Look Out Below :Oil prices hit 11-year low as global supply balloons ( Reuters plus Bloomberg charts) )

LONDON (Reuters) – Brent crude oil prices hit their lowest in more than 11 years on Monday, driven down by a relentless rise in global supply that looks set to outpace demand again next year.

Oil production is running close to record highs and, with more barrels poised to enter the market from nations such as Iran, the United States and Libya, the price of crude is set for its largest monthly percentage decline in seven years.

Brent futures (LCOc1) fell by as much as 2 percent to a low of $36.05 a barrel on Monday, their weakest since July 2004, and were down 49 cents at $36.39 by 1332 GMT.

While consumers have enjoyed lower fuel prices, the world’s richest oil exporters have been forced to revalue their currencies, sell off assets and even issue debt for the first time in years as they struggle to repair their finances.

OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, will stick with its year-old policy of compensating for lower prices with higher production, and shows no signs of wavering, even though lower prices are painful to its poorer members.

The price of oil has halved over the past year, dealing a blow to economies of oil producers such as Nigeria, which faces its worst crisis in years, and Venezuela, which has been plunged into deep recession.

Even wealthy Gulf Arab states have been hit. Last week Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain raised interest rates as they scrambled to protect their currencies.

NO LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

“With OPEC not in any mood to cut production … it does mean you are not going to get any rebalancing any time soon,” Energy Aspects chief oil analyst Amrita Sen said.

“Having said that, long term of course, the lower prices are today, the rebalancing will become even stronger and steeper, because of the capex (oil groups’ capital expenditure) cutbacks … but you’re not going to see that until end-2016.”

Reflecting the determination among the biggest producers to woo buyers at any cost, Russia now pumps oil at a post-Soviet high of more than 10 million barrels per day (bpd), while OPEC output is close to record levels above 31.5 million bpd.

Oil market liquidity usually evaporates ahead of the holiday period, meaning that intra-day price moves can become exaggerated.

On average, in the last 15 years, December is the month with least trading volume, which tends to be just 85 percent of that in May, the month which sees most volume change hands.

Brent crude prices have dropped by nearly 19 percent this month, their steepest fall since the collapse of failed U.S. bank Lehman Brothers in October 2008.

U.S. crude futures (CLc1) were down 26 cents at $34.47 a barrel, their lowest since 2009.

“Really, I wouldn’t like to be in the shoes of an oil exporter getting into 2016. It’s not exactly looking as if there is light at the end of the tunnel any time soon,” Saxo Bank senior manager Ole Hansen said.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS.N) believes it could take a drop to as little as $20 a barrel for supply to adjust to demand.

Thanks to the shale revolution, the U.S. has been pumping a lot of oil on the cheap, helping to drive down prices to six-year lows and to fill up storage tanks. Indeed, we’re running out of places to put it.

LOOK OUT BELOW

The U.S. has 490 million barrels of oil in storage, enough to keep the country running smoothly for nearly a month, without any added oil production or imports. That inventory doesn’t include the government’s own Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to be used in the now highly unlikely event of an oil shortage. Nor does it include oil waiting at sea for higher prices. The lower 48 states also boast about 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in storage — a far bigger cushion than Americans have needed so far during a very warm winter.

For their part, OECD countries (including the U.S.) have nearly 3 billion barrels of oil in storage — or enough to keep factories lit and houses heated in those countries for two months, cumulatively, without added production or imports.

The glut is going to continue worldwide unless some major producers stop pumping. OPEC announced recently that it was abandoning output limits.

So what happens when there’s too much oil to store? Producers will try to rid themselves of it by cutting prices. In that scenario, the price would plummet so far that some producers would shutter their wells altogether — which is, perhaps, the only way that the oil glut will ease.

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Iraq Crude Floods U.S. Market

  • Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM)

    NYSE

    81.97 Down 0.38(0.46%) 12:27PM EST – NYSE Real Time Price
    Prev Close: 82.35
    Open: 82.41
    Bid: 81.81 x 700
    Ask: 81.82 x 500
    1y Target Est: 83.35
    Beta: 1.01531
    Next Earnings Date: N/A
    Day’s Range: 81.5782.56
    52wk Range: 66.55 – 97.20
    Volume: 3,484,960
    Avg Vol (3m): 15,970,300
    Market Cap: 341.24B
    P/E (ttm): 17.31
    EPS (ttm): 4.73
    Div & Yield: 2.92 (3.90%)
    Quotes delayed, except where indicated otherwise. Currency in USD.
  • Sliding U.S. oil production reviving reliance on imports
  • Tanker owners benefit as long-distance trade route boosted
  • raq, the fastest-growing producer within the 12-nation group, loaded as many as 10 tankers in the past several weeks to deliver crude to U.S. ports in November, ship-tracking and charters compiled by Bloomberg show. Assuming they arrive as scheduled, the 19 million barrels being hauled would mark the biggest monthly influx from Iraq since June 2012, according to Energy Information Administration figures.The cargoes show how competition for sales among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is spilling out into global markets, intensifying competition with U.S. producers whose own output has retreated since summer. For tanker owners, it means rates for their ships are headed for the best quarter in seven years, fueled partly by the surge in one of the industry’s longest trade routes.
    November crude imports from Iraq will be highest in over three years
    November crude imports from Iraq will be highest in over three years

    “In the longer term, we expect the U.S. to have to increase imports next year by some 500,000 barrels to 800,000 barrels a day year on year,” Steve Sawyer, the head of refining at FGE, a consultant in London. “Given our projections for Iraqi output, it could well come from here.”

    Hunting for Buyers

    Iraq, pumping the most since at least 1962 amid competition among OPEC nations to find buyers, is discounting prices to woo customers. The U.S. may increasingly become one of them after its own output dropped by as much as 500,000 barrels a day since June. An increase in trade between the two would boost tanker owners. Deliveries take at least 57 percent longer than for those to Asia, the most popular destination.

    The tanker industry’s biggest ships earned an average of almost $76,500 a day so far in the fourth quarter, which would be the highest since mid-2008 if maintained through year-end, according to data from Clarkson Plc, the world’s biggest shipbroker.

    Shipowners have already seen the benefit of higher rates thanks in part to the longer-distance cargoes. Shares of Oslo-listed Frontline Ltd., led by billionaire John Fredriksen, rose 61 percent to $28.60 from the 2015 low in August. Euronav NV is up 25 percent from the year’s low in February.

    Gulf of Mexico

    The ships bringing the 19 million barrels include vessels that left Iraq’s Basra Oil Terminal and are currently signaling U.S. ports as their destination. There is also one vessel that went through Egypt’s Suez Canal and identified by shipbrokers as going to the U.S. All except one are very large crude carriers, the industry’s biggest vessels, sailing to terminals in the Gulf of Mexico.

    The U.S. is pumping 450,000 barrels a day less crude than during the peak in June. If all that oil were replaced by supplies from Iraq, it would require about seven supertankers each month.

    Iraq is among the least expensive places in the world to extract crude. Capital costs are about seven times cheaper than for light, tight oil suppliers in the U.S. when measured by fields’ daily plateau capacity, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris.

    West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, fell $1.14 to $43.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 12:05 p.m. local time. Brent, the global marker, lost $1.30 to $46.14.

    The Middle East country sells its crude at premiums or discounts to global benchmarks, competing for buyers with suppliers such as Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter. Iraq sold its Heavy grade at a discount of $5.85 a barrel to the appropriate benchmark for November, the biggest discount since it split the grade from Iraqi Light in May. Saudi Arabia sold at $1.25 below benchmark for November, cutting by a further 20 cents in December.

    “It’s being priced much more aggressively,” said Dominic Haywood, an oil analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd. in London. “It’s being discounted so U.S. Gulf Coast refiners are more incentivized to take it.”