Oil prices still are having a hard time following through on its breakout over $85 a barrel. Obviously you have to respect that fact that the market has broken out yet, at the same time, the bulls have to wonder what the market is waiting for.
It is very possible that the market is waiting for reassurance and permission to buy from our very accommodative Federal Reserve. The Fed has been taking baby steps back from the historic payload of economic stimulus and the oil market fears the impact that the removal of stimulus might have on the price of oil. The oil market has never before experienced the artificial amount of stimulation that it has experienced over the last year and so there is no wonder why there may be some angst building as we get closer to the judgment day. We can talk a lot about the demand growth in China but that too is the product of massive government spending. The Chinese spent 586 billion dollars to prop up their economy and it is unlikely that they will be pumping the economy with that kind of money again. Asian stocks fell hard on rising concerns that China, instead of adding stimulus, will actually be taking it away.
Oil just can't get going because it is worried about the never ending Greece crisis and the concerns over other weak members in the PIIGS zone. Oil is worried about China and it is worried about what the Fed might say. The Fed has raised interest rates and removed most of its emergency lending programs. Now the market wants to know when the rates will start to rise. Every oil trader in the world is waiting for the answer. The removal of stimulus is a bearish oil event just waiting to happen.
If the bulls cannot get reassurance from the Fed maybe they can get it from Schlumberger. Chief Executive Andrew Gould said he feels that oil near $80 a barrel should hold and that customers will boost spending at oil prices near $80 a barrel. "Our customers will loosen their purse strings on high-end technology," Gould said during a conference call to discuss the oil field-services company's first-quarter earnings.
There is a lot of oil in storage. Bloomberg News reports that, "Traders increased the number of vessels used to store crude oil by 75 percent last week as the potential profit from storage rose, Morgan Stanley said. There were 21 oil tankers storing dirty products last week, 20 of them are very-large crude carriers, up from 12 vessels in the previous week, a Morgan Stanley analyst, said in a report yesterday. Among the nine vessels there are four in Iran. About 41 million barrels of oil were stored in the tankers, Morgan Stanley said, enough to meet more than two days of U.S. consumption. That's up from 24.5 million barrels a week ago."
We also need to get prepared for the possible market impact from potential sanctions on Iran. I know that the Iran situation is well known that even with their abundant production of oil, they still do not have the refining capacity to produce what they need in refined products. So it is widely expected that any sanctions on the country will be a ban on gasoline. The AFP is reporting that Iran has increased its gasoline by inventories by about 220 million gallons and plans to boost domestic production to offset possible fuel sanctions according to Nooreddin Shahnazi-Zadeh, the head of National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution. He claims that, "At the moment the volume of Iran's strategic petrol supplies has increased by over a billion liters" and dismissed the threat of sanctions saying, "it is impossible to impose such limitations in the current situation."
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