Record surplus of oil possible by April

(Reuters) — Goldman Sachs said the oil market could see a record surplus of about six million barrels per day by April, considering a bigger- than-expected surge in low-cost output, while a slump in demand was “increasingly broad” triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.

Oil prices plummeted after top producer Saudi Arabia slashed its selling prices amid a price war with Russia and pledged to unleash more supply onto a market already reeling from falling demand due to the virus.

“The high-cost producer response at our second quarter 2020 $30/bbl Brent forecast will not be sufficiently fast to offset the record large inventory builds set to occur in coming months,” the Wall Street bank said.

The jump in inventories could also force some inland high-cost producers to shut production, since storage logistics may be stretched, the bank’s analysts added.

While all production limits have been scrapped due to the collapse of the OPEC+ deal, prompting Riyadh and the UAE to say they would both ramp up output to record levels, the top producers also promised to expand capacity, suggesting a longer term strategy to win market share from U.S. companies and other producers.

The bank pegged the demand loss due to the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak at about 4.5 million bpd, though it also pointed to some signs of improving Chinese oil demand.

The accumulation of oil inventories over the next six months could be similar to a build up over 18 months in 2014-16, it said.

Global demand growth, on the other hand, would see a reduction of about 310,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2021 and comfortably offset any fast supply response from high cost producers, especially with the shale output now forecast to drop by 900,000 bpd in the first quarter of 2021, the bank added.

“Finally, any potential re-escalation of geopolitical tensions in the Middle East would not prevent the bearish pressure of quickly accumulating inventories unless it led to a historically large outage.”

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