Economic outlook

February 27, 2019

Oil price rises as uncertainty over Nigeria elections, Venezuela tension mounts

Budget 2024 under threat as oil price drops to $76.53 per barrel

Oil money

By Sebastine Obasi

AS Nigeria’s stock market turn positive with significant capital gains ahead of official conclusion of the general elections, oil prices, yesterday shot up, apparently over uncertainty over the outcome of the election’s as well as the political tension in Venezuela. Also the pressure on oil price appears to be coming from a positive sentiment over United States–China talks.

Oil money

International Brent crude oil futures were at $67.28 a barrel, up 16 cents, or 0.24 percent, from their last close, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $57.39 per barrel, up 13 cents, or 0.23 percent, from their last price.

“Risk appetite across global markets should improve as President Trump extends the deadline of trade talks with China,” Harry Tchilinguirian, global oil strategist at BNP Paribas in London, said.

“Supply risk is ever present with Venezuelan tensions brewing a notch higher, the National Oil Corporation in Libya refusing to start production at the El Sharara field,” he added, while also citing uncertainty over elections in top African oil exporter, Nigeria. U.S. sanctions on Iranian and Venezuelan crude plus involuntary curbs in Nigeria and Libya are lending support to efforts to balance the market and support prices, efforts led by member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers such as Russia. Further brightening the global economic picture, U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday signalled a potentially bruising trade war with China could be averted.

Trump tweeted he would postpone a March 01, 2019 deadline for higher tariffs on Chinese goods and looked forward to a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping when a Sino-American deal was sealed.

Goldman Sachs analysts said that “the near-term outlook for oil is modestly bullish over the next two to three months”, but added that the outlook for later in 2019 was weaker due to a surge in U.S. exports and an “an increasingly uncertain economic, policy and geopolitical backdrop”.

Meanwhile,  Trump resumed his attacks on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, saying the world is too fragile to handle a price hike and urging the cartel to “relax and take it easy.” Trump’s war of words with the OPEC punctuated big price swings in 2018, as he pressured the group to keep the taps open to help consumers. The president’s intervention follows a price rally of about 25 percent this year due to production cuts from OPEC and its allies, diminishing fears about the economic impact of the US-China trade war and Washington’s imposition of sanctions on Venezuelan oil shipments.

ALSO READ: Oil prices rise by more than 1% on China-U.S. trade talks, OPEC cuts

“We might see a less aggressive stance on supply cuts from the Saudis, this might stop them from cutting deeper,” said Giovanni Staunovo, an analyst at UBS Group AG in Zurich.

“But I still think Saudi Arabia has the incentive to see higher oil prices, and deliver the cuts agreed in December, when OPEC and its partners agreed to remove 1.2 million barrels a day’’, he added.

 NOPEC risk

The risk to OPEC comes in the form of the so-called ‘No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act’, or NOPEC, an act resurrected by US lawmakers that proposes making the organization subject to the Sherman antitrust law, used more than a century ago to break up the oil empire of John Rockefeller. Congressional support for the bill intensified last year as oil prices neared a four-year high, and Trump publicly blamed OPEC for high pump prices in the US In the past, the White House has opposed the NOPEC legislation – both George W Bush and Barack Obama threatened to use their veto.

OPEC’s concern now is that Trump may break with his predecessors, and angering him by not going “easy,” as he requested in his tweet, raises the stakes. Trump, before becoming president, didn’t just support the NOPEC bill, he was a cheerleader for it. “We can start by suing OPEC for violating antitrust laws,” he wrote in his 2011 book “Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again.”

Whether by coincidence or design, Trump’s latest tweet comes on the eve of International Petroleum Week, which opens in London on Tuesday. The annual event gathers the who’s who of the oil market and industry for several days of conferences, deal-making and cocktail parties.