Wood Mac: Caution remains for energy market

Survey finds a general sense of uncertainty even with a 10 percent weekly gain in oil prices.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  May 15, 2017 at 5:48 AM
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May 15 (UPI) -- An industry survey found a general sense of uncertainty on oil price recovery, which could create headwinds for investments, Wood Mackenzie found.

The analytical group published results Monday from a survey asking industry respondents to weigh in on capital spending priorities and the direction of crude oil prices. Martin Kelly, the head of corporate analysis for the company, said in emailed comments there was a general sense of caution despite the recovery from last year's slump in crude oil prices.

"The industry is very cautious right now and risk appetite is low," he said.

The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, was up more than 2 percent in overnight trading Monday to around $52 per barrel. That's a gain of more than 10 percent from one week ago, which was the low mark for the year, but 8 percent below the high-water mark set on Feb. 21.

Crude oil prices have moved in volatile territory as even modest signs of a lopsided market spook investors and gains or losses in U.S. crude oil storage in a given week can make or break a rally. In late February, analysts at London broker PVM said there was a "bullish stance" given the push by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to balance the market with managed production declines. By late April, however, it was the Royal Bank of Canada warning that "volatility" was an emerging concern. U.S. oil production is offsetting much of the impact of OPEC's coordinated effort.

Kelly said about 80 percent of those taking part in the survey told interviewers that crude oil prices would probably range between $50 per barrel and $60 per barrel for this year. By 2020, the market could hit the $80 market, which would result in more cashflow for the industry.

Brian Gilvary, the chief financial officer at BP, said when announcing first-quarter results that despite a $4 per barrel improvement in crude oil prices from the fourth quarter, the market direction was still unclear. At the time, Ole Hansen, the head of commodity strategy at SaxoBank, told UPI that "no fireworks" were expected for this year unless there were a major shock to the industry in the way of a severe supply disruption.

Wood Mackenzie found only about a quarter of the respondents said they were ready to take risks with investments like frontier exploration.

"The upstream sector's key priorities for 2017 include protecting the dividend and strengthening balance sheets," Kelly said.

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