Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Jan 9, 2023

The 2023 Global Oil Outlook

Transcript

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Martijn Rats, Morgan Stanley's Global Commodity Strategist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss some of the key uncertainties that the global oil market will likely face in 2023. It's Monday, January 9th at 3 p.m. in London.

Looking back, 2022 was an eventful year for the oil market. The post-COVID demand recovery of 2021 continued during the first half and by June demand was back to 2019 levels. For a brief period the demand recovery appeared complete. Over the same period non-OPEC supply growth mostly disappointed, OPEC's spare capacity declined and inventories drew. Which eventually meant that oil markets had to start searching for the price level where demand destruction kicked in. Eventually, this forced prices of key oil products such as gasoline and diesel, to record levels of around $180-$290 a barrel in June.

Clearly, those prices did the trick. Together with new mobility restrictions in China, aggressive rate hikes by central banks and rising risk of recession, particularly in Europe, they effectively stalled the oil demand recovery. And by September, global oil demand was once again below September 2019 levels. By late 2022, brent prices that retraced much of their earlier gains and other indicators, such as time spreads and refining margins, had softened too.

Now, looking into 2023 we don't see this changing soon. Counting barrels of supply and demand suggest that the first quarter will still be modestly oversupplied. Also, declining GDP expectations, falling PMIs and central bank tightening are still weighing heavily on the oil market today. Eventually, however, we see a more constructive outlook emerging, say from the spring onwards. First, we expect to see a recovery in aviation. Global jet fuel consumption is still well below 2019 levels, and we think that a substantial share of that demand will return this year. Another key development will be China's reopening. At the end of 2022 China's oil demand was still well below 2020 and 2021 levels, held back by lockdowns and mobility restrictions. We expect China's oil demand to start recovering after the first quarter of this year.

Shifting over to Europe and the EU embargo on Russian oil, as of last November, the EU still imported 2.2 million barrels a day of Russian crude oil and oil products. Now, especially after the EU's embargo on the import of oil product kicks in, which will be on February 5th, Russia will need to find other buyers and the EU will need to find other suppliers for much of this oil. Now, some of this has already been happening, but the full rearrangement of oil flows around the world as a result of this issue will probably not be full, smooth, fast and without price impact. As a result, we expect that some Russian oil will be lost in the process and Russian oil production is likely to decline in coming months.

In the U.S., capital discipline and supply chain bottlenecks have already held back the growth in U.S. shale production. However, well performance and drilling inventory depth are emerging additional concerns putting further downward pressure on the production outlook. Eventually, the slowdown in U.S. shale will put OPEC in the driver's seat of the oil market. Also last year saw an unprecedented release of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But this source of supply is now ended and the U.S. Energy Department will likely start buying back some of this oil in coming months.

Finally, investment in new oil and gas production is rebounding, but it comes from a very low base and the recovery has so far been modest. Much of it is simply to absorb cost inflation that has also happened in the industry. In other words, the industry isn't investing heavily in new oil production, which has implications for the longer term outlook for oil supply.

Eventually, we think these factors will combine in a set of tailwinds for oil prices. If we are wrong on those, the market would be left with the status quo, which would be neutral. But we believe that these risks will eventually skew positively later in 2023. We expect the oil market to return to balance in the second quarter, and be undersupplied in the second half of this year. With a limited supply buffer only, we think brent will return to over $100 a barrel by the middle of the year.

Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

With an eventful year for the oil market behind us, what are the factors that might influence the supply, demand and ultimately the pricing of oil and gas in 2023?

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