prices equity investors watch
Investors who are not oil specialists typically use (at most) two crude oil prices as benchmarks:
—Brent, a light crude from under the North Sea. Today it is selling at just about $70 a barrel. “Light” means just what it says. Brent is rich in smaller, less-heavy molecules that are easily turned into high-value products like gasoline, diesel or jet fuel. It contains few large, denser molecules that require specialized refinery equipment to be turned into anything except low-value boiler fuel or asphalt. Because it can be used in older refinery equipment that’s still hanging around in bunches in the EU, it typically trades at a premium
—West Texas intermediate, which is somewhat heavier and produced, as the name suggests, onshore in the US. It is going for just under $64 a barrel this morning.
What’s remarkable about this is that we’re currently nearing the yearly low point for crude oil demand. The driving season–April through September–is long since over. And for crude bought, say three weeks from now, it’s not clear it can be refined into heating oil and delivered to retail customers before the winter heating season is over.
Yet WTI is up from its 2017 low of $45 a barrel last July and from $57 a barrel in early December. The corresponding figures for Brent are $45 and $65. (Note that there was no premium for Brent in July. I really don’t know why–some combination of traders’ despair and weak end user demand in Europe.)
why the current price strength?
Several factors, most important first:
–OPEC oil producers continue to restrain output to create a floor under the price
–they’re being successful at their objective, as the gradual reduction of up-to-the-eyeballs world inventories–and the current price, of course–show
–the $US is weakening somewhat.
My Lighting class is calling, so I’ll finish this tomorrow. The bottom line for me, though: I think relative strength in oil exploration and production companies will continue.
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