The oil supply surplus is “starting to reverse,” according to a new report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
The investment bank noted that oil prices had collapsed in late 2018 not only because of an oversupply problem, but also because of other “non-fundamental factors,” including the selloff of long positions by hedge funds and other market managers, as well as by fear and uncertainty in broader financial markets. Still, the bottom line was that the oil market saw a glut once again emerge in the fourth quarter.
However, “now the 1.3mn b/d surplus in 4Q18 is starting to reverse,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts wrote in a January 10 note. In fact, the bank says that the OPEC+ cuts could translate into a “slight deficit” for 2019. “With investor positioning reflecting a bearish set-up, Brent prices have already bounced back above $60/bbl, and we retain our $70/bbl average forecast for 2019,” BofAML wrote.
Oil price forecasts vary quite a bit, but a dozen or so investment banks largely agree that the selloff in late December, which pushed Brent down to $50 per barrel, had gone too far. BofAML is betting that Brent rises back to $70 per barrel.
However, the investment bank issued a rather significant caveat. This assessment is based on the assumption that the global economy does not take a turn for the worse. BofAML analysts said that Brent could plunge as low as $35 per barrel if global GDP growth slows from 3.5 percent to 2 percent.
At this point, it is anybody’s guess if the global economy slows by that much, but there is a growing number of indicators that at least suggests such a deceleration is possible. The recent data from China showing a shocking slowdown in both imports and exports is discouraging. Exports fell 4.4 percent in December from a year earlier, while imports crashed by 7.6 percent, suggesting that the world’s second largest economy is starting to weaken a bit.