The OPEC Reference Basket dropped for the second-consecutive month in April, declining by
$5.39 or more than 5% to stand at $101.05/b. Year-to-date, the Basket declined by $10.22 or 8.7%
from the same period last year. Crude oil futures took a substantial hit again in April, with Brent
falling 5.6% to July 2012 levels with a monthly average of around $103/b. Nymex WTI edged 1%
lower to average $92/b. A vulnerable global economy combined with the prospect of moderate
demand growth, rising crude production, and high stocks sent prices tumbling. Crude oil also lost
ground amid cross-commodity and equity market herd behaviour as momentum trading led to a selloff
that sent commodities, such as gold and silver, plunging by record levels. The latest CFTC and
ICE commitment of traders’ reports confirmed the bearish investor sentiment towards oil in April.
However, the Basket has shown some improvement since the start of the month to stand at
$101.67/b on 9 May.
World economic growth is forecast at 3.2% in 2013, following growth of 3.0% in the previous year,
unchanged from the last report. The US housing and labour markets continue to show a recovery,
but given persistent fiscal uncertainties, the US growth forecast for 2013 remains unchanged at
1.8%. Japan’s forecast has been revised to 1.1% from 0.8%, on support from recent monetary
stimulus. The Euro-zone’s forecast remains unchanged, with an expected contraction of 0.5%.
Slowing exports have impacted China’s economy and growth has been revised to 8.0% from 8.1%,
while India’s forecast is unchanged at 6.0%. A fragile recovery in the global economy has been
visible since the beginning of the year, but momentum has started slowing again and growth risks
are skewed to the downside.
World oil demand growth in 2013 remains unchanged from the previous report at 0.8 mb/d, broadly
in line with the estimate for 2012. However, the performance of the first quarter of this year has been
revised down based on actual data. A large portion of the growth is seen coming from China, with a
0.4 mb/d increase. The other non-OECD countries are expected to add some 0.8 mb/d, with the
Middle East region accounting for around 0.3 mb/d, followed by Other Asia and Latin America with
growth of about 0.2 mb/d each. In contrast, OECD demand is expected to see a contraction of
around 0.4 mb/d, which is slightly less than in 2012.
Non-OPEC supply is forecast to grow by 1.0 mb/d in 2013, following an increase of 0.5 mb/d in
2012, broadly unchanged from the previous report. OECD Americas remain the driver of growth in
2013, while OECD Europe is seen experiencing the largest decline. OPEC NGLs and nonconventional
oils are expected to increase by 0.2 mb/d in 2013. In April, total OPEC crude oil
production, according to secondary sources, was estimated to average 30.46 mb/d, an increase of
0.28 mb/d over the previous month.
Product markets continued losing ground in April due to sharp declines in light and middle distillate
cracks, which have been pressured by rising supplies along with weaker demand worldwide. In Asia,
refinery margins fell mostly for the top of the barrel. US margins experienced a strong correction due
to the recovery in WTI prices. In Europe, the drop in the Brent price allowed European margins to
recover, despite weak market fundamentals due to lacklustre domestic demand.
In the tanker market, a general bearish sentiment could be seen in both dirty and clean markets in
April, due to low tonnage demand. On average, dirty spot freight rates dropped by 4% from the
previous month. The drop in freight rates was mainly driven by lower demand on refinery
maintenance and the end of the winter season. OPEC and Middle East sailings declined from
previous month, along with arrivals in all reported ports.
OECD commercial oil stocks fell marginally in March, remaining in line with the five-year average.
Crude stood 19.0 mb over the seasonal average, while products indicated a deficit of about the
same amount. In terms of forward cover, OECD stocks stood at 59.1 days, some 1.3 days above the
five-year average. Preliminary data shows US commercial stocks rose by 20.0 mb in April. This
indicates a surplus of 42.0 mb compared to the seasonal average, with the bulk coming from crude.
§ Demand for OPEC crude in 2012 is estimated at 30.2 mb/d, following an upward revision of
0.1 mb/d from the previous report and broadly unchanged compared to the previous year. In 2013,
demand for OPEC crude is expected to average 29.8 mb/d, representing an upward revision of
0.1 mb/d from the previous report and a 0.4 mb/d decline from last year.