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Thursday, 03 October 19
OIL PRICE ASSUMPTIONS UNCHANGED, NBP GAS PRICE LOWERED - FITCH RATINGS PRIMARY - FITCH RATINGS
Fitch RatingsOur oil price assumptions are unchanged, despite the recent price volatility following the attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure, Fitch Ratings says. We have revised down the National Balancing Point (NBP) gas price assumptions as we now anticipate a slower recovery in European natural gas prices due to a supply glut in the LNG market and slower economic growth prospects globally.
 
Oil prices spiked in the aftermath of the attacks in Saudi Arabia, but have since subsided. According to media reports, Saudi Aramco has made progress in restoring production, although we assume full recovery of capacity to levels available pre-attack could take time. We believe that disruptions ultimately will have a limited impact on the supply-demand balance this year, especially as the market remains otherwise well-supplied. We have kept our price deck assumption for Brent at USD65/bbl for 2019, though we expect volatility to remain significant in 4Q19, Fitch Ratings says in its latest report.
 
The attack highlighted the vulnerability of oil-producing infrastructure, not only in Saudi Arabia, but also elsewhere in the Middle East, although it has not caused us to change our fundamental view on the sector. An escalation of geopolitical tensions in the Gulf region, such as further attacks or a military conflict, could lead to higher prices, at least temporarily, due to the effect on the physical market or a 'geopolitical premium'.
 
Fitch Ratings further noted that, Fitch Ratings still assumes an average Brent price to be marginally lower at USD62.5/bbl in 2020 compared to 2019, due to waning demand and increased supply from continued US shale growth and recovered production in Saudi Arabia. However, we also expect OPEC+ to manage supply to avoid large surpluses or deficits. In 2020, the coming into force of International Maritime Organization Sulphur 2020 regulation could support demand for Brent and WTI, which are low-sulphur oil grades. The long-term price of USD57.5/bbl for Brent takes into account our view on the marginal costs of oil production.
 
Fitch Ratings lowered their NBP prices for 2019-2021. European spot natural gas prices collapsed in 1Q19. Increased supply from new LNG plants in the US and elsewhere was not matched by sufficient demand growth. In 9M19 the NBP price averaged USD4.7/mcf, compared with USD8.1/mcf in 9M18. Furthermore, the daily closing price has fluctuated between USD2.4 and USD3.9/mcf since the beginning of August. Prices are likely to rise in 4Q19 when the heating season starts. However, we expect the recovery to be slow given unusually high volumes of gas accumulated in European underground storage facilities and slowing demand.
 
According to latest report, Fitch Ratings believes that re-balancing in the gas market may take longer than we had anticipated primarily due to lower Chinese growth. China was the major driver for LNG demand and accounted for 48% of global demand growth over the past five years (2014-2018), followed by Europe (19%) and India (12%), according to BP. However, Chinese LNG demand may wane because of slowing economic growth amid the US-China trade war. China's authorities expect its annual gas consumption growth to decelerate to 10% yoy in 2019 from 17.5% in 2018.
 
According Fitch Ratings recent repot, the Fitch Ratings's long-term view on NBP is unchanged. While more active LNG trade is likely to result in narrower differentials between various hubs, we believe the USD3.75/mcf spread between Henry Hub and NBP we currently assume in the long-term assumptions is reasonable and accounts for full-cycle costs of delivering natural gas from the US to Europe.


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