With Brent Crude slipping back below $37 a barrel, close to 11-year lows, the question at the end of 2015 is whether the precious liquid could slip as lowas $20, as some analysts have been touting. And the short answer is, yes, it could.
Part of the problem has been a disjoint in the usual relationship between supply and demand, and for a long period in 2015, while the price was falling, supplies were actually increasing. Major oil companies around the world were mothballing some of their more expensive developments, but Gulf producers were having none of it and were keeping production high, while other countries like Iran are starting to add to the global glut.
With the demise of any Opec control, were certainly in a freer market for oil prices now, so could the stuff just be settling towards its free market pricing? It almost certainly is, and right now were probably still some way from an equilibrium that would give us any idea of longer term prices.
BCA economist Dhaval Joshi, reported by the Guardian, reckons were in the third major period of commodities deflation of the past century, and predicts that oil could drop to around $25 a barrel before it bottoms out.
Having said that, recent data from the US Energy Information Administration showed that American oil stockpiles actually fell by about 5.8m barrels over the year, which is better (for the oil price at least) than the predicted rise of more than a million barrels, so there are signs that the oversupply is being reduced in some markets.
Then theres the actual break-even cost of getting the stuff out of the ground, and many oil producing countries including even Saudi Arabia are unprofitable at current prices. The IMF has even gone as far as to suggest that Saudi Arabia could be bankrupt in five years if its current economic policy remains unchanged, although this week the country has maintained its insistence that it will keep oil production levels high.
In the longer term, the inverted demand/supply relationship is not sustainable, and with oil demand expected to rise significantly in the next five years, some are calling the bottom even now, and suggesting oil will start to creep up again during 2016. Opec itself has suggested that oil should recover to around $70 a barrel by 2020, with energy demand rising by nearly 50% by 2040. I really dont think theres anyone would would seriously argue against a recovery to at least $70 levels over five years in fact, many investors would see such a slow recovery as very bad news.
Next year should be a crunch year for shale oil producers too, and oil prices at todays level would push many of them to the wall should they continue for too long even if the industry is becoming more and more cost efficient.
By the end of 2016, Id be very surprised if the oil price is not significantly higher than it is today $50 a barrel at least, maybe $60. But in the next few months, theres a serious chance that it will fall further before turning back up. And I really wouldnt bet against those feared $20 levels.
Investment strategies come and go, but it’s hard to beat the idea of putting your money into top dividend-paying companies with progressive cash-handout policies, which have the potential to lift your income year after year. Our newest report, A Top Income Share From The Motley Fool, reveals a company that might just fit that bill.
It’s a company with a market cap of around 500m, so it’s not a high-risk tiddler, and dividends have been growing very strongly over the past few years.
Want to know more? Click here to get your completely free copy of the report delivered to your inbox today.
Alan Oscroft has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don’t all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.