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October 11, 2018

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Top traders split on outlook for oil as Iran sanctions loom

The world’s biggest trading houses said yesterday they saw oil prices not falling below US$65 per barrel and possibly breaking above US$100 next year as US sanctions on Iran reduce crude exports from the Islamic republic.

Oil has rallied this year on expectations the sanctions, coming into force on November 4, will test the ability of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and others to fill the supply gap as shipments from OPEC member Iran decline.

Brent crude last week reached US$86.74 a barrel, the highest since 2014.

But in 2019, forecasters such as the International Energy Agency say emerging-market crises and trade disputes could dent global demand while rising non-OPEC production adds to supply.

Jeremy Weir, chief executive of Trafigura trading group, said at the Oil & Money conference in London that he would not be surprised to see oil trade at more than US$100 per barrel next year.

Alex Beard, chief executive for oil and gas at Glencore, said at the same event that he forecast a mid-term oil price of US$85-90, as a release of US strategic oil stocks looked remote and would have limited impact anyway.

“I think the sanctions will be very tough. Waivers will be extremely limited if any and I don’t see an end to it as the objective is regime change in 2019,” Beard said.

“I can’t see anything that will affect oil prices dramatically to the downside.”

“The European payment mechanism doesn’t shield you if you use the US financial system ... you can pay but don’t expect to be on their Christmas card list.”

Beard added that US infrastructure limitations would limit US crude exports that could otherwise compensate and new refining capacity coming online in 2019 would add further tightness.

The traders said, however, they expected some demand destruction in emerging market economies to help cap oil prices.


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