The Oil Price Collapse Is Far From Over

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- Advertisement - Tuesday, March 17, 2020 – Oil prices dropped sharply on Monday, and the Dow Jones suffered its worst day in decades. Reports of a major economic stimulus in the making helped stabilize markets when trading started on Tuesday, but prices fell again as Saudi Arabia announced it would increase exports again.

Saudi Arabia boosts oil exports to record high. Saudi Arabia escalated the oil price war once again today by announcing plans to boost its oil exports to 10 million bpd from May. This is 3 million bpd more than it exported in February. With oil markets already oversupplied and coronavirus continuing to cause disruptions to supply chains around the world, both markets and oil prices are likely to suffer.

Aramco “very comfortable” with $30 oil. Saudi Aramco said that it would keep production elevated through May at least and that the company was “very comfortable” with oil at $30 per barrel. “In a nutshell, Saudi Aramco can sustain the very low price and can sustain it for a long time,” Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said on Monday on an earnings call with investors. “For the production in May … I doubt it would be any different from next month.”

Exxon considers CAPEX cuts. In a dramatic about-face just two weeks after its annual Investor Day, in which it laid out aggressive spending plans, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) said that it was looking at “steps to significantly reduce capital and operating expenses in the near term.” ExxonMobil was downgraded by S&P with a Negative outlook.

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IEA: Oil producing countries at risk. The oil price downturn could mean that up to 85 percent of government revenues vanish in certain “vulnerable” countries, according to the IEA. The agency singled out Ecuador, Iraq, and Nigeria as particularly at risk. “International financial institutions may need to step in and take special measures,” IEA’s Fatih Birol said. The IEA and OPEC issue joint statement expressing concern about oil-producing countries.

Fed cuts rates to near zero, ratchets up bond purchasing. The Federal Reserve decided to use up a lot of its ammo, slashing rates to between 0 and 25 basis points. It also announced $700 billion in securities purchasing. Even still, in a sign that the economic contagion is growing alongside the pandemic, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by nearly 13 percent, its worst single-day loss since 1987.

Oil prices to drop to shut-in levels. Several oil market analysts said that oil prices might need to drop to short-run cash cost levels for shale drillers. Goldman Sachs puts that at about $23 per barrel. At that price, companies cannot even cover the cost of drilling wells. “I don’t think we’ve reached the lows yet,” Andy Lebow, senior partner at Commodity Research Group, told the WSJ. “Right now, there’s no good news for the market.”

Trump to buy 78 million barrels for SPR. President Trump proposed filling up the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in an effort to mitigate the damage. The approximately 78 million barrels of available storage would equate to 0.5 mb/d of demand for half a year.

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Oil demand to fall by 10 mb/d. Goldman Sachs says the market surplus could be around 6 mb/d. Other analysts, including Trafigura, says oil demand could plunge by 10 mb/d.

Republican Senators send a letter to Saudis. A group of 13 Republican Senators sent a letter to Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, urging him to reverse course on flooding the oil market.

Oxy to try to block Carl Icahn. Hedge fund investor Carl Icahn nearly quadrupled his stake in Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY) in what is perceived as an attempt to topple leadership. Icahn opposed the $55 billion acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum last year by Occidental. But Occidental quickly moved to dilute its shares in an effort to beat back Icahn.

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Saudi Aramco to cut spending. Saudi Aramco (TADAWUL: 2222) said that it would cut spending to between $25 and $30 billion this year, down from $32.8 billion last year.

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Few shale companies are profitable. Only 16 shale companies have average new well costs below $35 per barrel, including Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN) and EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG). But that figure excludes other costs, including dividends, debt, and other corporate costs.

Regional banks exposed to energy at risk. U.S. and Canadian banks have more than $100 billion in loans outstanding to energy companies, according to the Wall Street Journal. The problem is more acute for medium-sized regional banks, rather than big Wall Street banks.

IEA: Stimulus should focus on clean energy. The head of the IEA, Fatih Birol, said that any economic stimulus under consideration in response to the coronavirus pandemic should focus on clean energy. “These stimulus packages offer an excellent opportunity to ensure that the essential task of building a secure and sustainable energy future doesn’t get lost amid the flurry of immediate priorities,” Birol wrote. At the time of this writing, the Trump administration was looking at around $850 billion in economic stimulus, although the details are still in the works.

Wall Street still underestimating pandemic. To date, investment advisors have underestimated how disruptive the pandemic would be. But even as the market collapses, experts could still be underappreciating the far-reaching impacts to come.

Chesapeake turns to debt restructuring advisers. Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) has tapped debt restructuring advisers, according to Reuters. The Oklahoma-based driller faced a difficult challenge paying back $9 billion in debt even before the pandemic and collapse of prices.

“Breakup” clauses to become more common for LNG. The market bust for LNG will likely increase the use of “breakup” clauses in LNG contracts, which are typically rigid and long-term.

Storage costs soar. The cost to store oil has skyrocketed, both onshore and offshore. At Cushing, rates doubled over the past month.

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The Oil Price Collapse Is Far From Over - Brand SpurThe Oil Price Collapse Is Far From Over - Brand Spur

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The Oil Price Collapse Is Far From Over - Brand SpurThe Oil Price Collapse Is Far From Over - Brand Spur

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