Crude oil prices whipsawed between an early gain and a loss in a matter of hours in pre-noon trade in Asia today locked between bullish and bearish events.
On the bullish side, Venezuelans voted in a referendum about what essentially would amount to an annexation of two-thirds of neighboring Guyana. Reports then emerged that the Houthis had fired missiles at three commercial ships in the Red Sea, marking a further escalation in the region.
On the bearish side, OPEC+ production cuts agreed last week have left traders unimpressed. Instead of causing a race to buy oil as many had expected, the decision led to the opposite as the market focused on demand pessimism.
“Crude seems to be under continued pressure from the OPEC+ decision … Some degree of discounting of the deeper OPEC+ cuts is justified, but as of now, the crude complex has completely disregarded them,” oil market analyst Vanadana Hari from Vanda Insights told Reuters.
“Traders are likely to stay cautious given OPEC discord and rising non-OPEC oil production,” Charu Chanana, Saxo Capital Markets strategist, told Bloomberg.
“A concern for the market is the fact that these announced cuts were voluntary rather than OPEC+ wide cuts,” ING’s head of commodity strategy Warren Patterson wrote in a note following the announcement.
“These voluntary cuts suggest that it is becoming difficult for members to agree on OPEC+ cuts. Therefore, if further action is needed in future, it will become increasingly difficult for the group to respond.”
Meanwhile, the end of the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel gave oil a little bit of upside potential that got realized in early morning trade in Asia today. The reversal that took place later, however, suggests the war premium is no longer a factor to be reckoned with in the absence of a major escalation event.
“We are re-entering a supply-driven market, one that more closely resembles the decade leading into Covid rather than the demand-led market seen in the post-pandemic era,” RBC analyst Michael Tran wrote in a note cited by Bloomberg. “And those types are markets are often fraught with bull traps.”
Early on Monday morning, oil prices were falling – with WTI testing the $73 mark while Brent was trading at $77.80.