On Tuesday, March 23rd, the giant container ship, the Ever Given, ran aground in the Suez Canal causing hundreds of ships to get stuck at both ends of the canal. The canal connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and carries approximately 10% of global shipping traffic. The Suez Canal is vital for nearly every cargo ship that moves between Asia and Europe, and it is also an important shipping lane for cargo coming from Asia to the East Coast of the United States. At the time of this writing, the Ever Given has been partially refloated and moved alongside the canal bank, but the backup is still impacting oil markets.
Crude has been the underdog since Covid-19 broke onto the scene in early March of 2020. We have seen historic contango, negative trading, inventories at the verge of 100% capacity. However, we have also seen refineries curtailing production and shutting down, crude breaking technical level after level, OPEC + committing to decreased outputs, a Texas winter weather creating supply concerns, and a slow steady recovery of crude as inventories are drawn down and production resumes. Crude has built a full head of steam and looks to be an unstoppable force and a surefire pick to rise to glory yet again for 2021. March Madness is known for its volatile emotional up and downs and surprise sleeper teams with unimaginable upsets. Will 2021 and a third European lockdown amid vaccine safety concerns be the sleeper to upset the rise of Crude?!
Following a brutal year for their balance sheets, the world’s biggest oil companies are anticipating a windfall of cash flow this year. Prices have rallied significantly over the past month or so, and the massive cost-cutting from last year positions some of the biggest International Oil Companies (IOCs) to reap the benefits of high crude prices.
Since 1944, one of the largest oil field service companies in Texas, Baker Hughes Company, has released data at the end of each week on the state of the oil and gas industry. Last week, Baker Hughes reported an increase in U.S. rig counts which affects demand in a variety of energy sectors such as drilling, completion and production. These rigs are aided in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas domestically.
The oil market received positive news on Thursday as oil futures for Brent and WTI Crude rallied for the first time since the oil price crash in early March, all fueled by the positive news of vaccine approval in Canada and the United Kingdom. Brent Crude hit $50 per barrel, while WTI Crude was trading as high as $47.23 Thursday. Analysts are optimistic that this may be a strong indication that the economy will receive a boost heading into next year.
For the 2021 calendar year, there will be 5.8 million barrels per day crude production cuts. These cuts are an effort to balance the current oversupply due to COVID-19 with an estimated demand forecast for the year.
News of the Pfizer vaccine is spreading like wildfire around the world today. Covid-19 has killed more than 1.2 million people the world over. Today, Pfizer announced a vaccine that has a 90% effective rate with no serious safety concerns. If these numbers are to hold true, Pfizer’s new vaccine would hold up to the childhood disease vaccines like measles. Additionally, Pfizer says it expects to have 15 to 20 million vaccines ready in the US by year’s end provided the FDA issue emergency authorization later this month. They also predict to have over 100 million doses ready worldwide.
The most recent WTI drop of 2.9% is the largest in a month. Supply versus demand continues to be a curious topic that is the main driver of the current crude oil situation. Oversupply of crude oil in 2020 continues as just in the past few days in the North Sea there are a combined 12 cargoes that have yet to find a buyer suggesting slow demand is taking place in the region.
Oil and gas explorations remain sluggish and failing to rebound as expected. At $40+ a barrel and positive market indicator would historically promote conditions for the industry to recover, however there has been no indication of a recovery to speak of. The new normal seems to be a slim, budget conscious, and efficient industry soup to nuts.