【英语财经】石油市场的春天尚未来临 Chill winds still blow through the oil market

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2016-4-14 22:01

小艾摘要: Spring is coming in the oil market. That was the message from the heads of the world’s largest trading houses at the FT’s commodities conference in Lausanne this week. The overwhelming consensus amo ...
Chill winds still blow through the oil market
Spring is coming in the oil market. That was the message from the heads of the world’s largest trading houses at the FT’s commodities conference in Lausanne this week. The overwhelming consensus among these influential figures in the market is that crude is unlikely to return to the prices below $30 per barrel that it reached in January, and the trend is now upwards.

The markets do seem to support that interpretation. After a 4 per cent jump on Tuesday, internationally traded Brent crude is almost 60 per cent above its low point in January.

Even now, prices of about $44 per barrel are still below the level that most people in the oil industry would consider sustainable for the long term, so it is certainly plausible to think that the correction is now under way.

Before oil producers start planning for happier days, though, there are a couple of more gloomy points that they need to consider.

First, there are good reasons to think that oil prices could go down again in the short term. And second, even if the longer term trend is upwards, it will be hard to see a return to the prices of about $100 per barrel that seemed normal only two years ago.

One immediate spur to prices has been the prospect of the meeting of oil-producing countries, including Russia and most members of Opec, in Doha on Sunday. Several countries have been talking up the prospect that they will confirm the “freeze” in oil production that was provisionally agreed by Russia and Saudi Arabia in February, signalling to the market that the excess supply that has been driving down prices will soon disappear.

But when Igor Sechin, chairman of the Russian state-controlled oil group Rosneft, told the FT conference that “everyone is expecting the successful outcome of our work” in Doha, he was indulging in wishful thinking.

For some countries, including Russia, promising not to increase production will merely confirm what they were doing anyway. Others are showing less than resolute commitment to solidarity with other producers. Iraq is rapidly increasing production before the freeze, while Iran has said it will not join in any deal and plans to continue raising its output.

Regardless of what is said at Doha, the global oil market is likely to remain oversupplied for a while.

We have been here before, exactly a year ago. After the steep crash from the summer of 2014, oil rebounded from January to April 2015, and held on over $60 for some time. It looked then as though the worst had passed, too. But in July the oversupply started weighing on the market again, and another leg down in prices began.

Since then, the US shale industry has been battling to cut costs and raise productivity so it can survive at lower prices.

The shale industry, which was largely responsible for the oil crash in the first place because of the production boom that began in 2010, has been mauled by lower prices, but its output has not collapsed as many analysts expected, and the principal producers are still in business. Even heavily indebted Chesapeake Energy, seen as one of the most vulnerable, this week managed to secure its future for a while longer with a renegotiated $4bn bank lending facility.

The US shale industry does not work with oil at $40, but at $50 and certainly at $60, companies say they can drill plenty more wells that would be financially viable. Once oil starts returning to those levels, we can expect to see more drilling and more production from the US, in effect putting a ceiling on prices.

Nothing lasts forever in commodity markets and it is quite possible that rising demand will eventually push crude back above $100 again. But while the worst may now be over for oil producers, those halcyon days of two years ago are likely for the foreseeable future to remain a golden memory.

石油市场将迎来春天。这是全球各大交易商的掌门人在本周英国《金融时报》洛桑大宗商品会议上传递出的信息。这些在石油市场举足轻重的人物达成了压倒性的共识,声称油价不太可能回到今年1月触及的每桶30美元以下的水平,现在的趋势是上行。

市场走势似乎确实支持这种解读。在周二大涨4%以后,在国际上交易的布伦特原油(Brent)价格较1月低点高出近60%。

即便现在,每桶约44美元的价格仍低于石油行业多数人认为长期可持续的水平,因此认为油价正在修正的看法貌似是合理的。

然而,在石油生产商开始为更美好的日子做打算时,它们需要思考两种较为悲观的观点。

首先,我们有充足的理由认为油价短期内可能会再次走低。其次,即便较长期趋势是上涨,人们也很难看到油价重新回到每桶100美元左右的水平——两年前这个水平还显得很正常。

目前刺激油价的一个直接因素是产油国本周日将在多哈召开会议,包括俄罗斯和石油输出国组织(Opec,简称欧佩克)的多数成员国。几个国家一直在谈论这种前景:他们将证实由俄罗斯和沙特在2月暂时约定的“冻结产量”计划,从而向市场表明,拉低油价的供应过剩局面将很快消失。

俄罗斯政府控股的俄罗斯石油公司(Rosneft)董事长伊戈尔?谢欣(Igor Sechin)在洛桑会议上表示,“所有人都期待我们(在多哈)的工作取得成功的结果。”他这样想未免太一厢情愿了。

对于包括俄罗斯在内的一些国家而言,承诺不增产只会证实他们现在正在做些什么。至于其他国家,它们与其他产油国抱团的决心算不得坚定。伊拉克正抢在冻产之前迅速增加产量;伊朗已表态不会加入任何协议,并计划继续提高产量。

不管多哈会议上说了什么,全球石油市场的供应过剩局面可能仍会持续一段时间。

我们以前曾经历过这种情况,准确来说是一年前。在经过2014年夏季油价暴跌后,从2015年1月到4月,油价出现反弹,并在60美元上方维持了一段时间。当时也是这样,看上去好像最糟糕的时期已经过去。但去年7月,供应过剩开始再次令市场承压,油价再度下跌。

此后,美国页岩油行业一直在努力降低成本和提高生产率,以求在低油价时期维持生存。

美国页岩油行业始于2010年的生产热潮是最初油价暴跌的主要原因,而油价下跌反过来对该行业造成重创,但其产量并没有像很多分析人士预期的那样大幅下滑,主要生产商仍在运营。甚至连被视为最脆弱的生产商之一、负债累累的切萨皮克能源公司(Chesapeake Energy)本周也争取到按重新谈判的条件维持40亿美元的银行信贷额度,从而确保自己能够存活得更久一点。

如果油价在每桶40美元,美国页岩油行业无法实现盈利,但生产商们表示,如果油价在50美元,它们可以在财务可行的情况下钻探更多油井,如果油价在60美元的话就更没问题了。一旦油价向这些水平回归,我们预计将看到来自美国的更多钻探和生产活动,从而有效为油价构筑上限。

在大宗商品市场,没有什么是永恒的,需求上升很有可能最终将油价重新拉升至100美元以上。然而,尽管对于石油生产商而言,最糟糕的时期可能已经过去,但在可预见的将来,两年前的那种盛况仍将是一段美好回忆。

译者/梁艳裳

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