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Crude oil prices could hit $50 per barrel or higher by year's end, analysts say

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Essential Energy Insights - January 2021


Crude oil prices could hit $50 per barrel or higher by year's end, analysts say

Having rallied more than $75 from historic lows in April, the oil market is expected to take a breather before beginning the next leg of its journey back to the $60 per barrel level seen earlier in the year, according to analysts.

Assuming inventories fall, petroleum demand continues to claw back, countries comply with OPEC+ output cuts and a second wave of COVID-19 is avoided, oil prices could top $50/bbl and even approach $60/bbl before the year is out, Bernstein senior analyst Neil Beveridge said during a June 9 webinar.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures have surged more than $75 since the May contract settled at a historic negative $37.63/bbl on April 20, with prices roaring back to near $40/bbl in a matter of weeks as U.S. producers quickly shut in output.

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"When we turned constructive on the oil outlook last month, we argued that after the initial relief rally, the second stage of the oil market recovery the cyclical tightening would be gradual as the inventory normalization takes time and requires patience," Goldman Sachs wrote in a June 8 research note.

In the nearer term, crude oil prices could step lower in the coming weeks following a recent crack above $40/bbl, the analysts said.

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"With the oil relief-rally set to run out of steam and the expected volatility normalization playing out, our tactical market views are now for a pull-back in WTI and Brent prices in the coming weeks," Goldman Sachs said.

Although OPEC and its allies extended production cuts June 6, Brent crude oil futures for August delivery settled June 8 at $40.80/bbl, losing $1.50, or 3.6%, on the session. The WTI oil futures contract for July delivery pushed to a three-month intraday high of $40.44/bbl early June 8 before it pared gains to settle at $38.19/bbl, down $1.36, or 3.4%.

OPEC+ agreed to maintain their record oil cuts through July. Although Mexico will no longer reduce its output by close to 100,000 bbl/d, the other producing countries approved a one-month rollover of their 9.6 million bbl/d production cut accord. The cuts, originally 9.7 million bbl/d, including Mexico, had been scheduled to taper to 7.7 million bbl/d in July through the rest of the year.

"The oil market remains a sick patient, but OPEC+ has delivered a strong dose of medicine. We think this meaningfully bolsters the sustainability of the unusually long deal," Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Hsueh said in a June 8 research note.

In the meantime, the oil market rebalancing will continue, as "the inventory overhang remains significant and uncertainty remains high for the forward supply and demand outlooks," Goldman Sachs said.

Bernstein's Beveridge said WTI crude prices need to hold at about $50/bbl the break-even point for most producers for U.S. oil output to remain steady and must advance past that price handle for output growth to resume.

"The path of oil prices remains important lower oil prices need to clear today's inventory overhang and, as a physical asset, cannot price the expected tightening in fundamentals that we forecast through 2021," Goldman Sachs wrote.