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Oil rebound? These banks think so

Oil prices have faced something of a perfect storm over recent week, with the Greece crisis, high Saudi production and an Iran nuclear deal all weighing on the commodity. But despite its recent losing streak – which has seen Brent prices fall close to 10 percent over the past 30 days – a number of banks think oil prices are about to pick up.

Brent was trading around $56 per barrel on Monday morning, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was around $50. Although this is well off lows of around $45 and $42 hit earlier this year, it is still around 50 percent lower than in June last year.

But this has not stopped some investment banks sounding a relatively bullish tone on the outlook for the rest of the year. JP Morgan, for instance, expects Brent prices to hit $65 a barrel in the third quarter, and $67 dollars in the fourth quarter of this year.

"We view July and August as the most likely time within 3Q 2015 when crude markets should be at their tightest, given peak summer demand for gasoline and the fact that refinery crude runs are forecast to peak in August," the bank said in a note on Friday.

Gas is flared off at an oil well site outside Williston, N.D.
Andrew Burton I Getty Images
Gas is flared off at an oil well site outside Williston, N.D.

Barclays analysts, meanwhile, expect Brent to trade around $61 a barrel in the third quarter and $66 in the last quarter of the year – although it did acknowledge the threats to its forecast.

"Product stock building could lead to weak refinery margins over H2 2015, in our view, especially since rising macroeconomic risks, particularly out of China, could limit upside surprises in global oil demand growth," the analysts wrote on Monday.

"If these bearish risks are realized, they are more likely to cause prices to remain near current levels than push prices lower for a sustained period of time."

'Baffled' over forecasts

The comments come after three consecutive weeks of losses in oil prices, amid continued uncertainty surrounding Greece's position within the euro zone. Saudi Arabia has also weighed on prices, as it and its fellow members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries continue to produce vast quantities of oil in an effort to maintain market share amid falling prices.

Meanwhile, Iran and six major powers last week signed a historic deal which will see sanctions lifted on Iran in return for it curbing its nuclear ambitions. This means Iran will be able to export oil again and has added to oversupply concerns.

Given these dynamics, not all analysts are convinced that oil prices will rebound this year. Also, Saudi Arabia's crude oil exports fell to their lowest level since December in May, data revealed on Monday.

"I am baffled how anybody can see significant market strength much before the winter," Neil Atkinson, head of analysis at Lloyd's List Intelligence, told CNBC by phone on Monday.

"There was a surplus of supply over demand even before the Iranian deal, so on that basis how can prices rise by a significant amount unless there is a political explosion of some kind?"

2016 rebound?

Despite disagreement over a short-term rebound in oil prices, analysts said next year could be when the supply and demand dynamics become more balanced. Indeed, last week OPEC upped its demand forecasts for this year and next which would "imply an improvement towards a more balanced market."

Barclays analysts added that, from a fundamental perspective, 2016 looked undervalued.

"At current prices, shale is supremely challenged and demand could pose an upside surprise. Furthermore, the market may be overly optimistic about an Iranian return," they wrote. Experts have noted that it will take some time for Iran to come back online as it has to invest in its oil fields as well as sign commercial contracts.

"The market is in the process of rebalancing and lower spot and forward prices are likely to expedite this, leading to higher prices in 2016/17 than the market is currently pricing in," the Barclays analysts added.