A new set of geopolitical conflicts buoyed oil prices higher today after yesterday's sell-off pushed WTI below its 50-day moving average.
Conflicts in Iraq and Libya were the main reason for the rise in oil (NYSEARCA:USO) prices today, while consensus continue to overwhelmingly focus their attention on US shale production and rig counts.
Oil markets are prone to geopolitical risk factors that are hard to forecast. Namely, Iraq is having issues again with Kurdish factions. Since the OPEC production cut deal started, secondary sources peg Iraq as the least compliant member out of OPEC. Our estimate and secondary sources put Iraq's production cut at only 80k to 100k b/d, which is far less than what it promised to cut.
Iraq is unlikely to cut the full amount promised from the OPEC agreement due to the nature of its production. Conflicts erupted with Kurdistan as Iraq's current oil revenue sharing deal is coming under scrutiny with the locals. Reuters reported that forces loyal to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) seized the Kirkuk facilities and briefly suspended oil flows. PUK is seeking to cancel the oil sharing deal with Iraq within a week or else it threatens further action.
The implication of this conflict can impact up to 150k b/d which is exported through Turkey.
Libya on the other hand is seeing geopolitical issues flare up again with the Eastern ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf under attack today by Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), an armed faction group comprised of fighters that were ousted from the Libyan National Army (LNA).
So far, there have been no official statements from the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) stating the impact the attacks had on oil flows. The continued conflict in Libya however highlights the sensitive geopolitical situation it's in with a split government ruling body and constant conflicts from armed militant groups. Libya's oil production has recently topped out around 680k b/d and falling according to the latest February estimates. Without additional capital investments, Libya's existing producing fields will likely start seeing accelerating production decline rates as a lack of field maintenance from the last five years start to deplete existing fields. We see Libya's oil production heading lower for the rest of 2017.
Geopolitical conflicts from Iraq and Libya will continue, and the likely impact will be supportive of oil prices. Our fundamental analysis of the oil markets also point to the supply and demand balance becoming more bullish over the next several months. We expect to see much higher oil prices in the next six months.
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