Oil analysts have raised their forecasts for the crude price next year after major producers agreed to extend output cuts, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday. Production disruptions in Libya and Nigeria and economic depression in Venezuela that has cut crude output will also support oil prices, the analysts said.
Benchmark Brent crude futures are now forecast to average $58.84 in 2018, up more than $3 from $55.71 estimated in the previous poll at the end of October. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers, led by Russia, last week extended their deal to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) until the end of 2018 to end persistent oversupply.
The group signalled it may stage an early exit from the deal if the market overheats and triggers too much of a price rise. “The OPEC cut extension is expected to send a positive signal regarding faster rebalancing in the oil markets… Strong compliance is expected from OPEC as the OPEC economies are still heavily dependent on oil revenues to meet their fiscal budget deficits and hence they need higher oil prices,” said Rahul Prithiani, director at CRISIL Research.
Some analysts, however, expressed doubts over compliance from non-OPEC countries, especially Russia, which has plans to expand production from its newer oilfields. “The main positive surprise involved Libya and Nigeria, previously exempted (from the deal), which will now be subject to a cumulative production cap,” said Daniela Corsini, commodity market economist at Intesa Sanpaolo in Milan. Oil prices have rallied strongly in the second half of this year, on a growing belief that the OPEC-led output cuts, coupled with strong consumption, were bringing the market back into balance. Brent crude was trading above $62 a barrel.
The North Sea benchmark, which has recovered about 25 percent since the deal was announced last year, is expected to average $54.19 per barrel in 2017.
OPEC oil output fell in November by 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to its lowest since May, while compliance with pledged supply curbs rose to 112 percent.
The survey of 30 economists and analysts forecast US crude
futures would average $54.78
per barrel in 2018, up from a previous forecast of $52.50. WTI
was expected to average $50.65 a barrel this year.
Asia will be a key driver of global demand growth, helping to tighten the balance between supply and consumption, analysts said. “Non-OECD demand could rise by up to 1.3 million barrels per day in 2018, largely driven by China and India,” said Giorgos Beleris, analyst at Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecasts. The biggest increase in exports to Asia has been coming from the United States, partly stimulated by a reduction in export volumes from the Middle East. Rising US shale production has increased the discount of US crude futures to Brent to around $5 per barrel, meaning it is cheaper for Asian buyers.