Oil prices rose more than 20% this year but there were no sharp spikes and crude futures barely sniffed $70 a barrel despite attacks on the world’s biggest oil producer, sanctions that crippled crude exports of two OPEC members and gigantic supply cuts from big oil producing countries.
The price gains in crude oil benchmarks were all in the first quarter of 2019, even as the next several months featured supply shocks that in the past would probably have propelled crude past the $100 mark.
U.S. crude oil is on track to end 2019 roughly 35% higher. Since the end of March, it is up just 3%, after rallying early in the year after the United States introduced sanctions on Venezuela. Brent has gained 26%, but is off by 1% since the first quarter.
Investors and analysts say U.S. production and weak demand kept prices under control. The United States is on track to be a net petroleum exporter on an annual basis for the first time in 2020. Output is expected to average 13.2 million bpd, an increase of nearly a million bpd from 2019.
“Demand growth cratered while U.S. production continued to barrel along at high rates and geopolitical risk eased,” Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group.
Investor concern over peak oil demand is expected to weigh on prices next year, particularly as the urgency around action against climate change has increased. Also, a long-term resolution of the U.S.-China trade war seems elusive, keeping market watchers wary of predicting energy demand growth in the world’s two largest economies.