NEW YORK, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- A lauded possibility of a narrowing gap between supply and demand in the market for crude oil has yet to materialize on the global stage, analysts said.
For nearly two years, crude oil markets have been pressured by global economic growth that was too slow to take up the heavy supply of energy products. In May, the International Energy Agency said market conditions seemed to suggest that balance was finally starting to return to the market.
A high level of supply and low demand has kept crude oil prices suppressed, with market benchmarks actually lower now than when they were in May. Oil prices briefly broke through the $50 threshold last month amid speculation that members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would take extraordinary action during a meeting this month in Algeria to prop up prices, but prices have since drifted toward the mid-$40 range.
Last month, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih said "if there is a need to take any action to help the market rebalance, then we would, of course [take action] in cooperation with OPEC and major non-OPEC exporters."
According to OPEC's latest figures, Saudi Arabian oil production in July, the last full month for which OPEC has data, was 2 percent higher than in May when the IEA mentioned a return to balance. Riyadh had defended a robust production policy by saying it needs to protect its market share and the expected demand from its consumers.
By OPEC's estimates, the global demand growth for oil in 2017 is expected to be less than this year. Olivier Jakob, the managing director at Swiss oil-market research group Petromatrix, said in an emailed report that Saudi Arabia is indeed increasing production gradually to answer the call of short-term demand.
"It is not allowing the expected rebalancing to occur," he said.
Analysis from S&P Global Platts of recent U.S. data, meanwhile, finds total oil inventories grew by more than 29 million barrels over the past 8 weeks, compared with a build of 20 million barrels over the same time last year.
"Given that the United States remains the world's largest consumer and holder of oil, it does not bode well for suggesting that market balance is being achieved," Anthony Starkey, the manager of energy analysis at Platts, said in an emailed report.