Omicron-driven oil slump raises risk of OPEC+ action Omicron-driven oil slump raises risk of OPEC+ action Omicron-driven oil slump raises risk of OPEC+ action

Omicron-driven oil slump raises risk of OPEC+ action

Ole Hansen

Head of Commodity Strategy

Summary:  Crude oil suffered its largest one-day crash since April 2020 on Friday in response to worries the new omicron virus variant could drive renewed demand weakness at a time where the US is about to release millions of barrels of crude oil from its strategic reserves. While many have already concluded Friday's slump was an overreaction caused by thin market liquidity, the focus is once again squarely on the response from OPEC+ who will meet on Thursday to set production levels for January and potentially beyond.


Crude oil suffered its largest one-day crash since April 2020 on Black Friday in response to worries the new omicron virus variant could drive renewed demand weakness at a time where the US and other major oil importing nations are about to unleash millions of barrels of crude oil into the market from strategic reserves.

Equally importantly was probably the very bad timing with the news hitting the markets on a low liquidity day after the Thanksgiving holiday. Long held bullish conviction trades got stopped out as the sudden elevated level of risk aversion drove major position adjustments across most asset classes.

As volatility spiked, the options market also kicked into gear with hedging of short puts adding an additional layer of pressure with sell orders being executed at whatever price available. On Friday the 30-day historical volatility jumped from below 25% to 44% and it has ticked higher today, an indication of some unfinished business from Friday, but also a market which is struggling to settle down with Thursday’s OPEC+ decision adding an additional layer uncertainty.

So far today, the market is trading higher, but already off their overnight highs, but the reduction in hedge selling has allowed buyers to take a fresh look with some concluding the move on Friday was most likely an overreaction. Not least considering the prospect for support being provided by OPEC+ who may attempt to prop up prices when they meet this Thursday. The group may decide to postpone the January production increase or if necessary, temporary cut production into a period that was already expected to see the return of a balanced market.

Brent crude oil’s 11.6% top to bottom slump on Friday was only arrested when the price reached its 200-day moving average at $72.70 and after the price retraced 61.8% of the August to October surge. A key reason behind that run up in prices was driven by increased switching demand from record priced gas to cheaper oil-based fuels such as diesel, heating oil and propane. Following the drop in crude oil and continued strength in gas and power prices, the prospect for continued and rising switching activity will remain a key source of extra demand that did not exist during the 2020 slump.

Source: Saxo Group

Ahead of Thursday’s OPEC+ meeting the group has postponed their technical meeting, giving themselves more time to assess the impact of the new coronavirus variant on oil demand and prices. It comes at a time where the market in general is grappling with what to do about the omicron covid variant. The worst impact so far is from the speed with which countries are moving to halt inbound foreign travel, with many countries stopping all flights from South Africa and other countries in the region, while Japan has taken the dramatic step of halting all inbound foreign travel from tomorrow. More hopeful indications from virologists in the virus origin area are anecdotally that this variant is not particularly virulent, although others point out that too little is known about the virus’ effects on more vulnerable patients. 

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have both in their latest updates calculated that based on no response from OPEC+, the market after Friday’s slump is now pricing in a 4 million barrels/day negative demand hit over the next three months. The impact during last winter’s second wave was around 2 million barrels per day. IF OPEC’s technical committee draws the same conclusion, the market could be in for a surprise production cut on Thursday.

The risk of 90-dollar oil has not gone away, but once again the timing has been postponed with 2022 increasingly looking like a relatively balanced year. The main worry remains 2023 and beyond when OPEC+ have exhausted their ability to increase production. Not least considering a potential decade of underinvestment's with oil majors losing their appetite for big projects, partly due to an uncertain long-term outlook for oil demand, but also increasingly due to lending restrictions being put on banks and investors owing to a focus on ESG and the green transformation.  

Disclaimer

The Saxo Bank Group entities each provide execution-only service and access to Analysis permitting a person to view and/or use content available on or via the website. This content is not intended to and does not change or expand on the execution-only service. Such access and use are at all times subject to (i) The Terms of Use; (ii) Full Disclaimer; (iii) The Risk Warning; (iv) the Rules of Engagement and (v) Notices applying to Saxo News & Research and/or its content in addition (where relevant) to the terms governing the use of hyperlinks on the website of a member of the Saxo Bank Group by which access to Saxo News & Research is gained. Such content is therefore provided as no more than information. In particular no advice is intended to be provided or to be relied on as provided nor endorsed by any Saxo Bank Group entity; nor is it to be construed as solicitation or an incentive provided to subscribe for or sell or purchase any financial instrument. All trading or investments you make must be pursuant to your own unprompted and informed self-directed decision. As such no Saxo Bank Group entity will have or be liable for any losses that you may sustain as a result of any investment decision made in reliance on information which is available on Saxo News & Research or as a result of the use of the Saxo News & Research. Orders given and trades effected are deemed intended to be given or effected for the account of the customer with the Saxo Bank Group entity operating in the jurisdiction in which the customer resides and/or with whom the customer opened and maintains his/her trading account. Saxo News & Research does not contain (and should not be construed as containing) financial, investment, tax or trading advice or advice of any sort offered, recommended or endorsed by Saxo Bank Group and should not be construed as a record of our trading prices, or as an offer, incentive or solicitation for the subscription, sale or purchase in any financial instrument. To the extent that any content is construed as investment research, you must note and accept that the content was not intended to and has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such, would be considered as a marketing communication under relevant laws.

Please read our disclaimers:
Notification on Non-Independent Investment Research (https://www.home.saxo/legal/niird/notification)
Full disclaimer (https://www.home.saxo/legal/disclaimer/saxo-disclaimer)
Full disclaimer (https://www.home.saxo/legal/saxoselect-disclaimer/disclaimer)

Saxo Bank (Schweiz) AG
Beethovenstrasse 33
CH-8002
Zurich
Switzerland

Contact Saxo

Select region

Switzerland
Switzerland

All trading carries risk. Losses can exceed deposits on margin products. You should consider whether you understand how our products work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. To help you understand the risks involved we have put together a general Risk Warning series of Key Information Documents (KIDs) highlighting the risks and rewards related to each product. The KIDs can be accessed within the trading platform. Please note that the full prospectus can be obtained free of charge from Saxo Bank (Switzerland) ltd. or the issuer.

This website can be accessed worldwide however the information on the website is related to Saxo Bank (Switzerland) Ltd. All clients will directly engage with Saxo Bank (Switzerland) Ltd. and all client agreements will be entered into with Saxo Bank (Switzerland) Ltd. and thus governed by Swiss Law.

The content of this website represents marketing material and has not been notified or submitted to any supervisory authority.

If you contact Saxo Bank (Switzerland) Ltd. or visit this website, you acknowledge and agree that any data that you transmit to Saxo Bank (Switzerland) Ltd., either through this website, by telephone or by any other means of communication (e.g. e-mail), may be collected or recorded and transferred to other Saxo Bank Group companies or third parties in Switzerland or abroad and may be stored or otherwise processed by them or Saxo Bank (Switzerland) Ltd. You release Saxo Bank (Switzerland) Ltd. from its obligations under Swiss banking and securities dealer secrecies and, to the extent permitted by law, data protection laws as well as other laws and obligations to protect privacy. Saxo Bank (Switzerland) Ltd. has implemented appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect data from unauthorized processing and disclosure and applies appropriate safeguards to guarantee adequate protection of such data.

Apple, iPad and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc.