Credit Suisse: Oil Has Stabilized Because Saudis Got What They Wanted

 

Forget wealth effect. The global equity market can’t have a smooth bull run if oil prices are tanking.

This is because commodity-related capital expenditure accounts for around 30% of total capex globally, so even though consumers may benefit from cheaper oil, companies are hit first.Credit Suisse estimates that the fall in commodities capex has taken at least 0.8% off the U.S. economic growth in the first half this year and 1% off global growth over the last year.

But the worst is over, according to analyst Andrew Garthwaite and team. They listed three reasons: 1. demand for oil has stabilized; 2. non-OPEC production has peaked; 3. Saudi Arabia has achieved its goal of deterring new entrants.

Since Saudi Arabia is the wild card, Credit Suisse analysts took pains to explain their position:

We believe that the key variable is Saudi Arabia. If it were not for Saudi Arabia, then we fear that oil would have to behave like other commodities and if there is excess supply fall to levels where a third of production is below the cash cost and, given the likely fall in commodity currencies, this in turn would lead to a much lower oil price (maybe down to $30/barrel).

This leads to the question ‘Can Saudi Arabia support the oil market?’. We think the answer is yes. They control the vast majority of spare capacityaccording to our oil team and 13% of output.

Their clear aim was to restore market share against non-OPEC and avoid being a swing producer (and thus not repeat the 1980 to 1985 experience, when their oil production fell by 70% as they sought to defend the oil price) and also limit the growth in alternative energies. The key is clearly at what point they have achieved their objective. The issue is nearly always the same – costs fall much more quickly than expected, partly because commodity currencies fall and partly because of cost deflation.

Moody’s highlight that the breakeven for median shale is around $51pb. Thus it may be the case that around the current oil price, Saudi Arabia believe they have achieved their objective of pricing out new shale projects.

Additionally the reduction in the oil price has come at a cost, with the budget deficit estimated to be 20% of GDP in 2015 (IMF Article IV – Saudi Arabia). While government debt to GDP is very low at c1%, we view the recent selling of Sama reserves and the first sovereign bond issue since 2007 as signs that there is some degree of stress.

Brent crude jumped another 2.2% to trade at $49.58 recently after a 5% rally overnight.

Oil stocks rallied. CNOOC (883.Hong Kong/CEO) advanced 12.1%, China Oilfield Services(2883.Hong Kong) gained 9.5%, PetroChina (857.Hong Kong/PTR) was up 7.8%. Sinopec(386.Hong Kong/SHI) jumped 6.8%. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index advanced 4%. Overnight, the United States Oil Fund (USO) rose 4.9%.

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