Futures Movers: Oil ends lower, but notches a roughly 5% gain for the week on Kazakhstan unrest
Oil futures ended lower on Friday, but tallied a weekly gain of roughly 5% as investors continued to monitor unrest in Kazakhstan that threatens to add to supply outages that have helped boost crude prices.
Violent protests, sparked by a sharp rise in fuel prices, have rocked Kazakhstan this week, with scores of protesters and more than a dozen law enforcement officers killed. The internet across the country was shut down, and two airports, including in Almaty, the nation’s largest city, were closed. On Friday, the country’s president said order had been restored. The government also announced a 180-day price cap on vehicle fuel and a moratorium on utility rate increases.
Kazakhstan is worrisome because it exports about 1.5 million barrels of oil per day and “the violence is near the oil producing center,” Michael Lynch, president at Strategic Energy & Economic Research, told MarketWatch.
The operator of Kazakhstan’s highest-producing oil field, Tengiz, said Thursday that a logistics issue had caused it to adjust production levels given political protests at the site, according to a report from S&P Global Platts.
Should any significant amount of production from the country be lost, “the bull market in oil will be extended,” said Lynch. “OPEC+ is unlikely to react to such a loss unless it is clear that it will be lengthy and global inventories would thus continue to decline,” he said.
West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery CL00, -0.55% CLG22, -0.55% fell 56 cents, or 0.7%, to settle at $78.90 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, but front-month contract prices still logged a 4.9% weekly rise, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
Kazakhstan “represents yet another risk supply disruption given the epicenter of the unfolding unrest and a ‘technical adjustment’ having already occurred at the Tengiz oil field,” said Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, in a note.
The operator of the Tengiz oil field, the country’s largest at 600,000 barrels a day, on Thursday said it had made a technical adjustment due to logistics issues, S&P Global Platts reported. Kazakhstan is the largest producer in the former Soviet Union at around 1.6 million barrels a day.
“Overall, with around 1 [million barrels a day] of production currently offline because of disruptions in Ecuador, Libya and Nigeria, further outages would be particularly unwelcome for the Biden administration as it faces a consumer backlash over rising gasoline prices in advance of the midterm elections,” Croft said.
February natural gas NGG22, +2.96% settled at $3.916 per million British thermal units, up 2.7% Friday, up 5% for the week.
For now, the unrest in Kazakhstan overshadows the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, as well as the Iran nuclear deal negotiations, said Lynch. “If there was positive news from the nuclear talks, “that would send prices lower for sure, but that doesn’t seem likely in the near future.”