With traders in a state of near-frenzy, with a subset of fintwit scrambling (and failing) to calculate what the limit move in oil would be (hint: there is none for Brent), moments ago brent reopened for trading in the aftermath of Saturday’s attack on the “world’s most important oil processing plant“, and exploded some 20% higher, to a high of $71.95 from the Friday $60.22 close, its biggest jump since futures started trading in 1988.
As Bloomberg notes, “for oil markets, it’s the single worst sudden disruption ever, surpassing the loss of Kuwaiti and Iraqi petroleum supply in August 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbor. It also exceeds the loss of Iranian oil output in 1979 during the Islamic Revolution, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy.”
Furthermore, in light of news that the Saudi outage could last for months, this could be just the start. As a reminder, according to Morningstar research director, Sandy Fielden, “Brent could go to $80 tomorrow, while WTI could go to $75… But that would depend on Aramco’s 48-hour update. The supply problem won’t be clear right away since the Saudis can still deliver from inventory.”
Of course, should Aramco confirm that the outage – which has taken some 5.7mmb/d in Saudi output after 10 drones struck the world’s biggest crude-processing facility in Abqaiq and the kingdom’s second-biggest oil field in Khurais – will last for weeks, expect the crude juggernaut to continue until the price hits $80, and keeps moving higher.
Finally, here is the price summary from Goldman commodity strategist Damien Courvalin, who earlier today laid out four possible shutdown scenarios, and the price oil could hit for each:
A very short outage – a week for example – would likely drive long-dated prices higher to reflect a growing risk premium, although short of what occurred last fall given a debottlenecked Permian shale basin, a weaker growth outlook and prospects of strong non-OPEC production growth in 2020. Such a price impact could likely be of $3-5/bbl.
An outage at current levels of two to six weeks would, in addition to this move in long-dated prices, see a steepening of the Brent forward curve (2-mo vs. 3-year forward) of $2 to $9/bbl respectively. All in, the expected price move would be between $5 and $14/bbl, commensurate to the length of the outage (a six month outage of 1 mb/d would be similar to a six week one at current levels).
Should the current level of outage be announced to last for more than six weeks, we expect Brent prices to quickly rally above $75/bbl, a level at which we believe an SPR release would likely be implemented, large enough to balance such a deficit for several months and cap prices at such levels.
An extreme net outage of a 4 mb/d for more than three months would likely bring prices above $75/bbl to trigger both large shale supply and demand responses.
What are the broader implications from this move? According to Ole Hansen, head of commodities strategy at Saxo Bank A/S in Copenhagen, “the global economy can ill afford higher oil prices at a time of economic slowdown.” But Peter Boockvar’s hot take may be the best one.
I guess central bankers are pretty happy with the Iranians as they might actually get the inflation they’ve been rooting for.
— Peter Boockvar (@pboockvar) September 15, 2019
Yet while the inflationary impact from this surge will be transitory at best, it will be interesting to watch the Fed cut rates with stocks at all time highs, and with gasoline prices set for their biggest surge in decades.
Safe havens are also bid with gold futures back above $1500.
The good news: at least Trump will redirect his anger away from the Fed and toward slow, lazy, incompetent Saudi engineers, if only for the time being.