Oil-related Developments - January 2019

On 31 December, crude oil prices rose about 2 percent but were on track for the first annual decline in three years amid lingering concerns of a persistent supply glut. Hints of progress on a possible US-China trade deal, with US President Donald Trump saying he had a "very good call" with Chinese President Xi Jinping, helped bolster sentiment for oil.

Brent crude futures rose $1.04, or about 2 percent, to $54.25 a barrel by 0740 GMT (1:10 pm in India). Brent declined nearly 19 percent in 2018 following two years of growth.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $46.11 a barrel, up 78 cents, or 1.7 per cent, from their last close. WTI is down about 24 percent this year.

For most of 2018, oil prices were on the rise, driven up by healthy demand and supply concerns, especially around the impact of renewed US sanctions against major producer Iran, which were introduced in early November.

Brent crude, seen as a global benchmark for oil prices, rose by almost a third between January and October, to a high of $86.74 per barrel.

That was the highest level since late 2014 and many leading analysts and traders at the time said they expected crude to hit $100 per barrel again by the end of 2018. Instead, Brent prices have wiped out all of 2018's gains, plunging by almost 40 percent from the year's high, in what has been one of the steepest oil-market sell offs of the past decades.

The slump came after Washington gave unexpectedly generous sanction waivers to Iran's biggest oil buyers and as concerns over a global economic slowdown amid the Sino-American trade dispute dented the outlook for oil demand.

The current downward pressure on oil prices should likely taper off from January, analysts said, as OPEC and its allies, including Russia, start curbing production by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd). The market, however, might still remain under some pressure from swelling production in the United States, which has emerged as the world's biggest crude producer this year, pumping 11.6 million bpd. Outside the United States, production in Russia and Saudi Arabia also hit record levels this year.

 

January 1, 2019

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About the Author

Ambassador Talmiz Ahmed

Former Ambassador of India to Saudia Arabia, Oman and UAE, monitors developments in the West Asian region.  

Ambassador Talmiz Ahmad joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1974. Early in his career, he was posted in a number of West Asian countries such as Kuwait, Iraq and Yemen and later, between 1987 and 1990, he was Consul General in Jeddah. He also held positions in the Indian missions in New York, London and Pretoria. He served as Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (2000-03; 2010-11); Oman (2003-04), and the UAE (2007-10). He was also Additional Secretary for International Cooperation in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in 2004-06. In July 2011, the Saudi Government conferred on him the King Abdul Aziz Medal First Class for his contribution to the promotion of Indo – Saudi relations. After retirement from the Foreign Service in 2011, he worked in the corporate sector in Dubai for three years. He is now a full-time academic and holds the Ram Sathe Chair for International Studies, Symbiosis International University. He has published three books: Reform in the Arab World: External Influences and Regional Debates (2005), Children of Abraham at War: the Clash of Messianic Militarisms (2010), and The Islamist Challenge in West Asia: Doctrinal and Political Competitions after the Arab Spring (2013). He writes and lectures frequently on Political Islam, the politics and economics of West Asia and the Indian Ocean and energy security issues.