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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Braggin’ Rights : Oil Continues To Curse ( your) Portfolio Results

 

My rant – the  curse of Cassandra :

Cassandra, daughter of the king and queen, in the temple of Apollo, exhausted from practising, is said to have fallen asleep – when Apollo wished to embrace her, she did not afford the opportunity of her body. On account of which thing :

when she prophesied true things, she was not believed.

I have written :

GET YOUR PORTFOLIO THE HELL OUT OF ENERGY : PRAYER ISN’T AN INVESTMENT STRATEGY  Dec.17,2015

Managed Accounts Year End Review and Forecast

in part

Oil/ Energy

I am very happy for the call in natural gas prices – out at $12 and into oil. When oil was above $100 we lessened positions and that is our saving grace in the past two weeks. We are not bottom feeders and will wait for a turn in the market before reentering drillers or producers.

On Friday November 27th, crude oil prices dropped to below $72 and the slide has continued into the weekend, with Brent crude oil at $70.15 as I write this post. Shares of major oil companies traded down on Friday. Our former energy sector holdings are down another between 4% and 11%, including SDRL, which dropped another 8% following Wednesday’s 23% plunge..

OIL Sector Update Dec. 20,2015

  • Official data show Saudis shipped more crude amid global glut
  • Saudi output exceeded 10 million barrels a day for ninth month

 

Saudi Crude Exports Rose in October to Most in Four Months

Saudi Arabia boosted crude exports in October to the highest level in four months, as the world’s biggest oil exporter added barrels to a worldwide supply glut that has contributed to a slump in prices.

Saudi shipments rose to 7.364 million barrels a day in the month from 7.111 million in September, according to the latest figures from the Joint Organisations Data Initiative. The monthly exports were the most since June and 7 percent higher than in October 2014, the data released on Sunday showed. JODI is an industry group supervised by the Riyadh-based International Energy Forum.

Saudi Arabia produced 10.28 million barrels a day in October, up from 10.23 million in September, the JODI figures showed.

Saudi Arabia led OPEC to decide on Dec. 4 to abandon the group’s limits on output amid efforts to squeeze higher-cost producers such as Russia and U.S. shale drillers out of the market. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries had set a production target almost without interruption since 1982, though member countries often ignored and pumped well above it. The oversupply has pushed the price of benchmark Brent crude to almost a seven-year low and triggered the worst slump in the energy industry since the 2008 global financial crisis.

Brent for February settlement dropped 18 cents, or 0.5 percent, on Friday to $36.88 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The crude grade has tumbled 36 percent this year.

Saudi Arabia pumped 10.33 million barrels a day in November, exceeding 10 million barrels in daily output for the ninth consecutive month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Saudis have stuck to their one-year-old view that any output cuts won’t succeed in supporting prices unless big producers outside OPEC, including Russia and Mexico, also participate.

Crude exports fell in October from Iraq and Kuwait, OPEC’s second- and fourth-biggest producers, respectively, according to JODI. Iraq shipped 2.708 million barrels a day, down from 3.052 million barrels a day in September for the country’s fourth consecutive monthly decline, the data showed. Kuwait’s exports dropped to 1.905 million barrels a day in October from 2.008 million in the previous month, JODI said.

Iran, the fifth-biggest supplier in OPEC, exported 1.395 million barrels a day of crude in October, a marginal increase from 1.39 million in September, JODI figures showed

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Similar to wise buying decisions, exiting certain underperformers at the right time helps maximize portfolio returns. Selling off losers can be difficult, but if both the share price and estimates are falling, it could be time to get rid of the security before more losses hit your portfolio.

 

OPEC Says Crude Production Rose to Three-Year High in November $ 100 Never Again

  • iraq led output gains, countering pullback in Saudi Arabia
  • Non-OPEC supply seen falling by 380,000 barrels a day in 2016

OPEC raised crude output to the highest in more than three years as it pressed on with a strategy to protect market share and pressure competing producers.

Output from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries rose by 230,100 barrels a day in November to 31.695 million a day, the highest since April 2012, as surging Iraqi volumes more than offset a slight pullback in Saudi Arabia. The organization is pumping about 900,000 barrels a day more than it anticipates will be needed next year.

Benchmark Brent crude dropped to a six-year low in London this week after OPEC effectively scrapped its output ceiling at a Dec. 4 meeting as de facto leader Saudi Arabia stuck to a policy of squeezing out rival producers. Members can pump as much as they please, despite a global surplus, Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said after the conference. Brent futures traded near $40 a barrel in London on Thursday.

Non-OPEC supply will fall by 380,000 barrels a day next year, averaging 57.14 million a day, with an expected contraction in the U.S. accounting for roughly half the drop, the organization said Thursday in its monthly report. It increased estimates for non-OPEC supply in 2015 by 280,000 barrels a day.

The group maintained projections for the amount of crude it will need to pump next year at 30.8 million barrels a day.

Iraqi Volumes

Iraqi production increased by 247,500 barrels a day to 4.3 million a day last month, according to external sources cited by the report, which didn’t give a reason for the gain.

Iraq has pushed output to record levels this year as international companies develop fields in the south, while the semi-autonomous Kurdish region increases independent sales in the north, according to the International Energy Agency. Production had dipped in October as storms delayed southern loadings and as flows through the northern pipeline were disrupted, according to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.

Production in Saudi Arabia slipped by 25,200 barrels a day to 10.13 million a day in November, OPEC’s report showed.

The report didn’t make any reference to how OPEC’s data will re-incorporate output from Indonesia, which rejoined the organization on Dec. 4 after an absence of seven years.

$100 never again; there’s a new normal for oil

“Oil prices could fall lower in 2016,” Gheit said. “I’m talking $2 to $3 dollars per barrel. I don’t see it dropping below $30 per barrel.”

The decline in crude has had a big impact on major oil companies. Shares of ExxonMobil (XOM), ConocoPhillips (COP), and Chevron (CVX) have crashed as the pain from lower prices spreads.

“Producers have already seen a collapse in earnings, and we expect weakness to continue into next year,” Gheit said. “Most independent oil and gas producers in the U.S. are in the red. They’re losing money.”

But it’s not all bad news. A drop in crude means lower gas prices, so Americans are not digging as deep into their wallets at the pump.

“This is a big break for the taxpayer,” Gheit said. “The average American family will save between $700 to $800 per year as a result of a drop in oil prices.”

The US Energy Sector on the Verge of a Cataclysmic Default

 

The U.S. E&P sector could be on the cusp of massive defaults and bankruptcies so staggering they pose a serious threat to the U.S. economy, according to Paul Merolli, a senior editor and correspondent for Energy Intelligence, an energy sector news and analysis aggregator. Merolli’s report calls out the over-leveraged, under-hedged U.S. E&P sector, which has been trying to keep up appearances over the past 12 months by slashing operating costs and capex to keep production costs lower than oil prices.

But experts believe that lower costs and improving efficiency won’t be enough for the sector as it grapples with some $200 billion-plus in high-yield debt, which the U.S. E&P sector used to finance the shale oil boom. According to Standard and Poor’s, there have already been 19 U.S. energy sector defaults so far in 2015, while another 15 companies have filed for bankruptcy. The default category also includes companies that have entered into “distressed exchanges” with their creditors.

Moreover, a Nov. 24 report from S&P Capital IQ titled “A Cautionary Climate” shows that the total assets and liabilities of U.S. energy companies filing for bankruptcy protection have grown in each quarter of 2015, and the third quarter was no exception with assets totaling more than $6.2 billion and liabilities totaling more than $8.9 billion. Each quarter of 2015 was larger than the total for all U.S. energy bankruptcies in 2014.

Also see: Oil Patch Bankruptcies Total $13.1 Billion So Far This Year

U.S. E&P Sector: Junk rating

According to Energy Intelligence, Standard & Poor’s applies ratings to around 100 E&P firms. Of these, 77% now have high-yield or “junk” ratings of BB+ or lower, 63% are rated B+ or worse, and 31% or 51 companies are rated below B-. Companies rated B- or below are effectively on life support, while those rated C+ are “maybe looking at a year, year-and-a-half before they default or file for bankruptcy,” according to Thomas Watters, managing director of S&P’s oil and gas ratings, speaking to Energy Intelligence.

High-yield E&Ps are expected to see negative free cash flow of $10 billion during 2016, even after all the recent capex cuts and efficiency measures. Unfortunately, capital markets are closing rapidly to new E&P debt issues. Last year, the U.S. E&P sector raised $29 billion from 44 issuances of public debt in 2014, but this year only $13 billion has been raised across 23 issuances, almost all of which occurred during the first half of the year.

What’s more, the U.S. E&P sector is woefully under-hedged. Energy Intelligence’s data shows that small producers have 27% of their oil production hedged at an average price of $77/bbl, mid-sized firms have 26% hedged at $69, and large producers have just 4% hedged at $63.

U.S. E&P sector: a final lifeline

It is believed that the U.S. E&P sector will really start to cave in April when banks are due to start their next review of borrowing bases. Borrowing bases are redeterminedevery six months, and banks use market oil prices to calculate the value of company oil reserves, which companies are then able to borrow against.

Haynes and Boone’s Borrowing Base Survey is predicting an average cut of 39% to borrowing bases when the next round of revaluations take place. In September, The Financial Times reported on a research note from Bank of America which pointed out that only a fifth of “higher-quality” energy companies had used up more than half of their borrowing base capacity. For junk-rated companies, however, it’s a different picture. Citi points out that only 21% of the junk-rated energy companies it covers have any borrowing base capacity left at all.

So with borrowing bases set to fall at the beginning of next year and capital market access drying up, it looks as if many oil companies are going to find their liquidity deteriorating significantly going forward. Another source of concern for E&Ps and their lenders are price-related impairments and asset write-downs which have already amounted to $70.1 billion so far this year, compared to the $94.3 billion total for the previous 10-year period of 2005-14. And there could be further write-downs on the horizon:

“Year-to-date, there has been $70.1 billion in asset write-downs in 2015, approaching the $94.3 billion total for the previous 10-year period of 2005-14, according to Stuart Glickman, head of S&P Capital’s oil equities research. And he expects even more write-downs and impairments to emerge at year-end. “Companies are putting this off for a long as they can. You don’t want to be negotiating in capital markets with a weakened hand,”

“Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest US independent producers, shocked earlier this month by indicating a $13 billion reduction in the so-called PV-10, or “present value,” of its oil and gas reserves to $7 billion. Had Chesapeake used 12-month futures strip prices — instead of Securities and Exchange Commission-mandated trailing 12-month prices for PV values — the value would’ve fallen to $4 billion.” — Source: Energy Intelligence, “Is Debt Bomb About to Blow Up US Shale?

This conclusion is also supported by research from S&P Capital IQ:

“Using data from SNL Financial, we looked at natural gas-focused companies across the value chain to see whether there is a relationship between their level of revolver usage and their forward multiples. Within this subset of companies, exploration and production (E&P) companies have the greatest usage of their revolving credit facilities — 57% on average, excluding those with either no revolving credit or no usage on their revolving credit lines. As of late September 2015, this sub-industry also had a forward EBITDA multiple of about 6.2x.” — Source: S&P Capital IQ, “A Cautionary Climate.”

E&P sector waiting for a bailout

All in all, it looks as if the U.S. E&P sector has a rough year ahead of it, but for strong companies with investment-grade credit ratings, next year could become an “M&A playland” according to Energy Intelligence. The six-largest integrated majors together hold a war chest of some $500 billion, and there’s a further $100 billion in private equity sitting on the sidelines.

Whatever happens, it looks as if the U.S. E&P sector is about to undergo a period of significant change.

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Oil Prices May Plunge : ‘Super Contango’

It looks to be a volatile final few weeks for crude oil prices. So far, the low for WTI oil prices (WTI) in 2015 of $37.75 a barrel set in August stands as the low price point — but not for long.

There is a global supply glut, not just of crude oil, but, increasingly, refined products that will likely break the back of price support in the market, sending oil prices into a holiday plunge. So much so, land based storage tanks are filling up and increasing numbers of volumes are being stored on tankers.

 

In a recent report, the International Energy Agency highlighted the fact that global inventories of all petroleum products were at 3 billion barrels, which was a record. And just over 2 billion of those barrels are resident here in the U.S.

Read More Contango explained

Each week, in the summary page of its petroleum-status report, the U.S. Energy Information Administration references the fact that U.S. crude-oil inventories are at levels not seen in over 80 years. Inventories of gasoline are well-above their average and diesel fuels are also well-supplied.

The vast crude oil glut or mega-glut is manifest in the West Texas Intermediate (WTXR) and Brent crude oil price curves, which have moved into a “super-contango.” (Yup, there are lots of superlatives needed to describe the current state of the market.)

Contango refers to when the front-month or near-term futures contract are trading less than or at a discount to longer-dated futures contracts.

The difference between Brent crude-oil contracts, one year apart, recently hit a record $8 a barrel. The January 2016 WTI futures contract is trading at a hefty discount of $1.50 per barrel to the February contract. In tightly-supplied markets, when crude oil prices are strong, that spread value is the complete opposite.

Oil prices have gotten some support this week from the heightened military action and worry over the situation in Syria and Northern Iraq , especially withthe downing of the Russian fighter jet by Turkey. How Russia responds could plunge the region into deeper turmoil, putting a great deal of oil infrastructure and supply in the cross hairs. But these fears simply do not haunt the market for very long last these days.

 

The market also got a taste of Saudi Arabia ‘s power this week, when a flip comment by the Saudi oil minister at a cabinet meeting was taken to signal a change in production policy by the Kingdom, as a way of “cooperating” with the other OPEC and non-OPEC producers. With the OPEC meeting looming next week, the comments were seized upon.

The reality is that nothing will come of the OPEC meeting. The Saudis are set to hold their ground. They see little to gain in assisting their oil market and regional rivals, Russia and Iran , by helping to “stabilize” the oil markets. In fact, the Saudis don’t see a market that needs stabilizing.

 

The lone bright spot for the oil market has been the strong demand for gasoline. The demand in October in the U.S. was the highest in eight years. But, once the holidays pass, that demand will drop off, too.

The downward pressure remains intense on the petroleum complex from the mega-glut and the hit to demand from the economic softness in China and Europe. The strengthening dollar is also a negative for prices.

U.S. motorists will be filled with glee this holiday season, as they buy sub-$2.00 per gallon gasoline, courtesy of $30 crude oil.

Commentary by John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital, an investment-management firm that specializes in commodities. Follow him on Twitter @KilduffReport.

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$20 Oil If OPEC Doesn’t Act : Venezuela

  • Don’t Cry for Me Venezuela
  • It won’t be easy, you’ll think it strange
    When I try to explain how I feel
    That I still need your love after all that I’ve doneI had to let it happen, I had to change
    Couldn’t stay all my life down at heel
    Looking out of the window, staying out of the sun
  • OPEC member seeks `equilibrium price’ of $88 a barrel
  • Saudis, Qatar to consider proposal, Venezuelan minister says

Oil prices may drop to as low as the mid-$20s a barrel unless OPEC takes action to stabilize the market, Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino said.

Venezuela is urging the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to adopt an “equilibrium price” that covers the cost of new investment in production capacity, Del Pino told reporters Sunday in Tehran. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are considering his country’s proposal for an equilibrium price at $88 a barrel, he said.

OPEC ministers plan to meet on Dec. 4 to assess the producer group’s output policy amid a global supply glut that has pushed down crude prices by 44 percent in the last 12 months. OPEC supplies about 40 percent of the world’s production and has exceeded its official output ceiling of 30 million barrels a day for 17 months as it defends its share of the market. Benchmark Brent crude settled 48 cents higher at $44.66 a barrel in London on Friday.

“We cannot allow that the market continue controlling the price,” Del Pino said. “The principles of OPEC were to act on the price of the crude oil, and we need to go back to the principles of OPEC.”

OPEC ministers will meet informally on Dec. 3 in Vienna, a day before the group’s formal session, he said.

Oil Declines As Ships Lined Up at Houston To Offload Oil : Bloomberg

After some initial excitement, November has seen crude oil prices collapse back towards cycle lows amid demand doubts (e.g. sllumping China oil imports, overflowing Chinese oil capacity, plunging China Industrial Production) and supply concerns (e.g. inventories soaring). However, an even bigger problem looms that few are talking about. As Iraq – the fastest-growing member of OPEC – has unleashed a two-mile long, 3 million metric ton barrage of 19 million barrel excess supply directly to US ports in November.

But OPEC has another trick up its sleeve to crush US Shale oil producers. As Bloomberg reports,

Iraq, 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.

Worst still, they are slashing prices…

Iraq, pumping the most since at least 1962 amid competition among OPEC nations to find buyers, is discounting prices to woo customers.

 

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.”

So when does The Obama Administration ban crude imports?

And now, we get more news from Iraq:

  • *IRAQ CUTS DECEMBER CRUDE OIL OSPS TO EUROPE: TRADERS

So taking on the Russians?

*  *  *

Finally, as we noted previously, it appears Iraq (and Russia) are more than happy to compete on price.. and have been successful – for now – at gaining significant market share…

Even as both Iran and Saudi Arabia are losing Asian market share to Russia and Iraq, Tehran is closely allied with Baghdad and Moscow while Riyadh is not. That certainly seems to suggest that in the long run, the Saudis are going to end up with the short end of the stick.

Once again, it’s the intersection of geopolitcs and energy, and you’re reminded that at the end of the day, that’s what it usually comes down to.

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