The oil patch is full of conundra currently... crude price declines globally to near 2009 lows but supertanker day-rates (demand) soaring over $100,000 for the first time since 2008. However, today's news that Saudi Arabia is slashing its price (to a $3.20 discount to the bechmark with the largest price cut since 2012) suggests in an effort to shore up tumbling reserves and capture more market share amid dwindling demand (and excess supply) - a price war has begun led by US ally Saudi Arabia... and China is hoarding crude at these low-low prices.
With crude prices stuck near multi-year lows...
Saudi Arabia cut pricing for November oil sales to Asia and the U.S. as the world’s largest crude exporter seeks to keep its barrels competitive with rival suppliers amid sluggish demand. As Bloomberg reports,
Saudi Arabian Oil Co. reduced its official selling price for Medium grade crude to Asia next month to a discount of $3.20 a barrel below the regional benchmark, compared with a $1.30 discount for October sales, the company said Sunday in an e-mailed statement.
The discount for the Medium grade to Asia, the main market for Saudi crude, widened by the most since the state-owned company made a $2 a barrel cut in February 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“They needed to cut pricing to keep Saudi crude competitive with other grades,”Robin Mills, a Dubai-based analyst at Manaar Energy Consulting, said by phone. “Demand has been a bit weaker, leading to the cuts.”
But, the paradox is that 'demand' appears extremely high judging by the soaring rate for super-tankers...
As Bloomberg reports, the world’s biggest crude oil tankers earned more than $100,000 a day for the first time since 2008, amid speculation that a surge in Chinese bookings is curbing the number that are left available for charter.
Ships hauling 2 million barrel cargoes of Saudi Arabian crude to Japan, a benchmark route, earned $104,256 a day, a level last seen in July 2008, according to data on Friday from the Baltic Exchange in London. The rate was a 13 percent gain from Thursday.
Bookings by Chinese oil companies surged this week to collect oil from regions including the Middle East and West Africa, the world’s biggest loading areas, according to George Los, a New York-based analyst at shipbroker Charles R. Weber Co. The Asian country imported 26.6 million metric tons of crude in August, 5.6 percent more than a year earlier, according to customs data.
"China was particularly more active in the market with a record number of fixtures this week from all areas,” said Los. “I hadn’t expected that and it came as a surprise,” he said, adding that it may be difficult for rates to rise much higher.
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The bottom line appears to be that China is "buying low" and squeezing suppliers which is keeping prices suppressed even as demand appears to be soaring (from China's hoarding).