The huge collapse in the oil complex and pricing over the past year was for many Wall Street old-timers a scene that has been played out before. Massive deck pricing drops in the spot price and the forward futures markets, huge drops in production to accommodate the price collapse, the inevitable dog-piling and shorting of futures and equities by hedge funds, and of course, the recession. Oh … wait, there is no current recession.
Typically in the past, when there were huge price drops in the oil complex and the commensurate drop in gasoline prices, it didn’t matter. The country was often in or starting a recession, so the break to consumers didn’t really make that much of a difference. In an area that is considered no-man’s land on Wall Street, “this time it may be different.” Six words that nobody ever likes to hear uttered may just make sense now.
Some of the firms we cover say the recent rally is just a head fake, and some anticipate retesting lows as oil has printed a bottom multiple times since the massive sell-off started. A new report from Jefferies goes down a very different road, and comes out with a bullish assessment, as well as six top reasons to support the analyst’s thesis. They may or may not be proven correct, but one has to admire the stance the firm is taking.
1. First is U.S. domestic onshore production cuts. The analyst notes that firms are desperately trying to cut capital expenditures. Banks are pulling loans, high natural decline rates and the “core of the core” wells beginning to “run out” given 40% decline rates and reserve lives of four to five years in the Eagle Ford shale.
2. The increase in U.S. offshore production from two Gulf of Mexico projects will peak in the first half of 2016, and then according to Jefferies, 18% declines will start to kick in.
3. The Jefferies team notes that there is 41 million barrels-per-day (mbpd) of non-U.S. and non-OPEC production. The countries producing this oil will be under serious pressure at current per-barrel pricing, and certainly won’t be spending more in capital expenditures.
4. The repeal of sanctions against Iran will not be nearly as big as expected. Wall Street estimates that the country’s oil production will rise from 300 mbpd to 500 mbpd by this time next year. The Jefferies analysts think that Iranian production will be slow to ramp up as inspectors will be looking at 13,000 centrifuges, and Iran is already leaking oil through Iraqi pipelines, that could require shutdown and repair.
5. The analysts are handicapping a 50/50 chance that OPEC cuts production in December. They also see Iran offering a so-called production cut, which in reality is just due to the current issues described in point number four. The Saudis may be forced to join in though because of it.
6. Chinese oil demand is very strong and may be much stronger than current estimates. In fact, Chinese oil demand was up 9.2% year over year in August. That was up from 5.7% from January to August of 2015. They also note that gasoline and kerosene demand surged 21.5% and 20.6%, respectively.
To top things off, the Jefferies team does throw out what could be a wild card in this entire bullish equation. Wall Street is extrapolating the miles driven amount to continue to rise in 2016. The analysts make the solid point, that if gasoline prices at the pump start to rise from current multiyear lows, will the miles driven number really increase at the pace it has been?
The bottom line is, Jefferies bullish stance is what makes it a horse-race. Other firms that we cover remain decidedly bearish and maintain, like we pointed out, that this entire rally is a head fake and there is more pain to come. It is important to note that Jefferies does not under any circumstances say they are predicting a huge immediate increase in the price of oil. What they do make the case for is that there are multiple reasons in place that could lend the oil complex a smoother path to higher prices in 2016 and beyond. With massive amounts of short positions still on, that in of itself is a reason to considering covering if you have big profits in place.