Now is the time for investors to face a free fall in oil, because Saudi Arabia has trampled on the idea of production cuts

Now is the time for investors to face a free fall in oil, because Saudi Arabia has trampled on the idea of production cuts

"That's impossible."

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali-Naimi, told a group of industry executives gathered in Houston.

What he refers to as "that" is Saudi Arabia's idea of cutting oil production, which has been the subject of a lot of speculation in the media and the market recently.

Some speculations are fuelled by rumors and nonsense. Some are wishful thinking. Some of them are based on a plausible view of Saudi Arabia's economy's low oil price costs.

After all, the world's largest producer must be spending money, right, it has easy social projects to pay for, let alone expensive royalty. It has been using its cash reserves and the price of oil is $30 a barrel. Gosh, its credit rating has even been downgraded recently by Standard & Poor's.

How long can Saudi Arabia persist in turning off the tap?

Obviously, the answer is forever.

So that determines "that".

This is not what energy investors want to hear. This may not be what any investor likes to hear. But at least that's a reality -- or at least as close as we might have achieved in the bizarre world of oil politics.

The Saudi oil minister also spoke bluntly about how high-cost producers should cope with the challenge of low oil prices: if they can't stand the high temperature, they leave the oil field.

Saudi Arabia will not subsidize high-cost producers by limiting its low-cost production. No more.

In a question-and-answer speech to energy scholar Daniel Yergin in Houston, Al-Naimi mentioned what Saudi Arabia would do: "Let everyone compete" and "Follow the marginal cost curve".

If you are Saudi Arabia and have the lowest production costs of any major oil producer, this is a good strategy. Even at $20 a barrel, the Saudis can pay their marginal costs.

Naimi also seems less keen on possible agreements between Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and Qatar to keep oil production at current levels.

Remember, this is not an agreement yet - unless other manufacturers agree. Iran will obviously not do that.

However, according to Al-Naimi, the four countries that may agree to freeze production "hope" to meet with other producers next month. At the same time, "There's a lot of talk."

Even if the world miraculously maintains its current production level, it may not make any contribution to raising oil prices. Current production exceeds demand. Last month, when Iraq injected record amounts of crude oil and Iran increased production, where would you place restrictions on individual producers?

The International Energy Agency estimates that according to current OPEC production levels, global oil stocks will increase by 2 million barrels/day in the first quarter, 1.5 million barrels/day in the second quarter and less than 1 million barrels/day in the second half.

Given all this, investors should feel fairly confident that without supply constraints they will come down from heaven and raise oil prices at any time.

On the other hand, the logic of demand market indicates that demand growth will catch up with production and prices will recover.

The question is when. In Houston, Yerkin asked Naimi for his best guess. "If I know," he answered, "you and I will go to Las Vegas."

By the way, gambling in Saudi Arabia is illegal, and the Koran forbids gambling. But anyway, we can understand what Naimi means.

Saudi Arabia's minister said demand for oil remained strong. Indeed, demand is slowing, mainly because China's economy is growing more slowly. But this is not negative growth. When it comes to demand, there are some signs of hope.

According to the U.S. Highway Commission, the total mileage of vehicles in the United States has increased by nearly 4% since oil began to fall freely in November 2014, surpassing the peak in 2007. In short, this means that Americans drive more. Last year, gasoline consumption in the United States increased by 2.6%, reaching its highest level since 2007. Meanwhile, car sales in China, the world's largest car market, grew by nearly 10% last month.

The point is, maybe it's time for investors to give up the wrong hope. The recovery of oil prices has not yet arrived.

Instead, perhaps we should adjust and consider opportunities in countries benefiting from cheap crude oil: American consumers, China's fast-growing middle class, and net oil imports from developed countries (Japan, Europe) and developing countries (Thailand, India, Turkey).

According to Al-Naimi, the world is likely to unfold more or less as it should. Let's get used to it.

Gamma

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