Societe Generale slashed its outlooks for ICE Brent and NYMEX WTI crude prices by $9 each in a report published on Tuesday, pointing to “serious concerns” over global economic growth.
Analysts Michael Wittner and Amandip Kaur said that the outlook for 2019 is Brent at $64.25 a barrel and WTI at $57.25 a barrel, drops of $9 each from forecasts made in late November.
In the past week, Goldman Sachs also cut its outlook for 2019 crude oil prices, noting that early spring refinery maintenance represents an expected drop in demand in the Northern Hemisphere and comes as US shale oil producers continue to pump near record volumes.
OPEC and allies are expected to keep to a pledge made in December to trim 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) from global markets, but Societe Generale said there are reasons to be concerned in the short term.
“Oil prices appear to have overshot to the downside, driven by market sentiment and investor flows. On the latter, managed money positioning analysis indicates that crude oil and refined products have been extremely oversold,” the analysts said in the note to clients.
“We are revising prices lower, for two main reasons. As the starting point for the outlook, current prices need to be factored in; in addition, the strength and persistence of the bearish macro sentiment and risk aversion cannot be ignored, because there are valid reasons for concern.”
The US-China trade spat factored into the weaker global growth outlook, but the report largely side-steps a meeting this week in Beijing of officials from both countries to resolve disputes over tariffs and access. Initial reports suggested the two sides are making progress,
However, Societe Generale said it is more focused on whether the US would extend crude import waivers to countries such as India, China, South Korea and Japan on economic sanctions Washington slapped on Tehran in November last year.
“What happens in May?” Societe General asked. “That is when the next six-month phase of US oil sanctions begins — in just four months. If prices are relatively low and markets well supplied, will the US tighten/reduce allowed Iran crude exports, using the mechanism of sanctions waivers for importers? How will OPEC+ react? Will there be US/OPEC+ coordination?”
The answers to those question will set the direction for the rest of 2019, Societe Generale said.