Adjustment in the Oil Market: Structural, Cyclical or Both?

The sharp fall in the oil price has divided views about the nature of the latest oil price cycle. Some argue that the oil market has been subject to structural shocks that have created a ‘new global oil order’ and that we have entered a world of ‘low oil prices for much longer’. Others are of the view that oil prices will rise sooner than currently expected and the current price fall has many of the characteristics of previous cycles. These two views reflect the high degree of uncertainty engulfing the oil market. This raises some key questions: Has there been a structural shift in the oil market adjustment mechanisms? Is the cycle different this time? And if different, how? This short comment tries to tackle these questions by analysing the nature of the adjustment mechanisms both on the supply (non-OPEC outside the US shale, US shale and OPEC) and on the demand side and by examining the internal consistency of ‘the lower oil price for longer’ scenario and the cyclical view of oil prices.

By: Bassam Fattouh

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