Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tale of the Curves

(click to enlarge - data is NYMEX WTI Crude forward curves)

OPEC members play a market balancing act. They want prices to be as high as consumers can bear, but no more. OPEC do not want oil prices to move so high that consumers stop buying and the oil begins to fill storage tanks.

After flattening as oil prices recovered from just above US$30 per barrel at the beginning of 2009, crude oil forward curves have been steepening (contango has become more pronounced) over the past three weeks on oil reaching over US$70 per barrel.

Increasing contango is often a bearish oil price signal as it shows storage owners are seeing more demand for oil to be stored rather than consumed.

We may finally have reached a price point (just above $70) in the 2009 supply driven rally where OPEC's supply cuts have caused prices to rally to a level at which demand wanes.

This is a genuine economic recovery. However, it is a fragile glass-like economic recovery, ready to shatter at any moment. OPEC now have to tread more carefully to ensure that oil prices are not the stone which breaks it.
Follow @CommodityMD