The coronavirus pandemic has changed many things around the world.
Walid Koudmani 02.12.2021 18:42
From an investor's perspective, volatility in the financial markets has never been so high. On the other hand, from the consumer point of view, prices did not change so dramatically in such a short time before. Where do the paths of investors and consumers cross? This usually takes place on the commodity market, and the most important raw material is, of course, crude oil and its processed products.
From negative prices to nearly $ 100 a barrel
The arrival of COVID-19 has led to unprecedented anomalies in the oil market. At one point, the price of a barrel of oil dropped significantly below zero. Due to restrictions around the world, many people have stopped traveling, flying or even going to shops. At one point, crude oil demand fell by as much as 1/3, or roughly 30 million barrels a day. Due to the huge disproportion between supply and demand, the organization of oil-exporting countries, i.e. OPEC, together with other important countries, decided to jointly limit production in order to restore the normal price situation on the market. Production restrictions by the OPEC cartel and other producers such as Russia continue to this day.
In the meantime, however, measures have been taken to stimulate the economy after the coronavirus stagnation. Tons of cash poured from central banks and governments, leading to a significant recovery. There was a fear that oil might be running out, which is why OPEC + decided to moderately restore production. However, this process turned out to be too slow to meet market expectations, resulting in a 100% increase in prices. There was even speculation that the price would rise to $ 100 a barrel, which was a problem for consumers in the past. Too high prices could have curtailed demand.
The coronavirus continues to haunt markets
In recent months, we witnessed several coronavirus waves and limited restrictions. They did not have any real impact on the market, besides production expectations. Usually, the sell-off of riskier assets, such as oil, lasted about 2 weeks. In view of the next expected wave of Covid-19, OPEC + decided not to increase production. It turned out that the group was right.
The Omicron variant suddenly impacted ordinary people and investors. Black Friday brought a huge discount not only in stores, but also in the financial markets. Crude oil fell by 15% in one session. The risk of imposing further restrictions, similar to those from the first lockdown, hit investors' moods. If you look at Austria, where another lockdown was introduced, the mobility dropped well below levels which we observed a few weeks ago, or even before the first wave of the pandemic. If current vaccines prove to be ineffective against Omicron, travel will be reduced, flights will be suspended, people will remain at home and the demand for oil will decrease. The vast majority of the population would prefer much cheaper oil, but not OPEC +. If the group already sees a clear oversupply of oil in Q1 2022, then with an additional decline in demand due to Omicron, further OPEC + actions are possible.
Will we pay less at gas stations?
Probably yes. However, it must be remembered that the price of gasoline depends not only on the price of crude oil. The price components are in most cases:
Distribution and Marketing
In the United States, the share of crude oil in the cost of fuel is as high as 50%. On the other hand, in non-oil producing countries, distribution costs and taxes account for a much larger share. Therefore, even if prices are now 25% lower compared to the high of the current bull market, it will lower fuel prices by just a few percent. That is why some countries decide to take other steps, such as reducing VAT or excise duty.
What's next for oil?
The world was very scared of expensive oil, but the seasonality still points to limited demand at the beginning of the new year. In such a case, the growth dynamics would be slowed down anyway. That is why we should not expect major efforts from OPEC +. On the other hand, the group would like to keep prices around $ 70-80 per barrel, which allows long-term planning of further mining projects. Therefore, in the future, we should expect further action from OPEC +, which will be aimed at keeping the price in this range.