Oil and Gas

What happened to oil's bounce?

Oil fundamentals haven’t changed: Analyst

As oil prices gave up some of their recent gains on Tuesday, analysts told CNBC the outlook for crude was poor as the fundamentals of the global economy re-assert themselves.

August was an intensely volatile month for oil, which made steep losses and hit $37.75 per barrel at one point, before reversing those losses for the month and hitting $47.17 Monday.

Oil prices snapped a three-day rally on Tuesday, with both Brent and U.S. crude prices falling almost $2 a barrel as investors took profits.

Monday's oil price spike may have been motivated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) talking about production cuts for the first time in the current low-price run, cuts to U.S. output estimates, or just by the perception that its price had fallen too far, analysts said.

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Either way, the rally could be short-lived for a number of reasons. To start with, OPEC talking about cuts and actually making cuts are rather different phenomena.

Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"Weaker OPEC members have been talking about cuts, but expecting non-OPEC members to join hands and take part? They are not likely to be incentivized to cut back," Abhishek Deshpande, oil and gas analyst, Natixis, told CNBC on Tuesday.

Oil supply seems to still be outstripping demand, even though low oil prices have helped boost demand and the expected decline in oil products demand in China has not yet materialized. However, the signals of slowing growth in China, the world's second largest economy and its biggest oil importer, are loud and clear.

In fact, data on Tuesday showed activity in China's manufacturing sector slowed sharply in August.

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"For me, fundamentals haven't changed. Oil prices are still experiencing a lot of pressure," according to Deshpande. "When you have low oil prices and with volatility high, you do see extreme movements."

What is likely to be really important in the longer-term for oil prices is how this year's winter season plays out. If there is an unexpectedly cold season in the U.S. and Europe then the supply and demand dynamics could alter again. However, without this, there may be little catalyst to move oil higher again, analysts said.

"The real test for diesel will be November, and absent a cold winter, margins could come under greater pressure," Thomas Adolff, director, oil & gas equity research at Credit Suisse, wrote in a research note.

The $40 level often represents a sort of Rubicon for crude oil prices – and crossing it may have been a signal to some that oil had been oversold.

"This is a time for money managers. They saw the sell-off as a great opportunity and a great time to go in," Deshpande argued.