OPEC production may slip in August after July’s record-high, warns UBS

OPEC crude oil production hit an eight-year peak in July, but may fall this month amid turmoil in major member countries, UBS said on Tuesday.

OPEC output rose by 150,000 barrels per day (kb/d) to 33.39 million barrels per day (mb/d) last month, as Saudi Arabia pushed its production to a new high and Iraq pumped more, according to the International Energy Agency.

However, UBS forecasts a drop in Iraqi oil production following militant attacks at the Bai Hassan field in northern Iraq on July 31.

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The bank also expects a decline in output from Nigeria, since militant activity restarted there, and no increase in Libyan production, as tension in Zuwetina in north-eastern Libya has made it difficult to reopen the country's eastern ports.

UBS sees front-month WTI crude oil averaging $43.81 per barrel in 2016 and $57.00 a barrel in 2017. That is narrowly above consensus forecasts for $43.30 this year and $54.25 next and further above BNP Paribas predictions for $40 and $50, respectively.

OPEC has been in focus this month following speculation that some members were once again trying to engineer a production freeze between OPEC and non-OPEC members like Russia. The rumor was fueled by the announcement that an informal meeting of OPEC ministers will take place in September.

The suggestion helped boost crude prices, with WTI futures for September 10 percent higher on the month, just below $46 per barrel on Tuesday.

Energy futures


However, UBS — and many other analysts — does not expect a freeze.

"Our view is that agreeing a freeze is likely just as difficult as in April (while Iran is approaching pre-sanctions output, Libyan and Nigerian production remains depressed), it's arguably not as needed … and likely has little effect on actual market balances, with most of OPEC running flat out and Saudi output seasonally ramping down by September after peak summer demand," UBS analyst, Jon Rigby, said in a report on Tuesday.

"Experience would suggest to all market participants that any meeting will likely be a complete non-event, and the price reaction likely indicates current market positioning rather than any genuinely meaningful expectation."

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