The U.S. is exporting crude oil at a record pace with no signs of slowing down. That has the potential to unbalance a global oil market in recovery, says energy expert Tom Kloza.
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“The exports are what we need to focus on through the next 30 days,” Kloza, co-founder of the Oil Price Information Service, told CNBC’s “Futures Now” last week. High U.S. production could decide how oil prices trade in the second half of this year and through 2019, he added.
Domestic exports have not dipped below 1 million barrels a day since late November, as U.S. oil producers fill the void left by reduced capacity from Mexico and Venezuela. Higher demand for petroleum and gasoline in South America has also boosted appetite for North American oil.
U.S. crude oil exports rose to 2.175 million barrels per day, or more than 15 million a week, at the end of March. That marked its highest level on record.
“We think that number is going to go up to probably 20 million or more [a week], get to maybe 2.5 million barrels a day,” said Kloza. “The United States is in essence going to be exporting more than the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Nigeria, those individual countries.”
Rising U.S. production and exports comes at a time when other oil producers are ramping up their own activity, said Kloza.
Russia recently had “the highest output in about 11 months and there’s some hints that maybe they’re not going to be in this long-term supply cutting agreement with the Saudis,” said Kloza. On top of that, “we’re going to see higher production from Kazakhstan, from Brazil, from the United States, and from Canada.”
Global oil production may put a dent in the progress made the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in correcting a supply-demand imbalance. In 2016, OPEC and some non-OPEC members had agreed to limit production to re balance oil markets after their late-2014 plunge.
Political events and international relations bring drastic moves to the market come summer. Among them, Kloza sees the Iraqi and Venezuelan elections in May and “superhawks” John Bolton and Mike Pompeo coming into the White House as possible market movers.
Crude oil is “the ultimate macroeconomic product,” Kloza said, saying that major banks like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs estimate oil could top $70, a level Kloza said is “priced for pure perfection.” Still, a number of headwinds are developing to keep crude’s gains curtailed.
West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude were both more than 1 percent lower on Friday, as trade tensions between U.S. and China escalated. On Thursday evening, President Donald Trump announced he would consider levying an additional $100 billion in tariffs against China in response to possible tariffs on U.S.-made products such as soybeans.
“Trade wars, a recession, any notion of any weakness in global economies are going to cut into,” oil prices, Kloza said. “So keep that in mind. We might yet be priced for perfection but perfection is a pretty difficult thing to see.”
Kloza forecasts an average of $67 a barrel for Brent crude oil this year. It currently trades at that level.