Oil was boosted Monday by some modest investor confidence in the commodity amid reports that the Saudis and Russians expect declines in oil inventories to accelerate in three to four months.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices gained as much as 1.8% to $46.69 per barrel to begin the week.
Russia's energy minister is calling for a global supply-demand balance in the first quarter of 2018, while Saudi Arabia has predicted stockpiles will drop to the five-year historical average target before year's end, according to Seaport Global Securities (SGS) analysts. Saudi Arabia also reportedly said it will modify its policy if output cuts don't have the desired response.
As SGS alluded to in a Monday research note, Saudi Arabia has more skin in the pricing game than most with a highly anticipated IPO of Saudi Aramco slated for 2018. Reducing stockpiles to a point sufficient to elevate oil prices could be critical for Saudi Arabia if state-owned Saudi Aramco hopes to launch anywhere near its expected $2 trillion market valuation.
But if you're trading equities, don't let the OPEC talk of tomorrow fool you today. The resounding sentiment among industry analysts and experts surrounding U.S. oil stocks is bearish in the near to medium term. U.S. oil and gas exploration and production analyst Gabriele Sorbara of Williams Capital said in a recent interview with TheStreet that oil names have been trading out-of-favor and will likely continue to do so over the next few months.
Indeed, as of Friday's close, the S&P Composite 1500 Oil & Gas Exploration & Production Index had fallen 23% during the past six months, while the greater S&P 500 was up roughly 8% in that period.
Energy industry consulting firm Stratas Advisors said in a recent report that the market is clearly not impressed with extended production cuts proposed by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC agreed at its May 25 meeting in Vienna to extend a 1.8 million barrel per day production cut through March 2018 with the help of non-OPEC producers such as Russia. However, traders instead continue to place focus on production increases in the U.S, Stratas wrote last week.
In that light, the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Monday releases its drilling productivity report, which estimates changes in oil and natural gas production for seven key U.S. regions. On Friday, Houston-based oilfield services provider Baker Hughes (BHI) said U.S. producers brought 11 more drilling rigs online throughout the country, marking the 21st consecutive weekly build in the rig count. Moreover, the EIA reported last Wednesday that U.S. crude inventories grew by a whopping 3.3 million barrels during the week ended June 2.
EIA's drilling productivity data will be followed by OPEC's monthly production report expected Tuesday. And rounding out the week of data, the Paris-based International Energy Agency will release its review of the global oil market Wednesday. Other data points to keep an eye out for this week include BP's (BP) statistical review of world energy report due out Tuesday, and U.S. inventory data is expected to be released by the American Petroleum Institute and the EIA on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
In the meantime, energy stocks were leading the S&P 500 on Monday due to surging oil prices. International oil majors Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) were both up about 1.5% in early trading; Chesapeake Energy (CHK) , Newfield Exploration (NFX) and Marathon Oil (MRO) led the E&P universe, all up between 2% and 3%; and Valero Energy (VLO) was separating itself from other petroleum refiners with a 2% bump.
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