The Oil Market Isn’t Broken, It’s Just Responding To A Supply Surplus

As oil prices continue to plunge, with the latest selloff triggered by a surprise crude build and another release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, commodity analysts at Standard Chartered say the oil market is not fundamentally broken but is rather merely responding to a surplus. 

In its latest commodities market update on Thursday, StanChart says that the global oil market is currently in excess supply, with the U.S. transferring an average 0.83 million barrels per day (mb/d) into commercial inventories in the third quarter. 

StanChart analysts estimate the Q3 surplus at 1.82 million barrels per day, and suggest that forecasts–notably from U.S. investment banks–that were indicating the potential for $150 oil were wrong and that the market “has not yet fully priced in the extent to which that assumption proved wrong”. 

While forecasters have blamed market mechanism failures, volatility, trader irrationality and low liquidity for the recent plunge in oil prices, Standard Chartered analysts say the market is “well-functioning” and the simple answer is a “sharp swing into surplus”.  

Now, “with a large global flow surplus and those transfers available to rebuild inventories, US oil data has been mainly bearish in Q3,” Standard Chartered writes, adding that “The latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) release continues that trend, with our US oil data bull-bear falling 8.3 w/w to a highly bearish -70.0.” 

Standard Chartered described early indications of September demand as “weak”, noting that “demand for all products is lower y/y except other oils. The distillate data was particularly weak, with a sharp 4.22mb inventory build and the lowest implied demand in 20 months.”

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