Merrill Lynch Upbeat on Oil Prices With Predictions of OPEC Cutback Extension and Rising Demand

Wednesday April 19, 2017

Yet more optimism from a respected bank was expressed on Tuesday, this time by Hootan Yazhari, head of MENA & frontier research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who thinks the global market is "very close" to being balanced.

Yazhari told Bloomberg television that "a number of factors" cause him to be bullish on oil despite the many factors against it: "The first quarter typically tends to be a pretty weak quarter for demand....we're now coming out of that, approaching the U.S. driving season, and as a result we should start to see demand picking up and we're beginning to see inventories getting drawn in the United States.

"And as we go towards the end of the second quarter, we think that on May 25 we will see a renewal of the [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries production] cuts; how long is the big question, but we think it will continue."

Yazhari reminded Bloomberg that "since 2013 we've seen a near-50 percent drop in capital expenditure in global oil and gas: that in itself will start to have an effect on the underlying decline rates in the global oil production system; and I think this focus on the U.S., whilst to a degree is justified, we have to look elsewhere to look at how the lack of investment could actually start to see an acceleration in decline rates."

Yazhari agrees with other analysts who think the global market is close to being balanced.

The comments come on the same day that Citigroup predicted that oil will soon climb to the mid $60s on the strength of OPEC renewing its oil cutback initiative to the end of 2017; however, it added that failure to do so will send prices "precipitously lower."

Now that all hopes appear to be pinned yet again on OPEC and its ability to sway the market with cuts that up until recently were almost universally deemed to be too small to make any impact one way or another, how likely is the cartel to extend the cutbacks?

If Bijan Zanganeh's word carries any weight, the answer is: likely.

The oil minister to Iran over the weekend said that most oil producers support an extension of output cuts by OPEC and non-OPEC countries; he added, "

However, Iran's determination to produce crude in record quantities - reportedly at a 4 million barrel per day level - is widely viewed as one of the biggest threats to the shaky harmony achieved by OPEC under its cutback agreement; it has also increased production in defiance of the cutbacks.

Plus, on Monday, Khalid al-Falih, energy minister for Saudi Arabia, told media that it is too early to discuss extending the six month production deal beyond June and said producers will be cautious when making their decision.