After years of being oil’s biggest cheerleader, “oil god” Andy Hall, who starting with the OPEC Thanksgiving massacre in 2014 has had several abysmal years, in the process losing the bulk of his AUM, finally threw in the towel last week when in a July 3 letter to investors, he admitted that “the facts have changed” and that “fundamentals have deteriorated significantly” adding that “demand growth seems to be somewhat less than anticipated while supply keeps surprising to the upside… the expected acceleration in inventory drawdowns has not materialized… disappointed expectations for accelerating stock draws following the arrival of peak seasonal demand. Meanwhile, U. S. shale operators have continued to add rigs at a surprisingly fast rate thus raising the odds for significant oversupply in 2018, even if OPEC maintains its production cuts beyond Q1. Over the past month, the market has in effect priced in two negatives, one long-term, the other short-term.”
More importantly, Hall confirms what we have said for the past two years and what most so-called experts have missed: namely that “shale is now the marginal barrel” and adds that “if the marginal cost of oil for the next 3 or 4 years really is headed to the mid-$40 range then OPEC’s attempts to push prices to $60 seem futile” adding that “It is unlikely that OPEC will find the cohesion necessary to keep prices at an artificially elevated level if all it does is accommodate rampant growth in shale oil production.”
That line of thinking raises the possibility of yet another reversal in OPEC policy – abandoning supply management and letting market forces balance supply and demand. This would obviously result in significantly lower prices, at least in the short term. On the other hand, with many OPEC countries needing much higher prices for fiscal sustainability (for Saudi Arabia the level is over $80), there is an inherent instability which adds to the geopolitical risks to supply. But for now, it seems likely that OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, will stay the course with its current policy of production restraint. Oil at $45-50 is preferable to it being at $40 or below, even if the loftier target of $60 has proven elusive.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 8, 2017.