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Oil suffers rout after Saudi Arabia fires first shot of price war

March 11/2020

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Losing more than a quarter of their value, oil prices were set for their biggest daily rout since the first Gulf War, after Saudi Arabia cut its official prices in a market already reeling from the impact of the coronavirus on global demand, reported Reuters.

Saudi Arabia slashed its official selling prices and made plans to ramp up crude output next month after Russia balked at making a further steep output cut proposed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to stabilize oil markets.

Brent LCOc1 crude futures were down USD11.38, or 25%, at USD33.89 a barrel by 0732 GMT, after earlier dropping to USD31.02, their lowest since Feb. 12, 2016. Brent futures were on track for their biggest daily decline since Jan. 17, 1991, when prices dropped at the start of the first Gulf War.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 fell by USD11.12, or 27%, to USD30.16 a barrel, after touching USD27.34, also the lowest since Feb. 12, 2016. The US benchmark was potentially heading for its biggest decline on record, surpassing a 33% fall in January 1991.

"The timing of this lower price environment should be limited to a few months unless this whole virus impact on global market and consumer confidence triggers the next recession," said Keith Barnett, senior vice president strategic analysis at ARM Energy in Houston.

The disintegration of the grouping called OPEC+ - made up of OPEC plus other producers including Russia - ends more than three years of cooperation to support the market.

Saudi Arabia plans to boost its crude output above 10 million barrels per day (bpd) in April after the current deal to curb production expires at the end of March, two sources told Reuters on Sunday.

The worlds biggest oil exporter is attempting to punish Russia, the worlds second-largest producer, for not supporting the production cuts proposed last week by OPEC.

Saudi Arabia, Russia and other major producers last battled for market share like this between 2014 and 2016 to try to squeeze out production from the United States, which has grown to become the worlds biggest oil producer as flows from shale oil fields doubled over the last decade.

"The deal was always destined to fail," said Matt Stanley, senior broker at Starfuels in Dubai.

"All that happened was, and all that has consistently happened since the inception of the cuts, has been that US shale producers have gained market share."

Saudi Arabia over the weekend cut its official selling prices for April for all crude grades to all destinations by between USD6 and USD8 a barrel.

"The prognosis for the oil market is even more dire than in November 2014, when such a price war last started, as it comes to a head with the signi?cant collapse in oil demand due to the coronavirus," Goldman Sachs said.

Meanwhile, Chinas efforts to curtail the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted the worlds second-largest economy and curtailed shipments to the biggest oil importer.

And the spread of the virus to other major economies such as Italy and South Korea and the growing number of cases in the United States have increased concerns that oil demand will slump this year.

Goldman Sachs and other major banks such as Morgan Stanley have cut their demand growth forecasts, with Morgan Stanley predicting China will have zero demand growth in 2020. Goldman sees a contraction of 150,000 bpd in global demand.

Goldman Sachs cut its forecast for Brent to USD30 for the second and third quarters of 2020.

In other markets, the dollar was down sharply against the yen, Asian stock markets sharply lower, and gold rose to its highest since 2013 as investors fled to safe havens.

We remind that, as MRC informed earlier, state-owned PetroChina shut its Guangxi Petrochemical in southern Guangxi province on February 9, 2020, for scheduled 50-day maintenance. The maintenance should help the refinery to offset stock pressure after product demand slumped due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 2,093,260 tonnes in 2019, up by 6% year on year. Shipments of all PE grades increased. PE shipments rose from both domestic producers and foreign suppliers. The estimated PP consumption in the Russian market was 1,260,400 tonnes in January-December 2019, up by 4% year on year. Supply of almost all grades of propylene polymers increased, except for statistical copolymers of propylene (PP random copolymers).
Author:Margaret Volkova
Tags:PP, PE, crude and gaz condensate, PP random copolymer, propylene, ethylene, petrochemistry, PetroChina, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia.
Category:General News
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