Crude oil and crude ETFs have been ripping higher since last month, and with black gold’s climb above the technical resistance levels near $70, some analysts and speculators are pondering if $100 oil could be in the cards.
The number was almost impossible to fathom at this time last year when economies and global crude demand was getting slammed from the pandemic. Oil had reached unprecedented lows in the April contract, even hitting negative territory briefly. But currently, recovering demand and limited supply are bolstering oil prices and fueling predictions that investors and consumers might witness $100 oil again, a figure not seen since 2014.
U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate crude oil is trading up another 2.6% on Monday, cresting $73 a barrel, and approaching the highs from January of 2020. The move higher has been largely uninterrupted since last November, when crude oil was trading at just $34 per barrel.
There are a number of factors are supporting $100 crude oil currently. Global crude oil demand is projected to explode over the next six months, according to firms like Goldman Sachs. With the easing of coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns, and travel ramping up for the summer months, worldwide consumption of oil is projected to reach pre-pandemic levels in the Q4 this year and to breach 2019 demand in 2022, creating a fresh record for annual global oil demand. The move is therefore set to incentivize demand for fuels and petrochemicals.
On the supply side, the OPEC+ cartel is in control of a significant portion of global crude supply and aims to keep it under wraps this year, with a gradual loosening of supply cuts. The Saudi Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, is suggesting ongoing caution in OPEC+, admonishing traders for months not to bet against oil.
“There will always be a good amount of supply to meet demand, but we’ll have to see demand before you see supply,” Abdulaziz bin Salman said at a forum in Russia earlier this month.
There is also a question of just how high OPEC+ will let prices climb, as the cartel releases its available oil supplies.
OPEC could be willing to hold off on releasing more crude because at higher oil prices, government revenues of the petrostates benefit, potentially counteracting the billions of oil revenue that were destroyed during the pandemic.
“OPEC+ is currently reveling in higher prices and recouping some of the US$335 billion of revenue the group ‘lost’ last year when the market collapsed. A Brent price in line with our 2021 forecast of US$69.30 would lift OPEC’s revenues close to 2019 levels on 10% less volume,” Wood Mackenzie said this week.
This management process is not that simple however, as OPEC+ could disturb markets and overly exorbitant oil prices would stymie the global economic recovery and incentivize production out of OPEC if oil stays at above $70 for a longer period of time.
“The mood will change if prices remain at these higher levels well into 2022 and show signs of sustained recovery,” according to Ann-Louise Hittle, Vice President Macro Oils at WoodMac, and her team.
Collectively, these factors along have caused the world’s largest commodity traders to consider if $100 oil could actually be warranted. Most of the top executives see oil prices “higher from here” for the rest of the year, although Vitol’s CEO Russell Hardy warned the overenthusiastic bulls that “we’re in a slightly artificial market at the moment,” while saying that $100 per barrel oil is “of course a possibility.”
“If you’re cutting supply without at the same time addressing your demand that is when you can get price dislocations,” Glencore’s Head of Oil Marketing, Alex Sanna, told the FT Commodities Global Summit this week, adding that $100 oil was now looking more likely than before.
“You’re really only one or two events away from a material spike in oil prices,” Sanna said.
This could be good news for ETF traders who favor crude oil. Crude ETFs like the United States Oil Fund (USO) and the ProShares Ultra Bloomberg Crude Oil (UCO) could see potentially massive gains, as short ETFs like the ProShares UltraShort Bloomberg Crude Oil (SCO) could suffer with rising prices.
For investors looking for crude ETFs to play the run-up in oil, which has been fairly steady since November, the United States 12 Month Oil Fund (USL) and the iPath Pure Beta Crude Oil ETN (OIL) are two other funds to consider.
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