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- July 1, 2017: Vol. 4, Number 7

A Look Ahead for Oil ETFs: U.S. shale drillers continue to foil OPEC and keep prices low

by Tom Lydon

The United States Oil Fund, which tracks West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures, and the United States Brent Oil Fund, which tracks Brent crude oil futures, are down an average of more than 15 percent this year. Predictably, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) looms large in the equation for oil ETFs.

While OPEC is cutting back to alleviate price pressures, U.S. fracking companies could jump to capitalize on the windfall as crude oil prices jump back above $50 per barrel — according to some estimates, shale oil producers can get by with oil at just over $50 per barrel due to advancements in technology and drilling techniques that have helped cut costs.

“OPEC is working on establishing a legal relationship with its partners in the crude oil production cut agreement,” reports OilPrice.com. “This would mean a larger oil cartel controlling possibly more than half of global oil supplies. OPEC currently controls 40 percent.”

OPEC is looking to reassert its dominance over global oil markets after realizing its recent production cuts did not have the desired impact because North American shale producers kept pumping and putting downward pressure on oil prices in the process.

Thanks to the shale boom, the United States is now a major oil exporter, which could threaten oil prices. In fact, China has become a major buyer of U.S. crude.

“This became particularly obvious recently, when OPEC and its partners decided to extend their production cut agreement for another nine months, and contrary to expectations this failed to improve prices,” according to OilPrice.com. “Actually, prices fell as U.S. shale drillers continue to add drilling rigs.”

Some market observers believe it is possible OPEC and shale producers could come together to find some common ground on production and prices.

Some oil market observers see more declines coming for crude. Oil traders are concerned over how fast U.S. shale oil producers will increase production to capture the rising prices.

Rig counts have recently ticked higher and with credit and earnings issues improving for some U.S. shale drillers, those companies may seize the opportunity to exploit higher pricing in the near-term.

Tom Lydon (tlydon@etftrends.com) is president of Global Trends Investments and publisher of ETF Trends.

 

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