International Energy Agency sier oljeetterspørsel skal øke. Men langt fra så mye som ventet.

Dette er ikke akkurat magi, redusert vekst i verdensøkonomien fører til redusert vekst i etterspørselen etter olje. Det mest interessante er selvfølgelig hvor fallet i etterspørselen skjer og i hvor stor grad siden tilbud ligger bak etterspørselen. Fra IEA:

Market observers are puzzling over the ‘paradox’ of weakening economic growth and oil demand indicators on the one hand, and $110/bbl crude on the other. Not everyone is paying $110/bbl of course, and refiners with ready pipeline access to heavily discounted crude in the US Midwest are enjoying bumper margins, unlike their brethren in Europe and elsewhere. […] But prices have stubbornly reclaimed lost ground again within weeks, raising anew questions about the key drivers of prices.

There are certainly growing concerns about the health of the global economy. Government debt in the OECD and the spectre of inflationary pressures and currency protectionism in emerging markets raise fears that expectations of ‘business-as-usual’ 4.5-5% world GDP growth are unsustainable. Our own GDP assumptions for 2011 and 2012 are this month scaled-back nearer to 4% annual growth, with the bulk of the downgrade focused on the OECD countries. Oil demand growth is trimmed as a result, now averaging 1.0 mb/d this year and 1.4 mb/d next. Repeating the still-lower GDP sensitivity of June’s Medium-Term Oil and Gas Markets 2011, which cuts a further one-third off GDP growth looking forward, oil demand growth slips to a much weaker 0.7 mb/d and 0.4 mb/d in 2011 and 2012 respectively. This latter case is not our ‘most likely’ prognosis, but the financial and economic headwinds are nonetheless gathering momentum.

However, the potential for slightly easier market fundamentals in the months ahead needs to be viewed against a backdrop of an actual and pronounced tightening in the market evident since mid-2010. Demand strength in 2H10 saw consumption running ahead of supply to the tune of nearly 1.4 mb/d. The focus has now switched more to supply, amid slowing demand growth in 1H11, with both the Libyan disruption and temporary, but widespread, non-OPEC outages leading to a continued market tightening. We estimate that supply lagged demand by over 0.5 mb/d in 1H11, and July and August have also seen OECD industry stocks fall below the five-year average for the first time since June 2008. Add in the quality dimension, whereby supply outages have overwhelmingly been concentrated in light-sweet grades, and the flip of Brent into backwardation after many months of contango seems perfectly logical.

Our underlying ‘call on OPEC crude and stock change’ for 3Q11 now stands at 31.3 mb/d, and for the next three quarters looks likely to average between 30-30.5 mb/d, near recent OPEC output levels. That suggests that the recent spell of market tightening could moderate in the short term, assuming that recent supply disruptions also recede. News from Libya at the time of writing that oil production has begun once again is very welcome, although the road back to full operational recovery is likely to be a long and difficult one. Given the ever-present scope for demand and supply-side surprises, so too could be the route to a more comfortable market balance.

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