Oil had a tumultuous 2018, with prices rising to a four-year high in October before plunging more than $30 in the following months. Oversupply and demand worries are high on the concern list for the industry, making volatility a buzzword this year as well.
There are other power dynamics at play. OPEC’s Viennese waltz in early December was a perfect example of a shift, with Russia brokering a deal to curb output and sharing the reins with traditional leader Saudi Arabia. President Donald Trump’s tweets demanding lower oil prices and U.S. shale producers pumping out unprecedented volumes of crude, threaten to undo all of OPEC and Russia’s years-long work.
There are “major uncertainties” and forecasting trends in 2019 is “even more hazardous than usual,” said Neil Atkinson, head of oil markets at the International Energy Agency. Geopolitical uncertainty is a serious risk to the industry, according to Ryan Lance, chief executive officer of ConocoPhillips. Still, there is likely to be a lack of “shock and awe” in OPEC policy, which could temper volatility, said Greg Sharenow, a portfolio manager at Pacific Investment Management Co.
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