Oil analysts grow more bullish after OPEC extends output deal

BENGALURU • Oil analysts have raised their forecasts for the crude price next year after major producers agreed to extend output cuts, a Reuters poll showed yesterday.

Political tensions in Saudi Arabia, production disruptions in Libya and Nigeria and economic depression in Venezuela that has cut crude output will also support oil prices, the analysts said.

Benchmark Brent crude futures are now forecast to average US$58.84 (RM241.24) in 2018, up more than US$3 from US$55.71 estimated in the previous poll at the end of October.

The OPEC and non-OPEC producers, led by Russia, last week extended their deal to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) until the end of 2018 to end persistent oversupply.

The group signalled it may stage an early exit from the deal if the market overheats and triggers too much of a price rise.

“The OPEC cut extension is expected to send a positive signal regarding faster rebalancing in the oil markets…Strong compliance is expected from OPEC as the OPEC economies are still heavily dependent on oil revenues to meet their fiscal budget deficits, and hence, they need higher oil prices,” said Rahul Prithiani, director at CRISIL Research.

Some analysts, however, expressed doubts over compliance from non-OPEC countries, especially Russia, which has plans to expand production from its newer oilfields.

“The main positive surprise involved Libya and Nigeria, previously exempted (from the deal), which will now be subject to a cumulative production cap,” said Daniela Corsini, commodity market economist at Intesa Sanpaolo in Milan.

Oil prices have rallied strongly in the second half of this year, on a growing belief that the OPEC-led output cuts,

coupled with strong consumption, were bringing the market back into balance. Brent crude was trading above US$62 a barrel on Tuesday.

The North Sea benchmark, which has recovered about 25% since the deal was announced last year, is expected to average US$54.19 per barrel in 2017.

OPEC oil output fell in November by 300,000 bpd to its lowest since May, while compliance with pledged supply curbs rose to 112%.

The survey of 30 economists and analysts forecast US crude futures would average US$54.78 per barrel in 2018, up from a previous forecast of US$52.50. West Texas Intermediate was expected to average US$50.65 a barrel this year.

Asia will be a key driver of global demand growth, helping to tighten the balance between supply and consumption, analysts said. — Reuters