SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices dipped on Wednesday as high output and U.S. sanction waivers allowing Iran’s biggest buyers to keep taking its crude reinforced the outlook for a well-supplied market.
FILE PHOTO – Iraqi villagers guide their fishing boat past Al-Baath oil tanker in Shat-al-Arab waterway, which leads to the port of Umm Qasr, near the country’s second largest city of Basra, February 10, 2005. REUTERS/Atef Hassan
Front-month Brent crude oil futures LCOc1 were at $71.83 per barrel at 0750 GMT, down 30 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was at $61.84, down 37 cents, or 0.6 percent.
Brent and WTI have slumped by 17.4 and 19.7 percent respectively from their four-year peaks in October.
U.S. bank J.P. Morgan said the “sell-off in oil was due to excessive crude” from rising production “whilst Iranian supply was still in the market”.
Washington re-imposed sanctions against Iran’s oil exports on Monday but granted waivers to its biggest customers, allowing limited imports for the next 180 days.
Refinitiv data showed Iranian exports have fallen to 1 million barrels per day (bpd) so far in November, down from around 3 million bpd in mid-2018.
But Iran supply is expected to rise after November as waivers are used to start ordering more Iranian oil.
“Waivers are likely to be more extensive than the market expected,” energy consultancy FGE said, estimating that waivers overall would allow 1.2 to 1.7 million bpd of exports.
Japan’s refiner JXTG Holdings said on Wednesday it might resume orders of Iranian oil in December.
In China, a flotilla of supertankers carrying around 9 million barrels of Iranian oil worth about $650 million is sitting outside Dalian port.
Most ships arrived in the last 30 days, shipping data showed, as Iran tried to get as much crude as possible into markets before the sanctions took effect.
“With the waivers, prices can be managed in the $70-$80 per barrel range, with the upside at around $85 per barrel and the downside limited to $65 per barrel,” FGE said.
For Iran, however, the waivers still mean it will likely receive no direct income from its sales as the United States freezes the money.
“Any of these waivers based payments for the oil by the exempt countries must go into escrow accounts … The money
won’t directly go to Iran and it can only be used to buy certain non-sanctioned goods from its crude export customers,” J.P. Morgan said.
WAVE OF SUPPLY
Beyond Iran, U.S. bank Morgan Stanley said “supply continues to come in higher-than-expected, particularly from the U.S., Middle East OPEC, Russia and Libya.”
Output from the world’s top-three producers Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia, broke through 33 million bpd for the first time in October. These three countries now meet more than a third of global consumption.
Iraq, second-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), plans to raise output to 5 million bpd in 2019, from 4.6 million bpd currently.
Eyeing the wave of new supply, Morgan Stanley lowered its year-end and first-half 2019 Brent price forecast from $85 per barrel to $77.50.
Inventories are also swelling.
U.S. crude stocks climbed by 7.8 million barrels in the week ending Nov. 2 to 432 million, data from the American Petroleum Institute showed on Tuesday.
J.P.Morgan said “global floating storage has increased by 3.6 million barrels since July ‘18 to 33.9 million barrels.”
Despite the well-supplied market, J.P. Morgan still warned “the risk to supply remains very high” due to geopolitical risk and a “lack of spare capacity.”
Part of this risk comes from Venezuela, where crude production is in “free-fall” and could soon drop below 1 million bpd, the International Energy Agency’s Executive Director Fatih Birol said on Tuesday, down from the more than 2 million bpd it averaged last year.
Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford and Tom Hogue