Oil’s ‘new normal’ may be lower than you think

For the first time since October, last week Brent and WTI crude futures reached $50 a barrel. But in spite of the shift upwards, analysts still disagree over where the price of "black gold" is heading.

Oil prices have rallied over the last two months due to unplanned production outages in Canada and Nigeria that have helped bring global supply and demand into better balance. Crude prices have declined since Thursday's peak but remained above $49 per barrel on Tuesday morning.

Christian Gattiker-Ericsson, the chief strategist and global head of research at Julius Baer bank, said the likely next step for oil prices was back downwards.

"The new normal for oil is somewhere between $35 and $50. So depending on global activity, we will probably revisit the lower end at some stage," he told CNBC in a television interview on Monday.

"For now it is pretty much holding up, but I think we are at the up-end of this range and we expect much more of a range-bound market. There is so much supply that will take the global economy two or three years or so to absorb," he added.

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BRENT
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Last week, UBS commodity strategists' forecast Brent crude would trade at around $49 per barrel in the fourth quarter of 2016 — in line with Gattiker-Ericsson's expectations — and then rally further to average $55 through 2017.

However, also last week, Jason Gammel, an energy analyst at Jefferies, told CNBC the stage was set for a "fundamental price recovery" in the crude market. Amrita Sen, co-founder and chief oil analyst of Energy Aspects, also forecast further price gains.

On the ultra-bearish side, Francesco Filia, CEO of Fasanara Capital, told CNBC this month that oil prices could decline below $10 per barrel within the next 10 years due to breakthroughs in extraction and storage techniques.

As for this week's meeting of the oil-producing cartel OPEC in Vienna, analysts concurred nothing concrete was likely to come out of it.

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"It will be quite surprising to see them (OPEC member countries) agree on anything, either on an output freeze, individual quotas or even a person for the Secretary General," Eugen Weinberg, head of commodity research at Commerzbank, told CNBC in a television interview on Monday.

"I think nobody is expecting anything from this meeting," he added.

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