Group LP BX, +0.56% to fund oil and gas development. GSO has agreed to commit up to $500 million to fund drilling programs. Shares were down 6.2% in premarket trade.

Three weeks after Chairman Steve Schwarzman said it’s going to be the best time in years to invest in energy, Blackstone Group LP (BX) is putting money to work.

Blackstone’s $70 billion credit arm, GSO Capital Partners, committed as much as $500 million to fund oil and natural gas development for Linn Energy LLC (LINE), according to a statement today. The Houston-based energy producer rose as much as 18 percent after the announcement, after losing almost 70 percent of its value in six months as crude prices plummeted.

Private equity firms, while taking steps to shore up energy companies in their portfolios, are hunting for investments in oil and gas producers after Brent tumbled more than 50 percent since June. Energy presents the best opportunity for Blackstone in many years, especially for the New York-based firm’s credit unit, Schwarzman said at a Dec. 11 conference.

“There are a lot of people who borrowed a lot of money based on higher price levels, and they’re going to need more capital,” he said at the conference in New York. “There are going to be restructurings to do. There’s going to be a fallout. It’s going to be one of the best opportunities we’ve had in many, many years.”

Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Steve Schwarzman, co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Blackstone Group

Under the five-year agreement with Linn, Blackstone would fund drilling programs at locations selected by Linn for an 85 percent working interest in the wells, according to the statement. If the projects produce a 15 percent annualized return for Blackstone, its stake will drop to 5 percent.

Oil ‘Crisis’

The plunge in oil may usher in a new era for investing in distressed debt, according to Howard Marks, the billionaire co-founder of Oaktree Capital Group LLC. In a letter to clients last month, Marks said his Los Angeles-based firm is becoming more aggressive as companies that borrowed heavily in the low-interest rate environment now come under pressure.

“We knew great buying opportunities wouldn’t arrive until a negative ‘igniter’ caused the tide to go out, exposing the debt’s weaknesses,” Marks wrote. “The current oil crisis is an example of something with the potential to grow into that role.”

Linn, a master-limited partnership, is the latest producer to cut spending on expectations of lower oil and gas prices. The company said today it expects oil to average $60 a barrel in 2015, although it has hedged about 70 percent of its expected output at higher prices. Brent fell 1.9 percent to $56.23 a barrel at 2:38 p.m. in New York.

Active Developer

The agreement with Blackstone, which is non-binding, is “designed to allow Linn to be an active developer of assets with growth capital,” Mark Ellis, Linn’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. “This agreement creates a dynamic alliance.”

The company’s shares rose 13 percent to $11.44 at 2:47 p.m. in New York.

Please see our recent articles published this week on  2015 Energy Sector Forecasts ( archived) 

 

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