Oil Price Paths in 2017: Is a Sustained Recovery of the Oil Price Looming?
This paper explores how the oil price path could evolve in 2017 by assessing the various oil price risks under alternative forecast scenarios pertaining to future market conditions. It is shown that even without the OPEC-non-OPEC output cut agreement in November 2016, the three-year long price fall would eventually have come to a halt and stabilized at close to $41/b in 2017 based solely on market forces. The agreement, however, helped accelerate the price recovery by stabilising the oil price near $50/b. That said, the current price at above $50/b already incorporates the bulk of the expected gains from the full enforcement of the production cuts and reflects the positive shift of market sentiment that has been building-up in anticipation of the implementation of the output cut agreement. Thus, for the next year, the oil price path is more sensitive to downside risks depending on the discipline of OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers. In fact, for the price recovery to be sustained in 2017, OPEC efforts must be met by favourable market conditions in the form of an unexpected surge in global oil demand amid a moderate expansion of US shale supply. On the contrary, a deterioration of global economic activity, or an aggressive expansion of US shale supply, or both, could reverse the current momentum. Moreover, a return of oil production from conflict inflicted countries Libya and Nigeria could undermine the OPEC agreement from within. Eventually, whatever scenario plays out, OPEC will continue to assess the market conditions and in the second half of 2017, it can decide on whether to extend the agreement to offset any losses to the anticipated oil price recovery that may arise from changes in oil market conditions or to drop the agreement all together. But regardless which way the decision goes, the latest output cut agreement is critical to resolving fundamental uncertainties about the shock hitting the oil market and OPEC behaviour in a more uncertain world.