Snowstorm can't save oil from falling to $20s: Analyst

Despite some near-term bullish signals, oil markets remain fundamentally oversupplied and may not be able to hold above $30 per barrel, ClearView Energy Partners analyst Kevin Book said Monday.

Crude oil futures rocketed 10 percent higher on Friday as traders covered bets that oil would fall farther and as heating oil prices rose ahead of a massive snowstorm on the U.S. East Coast.

That plucked oil prices out of the $20-to-$30-per-barrel range, where they had fallen one week earlier. But on Monday, crude oil prices were down about 3 percent as Iraq announced record high oil production.

"The fundamentals haven't changed because of a snowstorm," Book told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"It's unclear where the right number is, but if 20s is where it should have been or where it was converging, 20s is probably back where it's going."


The world remains oversupplied by roughly 1 million to 2 million barrels per day. That glut will persist through the first half of the year, and will likely only begin to balance in the last quarter of 2016, Book said.

North American oil can possibly rebound to $50 to $55 per barrel sometime next year, with prices accelerating in 2018 in Book's estimation.

But oil markets still face near-term headwinds.

On the demand side, the International Energy Agency's forecast for global crude oil consumption growth of 1.2 million bpd looks optimistic, Book said.

"In the long run, what you do with low prices is you encourage demand, but in short run, it's very inelastic. It takes a long time to build roads, to sell cars, to invest in new industrial capacity," he said.

On the supply side, every 100,000 bpd that Iran brings online will push back a rebalance in prices.

Iranian leaders aim to bring an additional 500,000 bpd to market as soon as possible, following the lifting of sanctions related to the country's nuclear program earlier this month. But Clearview expects Iran can only ramp up exports to 300,000 bpd in the coming quarter.

Bill Richardson, former New Mexico governor and U.S. Energy Secretary under President Bill Clinton, said Monday he expects the return of Iranian oil to push prices lower in the near term, perhaps to the low $20s. But once the flow of Iranian crude stabilizes, he sees the cost of crude rebounding to $40 or $50.

"The commodity of oil is going to continue to boom and bust, but eventually it's going to recover," he told "Squawk Box."

They key factor to watch is whether top oil exporter Saudi Arabia agrees to a productions cut, he said. That outcome is unlikely even if OPEC calls an emergency meeting because the Saudis don't want to help their regional rival, Iran, by supporting prices right as Tehran returns to international oil markets.

Saudi Arabia has spearheaded OPEC's policy of maintaining current high levels of production for more than a year in order to pressure producers with higher costs, such as the United States and Russia, and to maintain market share.

That policy has indeed turned up the heat on U.S. production and exploration companies that rely on an expensive drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. These frackers have built up a large inventory of drilled but uncompleted wells that can be brought online once prices rebound.

That has raised concerns about a prolonged cycle of spiking and falling crude prices.

"It's going to be maybe quite a while before we see high prices given the fracking revolution. I think you're going to see huge amounts of oil come on stream quite quickly if the price gets to $50 or $60," former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers told "Squawk Box."\

There could always be a geopolitical surprise that could cause crude to spike temporarily, Summers said. "But] we're importantly in a new world."

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