Oil prices expected to struggle despite Saudi cuts, but Goldman is more bullish than most

Jan. 13,2021

KEY POINTS

  • Brent crude futures traded at $53.81 a barrel on Wednesday afternoon, following a 5% jump on Tuesday that brought the commodity to an 11-month high. 
  • A Reuters poll of analysts in late December showed a broad expectation that Brent will average “a smidge above $50/bbl this year,” PVM Oil Associates said Wednesday.

  • Goldman Sachs sees demand rebounding by March, with the arrival of warmer weather and increased vaccinations.
  • Oil markets are in for more struggles this year despite a more than 5% boost to prices this week on news from OPEC+. The oil producer group, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, announced that members would keep production largely steady rather than raising it, with Riyadh later revealing voluntary cuts of an extra 1 million barrels per day from its January’s production levels in February and March.

    Brent crude futures traded at $53.81 a barrel on Wednesday afternoon, following a 5% jump on Tuesday that brought the commodity to an 11-month high. 

    Could crude return to its pre-pandemic levels of more than $60 a barrel in 2021? Not if the outlooks of several forecasters are correct, which throw cold water on bullish hopes for a full demand recovery as Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out in countries across the world. 

    A Reuters poll of analysts in late December showed a broad expectation that Brent will average “a smidge above $50/bbl this year,” a note from PVM Oil Associates read Wednesday. “At the heart of this gloomy forecast is the key downside risk for oil prices in 2021: will the new Covid-19 strain that has triggered a flurry of fresh lockdown measures weigh on economic activity and travel demand?” 

    In addition to pandemic-induced uncertainty, with many countries seeing increased infections and some seeing fresh lockdowns over the new and highly transmissible Covid variant, the price of crude will also depend on Saudi Arabia and Russia’s willingness to remain loyal to OPEC+ supply cut agreements — disputes over which have seen united fronts collapse in the past.  

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