Trading news

US shale oil, the new North Sea

The strength of the dollar has been a driver for the lower price in oil but there have also been other factors. Saudi Arabia, the largest oil producer in the world cut recently oil the price of oil it sells to the United States. This was a sign that the oil cartel OPEC is not likely to cut production in order to prop up the market and stop the decline in the price of oil. This far Saudi Arabia has been the one bearing the lion’s share whenever there have been production cuts. The other members of the cartel have enjoyed the higher prices following the price cuts but have not cut their own production. This is not sitting well with the Saudis and this time they might keep the production going in order to discourage new investment in shale oil production in the US. In other words they are protecting their market share.

While demand is lacklustre the supply side has remained strong and is even increasing. The Russian supply has not decreased even though the west has imposed sanctions on them and at the same time US shale oil production is still on the increase. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) an average new well in North Dakota increases production by 100 barrels per day. Some analysts have referred to US shale oil production as the new North Sea. The findings in the oil fields of North Sea in 1986 had a major impact on oil prices. During years of 1984 and 1985 the price of US crude oil had been ranging between $24.66 and $31.50 per barrel, but in 1986 the price of oil plummeted to $9.75 (a drop of 69%). For the rest of the decade the price of oil fluctuated between the $9.75 low and the high of $22.76 per barrel. Oil price was not able to sustain levels above $23 before the year 2000, except for a brief period time between July 1990 and January 1991 as the Gulf war one broke out.

If the analysts are right about the US being the new North Sea, we still see lower prices for crude oil as the difference with the June 2014 high and yesterday’s close is only 28.6%. The world economy is slowing down as the central banks have not been able to manipulate the economies back into growth path with their QE programs and the supply of oil is still increasing. Therefore, further declines in the price of oil should be expected and once the low has been reached we should prepare for a period of lower prices unless a large scale geopolitical conflict significantly disrupts oil production. Further decline in prices will eventually have an impact on the supply side investments and this will in due course cause the price oil to stabilise. What might this “in due course” mean time wise? It is very challenging to estimate this based on the fundamental trends as the price of oil is a sum of numerous outside forces from monetary policy to terrorist attacks. From the technical perspective the price of oil has reached levels that have been psychologically important in the past. Therefore it is interesting to follow the price action as these levels are approached.

CL Weekly

Crude Oil, Weekly

Close to weekly support of $72.52, a weekly pivot from May 2010. This level has turned the prices higher in the past which means that the price action needs to be monitored closely here. At some level there we will have a situation where price turn higher before the news and fundamentals get better. Therefore, there will be a disconnect between the price action and the news about the fundamentals. However, at the moment we are still in a downtrend and there are no signs of bottoming or major divergence between the price and the oscillators. It takes in average 3 or 4 months to reverse the trend in crude oil market after a significant decline.

CL 4h

Crude Oil, 240 min

A very clear downtrend with attempts to get above recent supports turned into resistances. The Money Flow Index is overbought and the price is close to Bollinger Bands with a resistance right above the current price action. The first two moves (A and B) after a support was broken have been equal in size. Meaning that price has moved roughly a similar distance before rising back to the former support level (red lines). This time (move C) the price of oil turned higher earlier and has reached the resistance without touching the price projection level. This suggests weakness in downside momentum but we are still seeing reversal of contra trend momentum at 76.43 resistance (60 min shooting star), which is a sell signal for me in this context. Should a move higher happen, we have a potential resistance level close to 61.8% Fibonacci retracements (drawn from point 1 to point 2) that coincides with the descending trend line at around $77.30. I have switched the other Fibonacci levels off to make the chart more readable.

CL 1h

Crude Oil, 60 min.

The short term bias is down. Even though we have seen some weakness in downside momentum, the price is still in downtrend. Look to participate at resistance levels if the price action confirms the validity of the level (by momentum reversal signals). In the longer term timeframe we are close to levels that have potential to act as major support and turn the price of oil higher. We will not obviously know beforehand when prices turn but for the last 30 years or so it has taken on average 3 to 4 months to create a trend reversal in oil after a major move lower. Therefore, there is no hurry to get to the long side. Rather we should concentrate on trading against the resistances as long as those trades work and buy the positions back at levels where the risk of price rebounding higher is increased. I would look to cover my shorts as the price approaches the levels close to weekly support at $73.25.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this communication contains, or should be considered as containing, an investment advice or an investment recommendation or a solicitation for the purpose of purchase or sale of any financial instrument.

Janne Muta
Chief Market Analyst

Tuesday, 18 Nov, 2014 / 1:03

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