Oil prices stable as U.S. production stands at all-time high

Oil prices stable as U.S. production stands at all-time high
UPI

March 6 (UPI) — U.S. crude oil prices were stable Tuesday as production in the nation is at an all-time high.

Brent oil futures opened at 65.56 and were trading down 16 cents at 11 a.m. EST. Year-over-year, that’s a 17.71 percent increase.

The April crude oil futures started the session at 62.58, and was down 11 cents.

“The market seems to veer back and forth between irrational exuberance and undue pessimism,” said Raoul LeBlanc, vice president of financial services and North American onshore at IHS Markit, told CNBC. LeBlanc, who will moderate a panel of frackers at CERAWeek in Houston this week, said he has had to moderate.

Despite record high oil output, investors are concerned about the nation’s shale fields. Advanced technology, which includes hydraulic fracturing to free oil and gas from rock formations, is an expensive process.

And with the increased recovery in drilling after the 2014 oil price collapse, there is a shortage of crews as well as sand at frack wells. Also, frackers are dependent on debt, equity and other types of outside capital.

“It’s the secret fuel for the shale revolution — the U.S. capital market and the ability to get lots of money very quickly,” said LeBlanc.

U.S. oil output surged to a 47-year high of 10 million barrels a day in November, which put the United States ahead of Saudi Arabia as the No. 2 producer of oil behind Russia for a brief period.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s oil company, Saudi Aramco, is not concerned about less demands for oil because of the rise in electric vehicles.

“I am not losing any sleep over ‘peak oil demand’ or ‘stranded resources,’” Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser said at the CERAWeek on Tuesday. “We must push back on the idea that the world can do without proven and reliable sources [of energy]. Oil and gas will continue to play a major role in a world where all energy sources will be required for the foreseeable future.”

Aramco, which is owned by the Saudi government, has an estimated 260 billion barrels of oil reserves. The government plans this year to sell about 5 percent of the company in a public offering.

Bank of America and BP said the quick adoptions of electric vehicles could mean oil demand peaks by the 2030s.

But Nasser, criticizing “irrational hopes of rapid switching,” said these vehicles won’t curb carbon emissions until the power that fuels them is clean. He said alternatives include hydrogen-fueled cars and plug-in hybrids.

And expecting rising demand, he called on the industry to invest more than $20 trillion in the next 25 years.

“Battery electric vehicles will grow and have a welcome role to play in global mobility. But given the competition and complexity of the transition, their impact on the 20 percent oil demand should not be exaggerated.”

In financial trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down around 100 points to 24765.91. But the Nasdaq was up around 8 points to 7339.50.

On Monday, the Dow closed up 336 points, erasing losses as fears about a potential trade war caused by President Donald Trump’s proposed steel and aluminum tariffs eased.

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said Tuesday that the tariffs “could have some chilling effect” on trade relations with Mexico and Canada.

“It’s so clearly in the interests of the United States to have strong trading relationships with both those countries. I’d be optimistic about how this actually gets implemented,” Kaplan told CNBC’s Squawk Box.

With the economy strong, Kaplan said raising interest rates will keep the good times rolling. He favors three increases this year.

“We think the unemployment rate is going into the 3s during 2018. … We are either at or below full employment right now,” he said. “On the bright side, it means more people will have jobs. It should lead to some pressure.

“But the thing I’ll be watching is the history of overshooting full employment in the United States and having a soft landing is not a long history. So the reason I want to start removing accommodation, raising the fed funds rate, is I think that will give us the best chance to extend this expansion for longer.”

The Federal Reserve next meets on March 20 and 21. Based on trading in the fed funds futures market, an increase is virtually certain, according to CME’s FedWatch tracker. Other hikes are expected in June and September.

On Jan. 31, the Federal Open Market Committee chose not to raise its benchmark interest rate, leaving it between 1.25 percent and 1.5 percent.

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