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IEA: Slow Demand, Rising Supply Put More Pressure on Oil

  • Reuters

A man changes the price for a gallon of gasoline at a gas station in Medford, Massachusetts, Dec. 4, 2014.

A man changes the price for a gallon of gasoline at a gas station in Medford, Massachusetts, Dec. 4, 2014.

Oil prices are likely to come under further downward pressure, the International Energy Agency said Friday, as it cut its outlook for demand growth in 2015 and predicted healthy non-OPEC supply gains would aggravate a global oil glut.

Oil prices have fallen by 45 percent since June, with the sell-off gaining pace after OPEC decided last month to keep its output target unchanged.

The IEA said that if OPEC maintained production levels, the global oversupply would reach 2 million barrels per day in the first half of 2015, when demand will be seasonally weak.

The agency, which coordinates energy policies of industrialized countries, cut its outlook for global oil demand growth for 2015 by 230,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 900,000 bpd on expectations for lower fuel consumption in Russia and other oil-exporting countries.

The IEA said it was too early to expect low oil prices to start seriously curtailing North America's supply boom.

“Barring a disorderly production response, it may well take some time for supply and demand to respond to the price rout,” the IEA said in its monthly report.

Global crude oil benchmark Brent was trading Friday at a five-year low of about $63 per barrel, down from $115 in June. The decline in price deepened after the release of the IEA report.

Surging U.S. light tight oil supply will push total non-OPEC production to record growth of 1.9 million bpd this year although the pace of growth is expected to slow to 1.3 million in 2015, the IEA said.

Given lower estimates of global demand growth, the IEA said it had revised its predictions for demand for oil from OPEC for 2015 down by 300,000 bpd to 28.9 million bpd. That is more than 1 million bpd below the cartel's current production.

Demand for OPEC oil will bottom out seasonally in the first quarter of 2015, leading to a large buildup in stocks.

The IEA said based on current projections of still relatively weak demand growth and robust supply, global oil inventories would build by close to 300 million barrels in the first half of 2015 in the absence of disruption, shut-ins or a cut in OPEC production.

“If half of this took place in the OECD, stocks there would approach 2,900 million barrels and possibly bump against storage capacity limits,” the IEA said.

Modest demand response

The IEA said several years of record high prices, when oil traded above $100 per barrel, were the root cause of today's rout: a surge in non-OPEC supply to its highest growth ever and a contraction in demand growth.

It said lower oil prices were already slashing producers' spending, but it was more likely to affect medium- and long-term output than short-term supplies.

“Today's oil spending cuts will dent supply — just not right now,” it said.

The short-term outlook for U.S. light tight oil production remained unchanged at current prices, it said, as long as producers had access to financing.

It added that in 2015 only Russia would likely trim production as lower oil prices were causing pain alongside Western sanctions.

When OPEC decided last month against cutting production, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said the market would sort itself out, suggesting lower prices would ultimately lead to a spike in global demand, which will in turn would lead to a price recovery.

“As for demand, oil price drops are sometimes described as a 'tax cut' and a boon for the economy, but this time round their stimulus effect may be modest,” the IEA said.

Oil-producing countries, such as Russia, will consume less oil next year and in the OECD countries demand will be depressed by a tepid economic recovery, weak wage growth and deflationary pressures.

“The resulting downward price pressure would raise the risk of social instability or financial difficulties if producers found it difficult to pay back debt. Continued price declines would for some countries and companies make an already difficult situation even worse,” the IEA said.

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