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恐慌性交易:中东骚乱可能导致油价下跌

Daryl Jones, Hedgeye 2011年03月07日

中东地区的大规模自由化和民主化可能会对石油生产构成长期利好。只要看看俄罗斯和伊拉克的事迹就会明白。

    石油价格已经告诉我们,短期内,中东地区目前的混乱局面将无法得到解决。继利比亚紧张局势升级之后,绝大多数主要等级的石油价格日前均大幅上扬 ,尽管近来价格有所反弹,但仍在波动之中。

    此外,我们在下图中标出了过去15年来每年2月份的最高收盘价。一般而言,2月份对于美国(全球最大的消耗国)来说是需求相对较低的季节性月份,原因在于冬季取暖用油需求减少,而夏季驾车季节尚未到来。有趣的是,尽管油价仍然比有史以来最高位低 40美元以上,但已非常接近2008年2月创下的101.78美元最高2月收盘价。这一异常的非季节性价格变动证明,我们目前所见的价格涨势十分强劲。

    The price of oil is already indicating to us that the current turmoil in the Middle East will not be resolved in the short term. Prices of most major grades of oil spiked last week after tensions heightened in Libya and, although they've retreated a bit, they remain volatile.

    Further to this point, we've outlined in a chart below the highest closing price in February going back the last 15-years. Typically, February would be a relatively slower seasonal month for demand in the United States (the world's largest consumer) as the need for winter heating oil diminishes and summer driving season hasn't picked up. Interestingly, while the price of oil is still more than $40 from its all time high, it is very close to highest February close of $101.78 in February 2008. This abnormal and non-seasonal price movement emphasizes the powerful price move we are seeing.

    上个月早些时候,在一篇强调我方多头观点的评论中,我们就已指出了利比亚和伊朗大规模骚乱的这种潜在影响,文中这样写道:

    “我们开始看到埃及和突尼斯式的大规模紧张局势正向一些主要产油国蔓延,这应该会给石油这种大宗商品提供重要支持。特别是伊朗与利比亚两国的抗议活动均有所增多。这两者之间具有相关性的原因在于,根据最近的数据显示,伊朗是石油输出国组织(OPEC)中第二大原油生产国,日产370 万桶石油,而利比亚也是规模较大的产油国,日产160 万桶石油。

    然而,鉴于利比亚占全球石油产量不到2%,且国际能源署(IEA)拥有的石油储备超过16亿 桶,很显然目前的价格波动不仅仅是因为利比亚的动乱。即使利比亚完全关闭石油生产,国际能源署也有充足的石油储备,足以抵消一整年石油产量下滑带来的供应短缺。此外,据估算,石油输出国组织的日闲置产能合计达400万到600万桶。那么,油价走势为何在过去几天内出现戏剧性变化?简单来说:目前出现的是恐慌性石油交易。

    事实上,人们正是担忧大规模动荡从利比亚蔓延至更多的中东地区重要产油国(如伊朗),并最终导致政府更迭或武装冲突,从而造成石油产量普遍下滑。与此相关的担忧是,石油输出国组织最终并不具备他们所声称的闲置产能,这可能导致全球石油供应紧缩的速度快于大多数人预期。最后,在我们看到中东地区做出某些决议或澄清之前(这显然不会马上出现),这种担忧将继续支持并引领全球石油市场。

    长期来看存在这样一种情境(当然这不是共识),即中东地区的大规模自由化和民主化可能会对石油生产构成利好。俄罗斯也许是这种情况的极好范例。

    20世纪80年代末,俄罗斯石油产量达到巅峰水平,日产油1250万桶。由于前苏联时期减少投资,此后俄罗斯石油产量逐渐下降,到20世纪90年代中期跌至每日600万桶左右的水平。苏联解体外加油田私有化引发石油产量从1999年开始回升。目前,由于私有化和随后进行的石油资产现代化,俄罗斯石油产量已经回复到接近巅峰时期的水平。

    看起来伊拉克将走上与俄罗斯极为相似的道路。这并不令人惊讶,因伊拉克战争和萨达姆•侯赛因下台之后紧随而来的混乱,造成伊拉克石油产量急剧下滑,至2007年初之前始终徘徊在日产油150万桶的水平。从那时起,后萨达姆•侯赛因时代的现代化和投资开始初见成效,伊拉克石油产量开始攀升。今年1月,伊拉克石油产量达到每日260万桶的战后最高水平,预计到年底时将达到自20世纪70年代末以来就未曾出现过的每日产油近300万桶的水平。事实上,正如《华尔街日报》(Wall Street Journal)在去年末所报道的那样,一部分伊拉克人认为产量增长对今后十年意义重大:

    “总而言之,伊拉克希望这方面的努力能在不到10年时间内,将产能从目前每日250万桶提升至1200万桶。那将成为现代石油时代有史以来无可匹敌的一项丰功伟绩。上个月,国际能源署首席经济学家法提赫•比罗尔称伊拉克是全球石油市场潜在的‘游戏规则变更者’。”

    实际上,去年赢得伊拉克众多合约之一的荷兰皇家壳牌石油公司(Royal Dutch Shell)最近将该公司位于伊拉克Majnoon油田的产量从每日45,000桶增加至每日70,000桶。变化虽小,但是在逐步增加。

    毫无疑问这是一种比较少见的情况,而且西方石油公司不会轻易增加对伊朗和利比亚等欠稳定地区的投资。但在某种程度上,伊拉克和俄罗斯的事迹确实证明,如果最终结果是普及民主和法治,石油产量将在长期内实现增长。

    Earlier last month, we called out this potential impact of popular unrest in Libya and Iran in a note that underscored our long position when we wrote:

    "We are starting to see Egyptian and Tunisian type popular tensions spread to some key oil producing states, which should provide a key support under the commodity. Specifically, both Iran and Libya have seen an increase in protests. This is relevant because, based on the most recent data, Iran is the second largest producer of crude oil in OPEC, at 3.7MM barrels of oil per day, and Libya is a sizeable producer as well at 1.6MM barrels of oil per day."

    Given that Libya represents less than 2% of global production and that the IEA has over 1.6 billion barrels of oil in storage, clearly the current price movement is about more than Libyan disruption. Even if Libyan oil production were completely turned off, the IEA has enough oil in storage to offset that lack of production decline for a full year. Further, it is estimated that OPEC collectively has between 4 and 6 million spare barrels of daily production. So, why has oil gone parabolic over the past couple days? Simply put: oil is now trading on fear.

    In effect, this is fear that popular upheaval goes well beyond Libya and into more significant producers in the Middle East (like Iran) and that the ultimate outcome is a transition in government, or armed conflict, that leads to a broad decline in oil production. An associated fear is that OPEC ultimately doesn't have the spare capacity they claim, which could lead to a global oil supply tightening quicker than most expect. Ultimately, this fear will continue to buoy and lead the world oil markets until we have some resolution or clarity in the Middle East, which certainly does not seem imminent.

    Longer term there is a scenario, which certainly isn't consensus on a week like this, that vast liberalization and democratization in the Middle East could be positive for oil production. Russia is probably the prime example of this occurring.

    In the late 1980s, Russian oil production reached a peak of production of 12.5 million barrels of production per day. Due to a decline of investment during the Soviet era, Russian oil production gradually fell thereafter and had fallen to around 6 million barrels per day by the mid-90s. The collapse of the Soviet Union combined with a privatization of the oil fields initiated a turnaround in production starting in 1999. Currently, Russia is back to near peak production levels due to privatization and subsequent modernization of its oil assets.

    Iraq looks to be on a very similar path to that of Russia. Not surprisingly, with the Iraq War and the ensuing chaos following the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, Iraq oil production fell dramatically and was mired in the 1.5 million barrels per day level of production until early 2007. By then, post Saddam Hussein modernization and investment started to pay off and Iraqi oil production began to climb. In January of this year, Iraqi oil production hit a post-war peak in production of 2.6 million barrels per day and is expected to be near 3 million barrels per day by year-end, a level not seen since the late 1970s. In fact, as reported late last year in the Wall Street Journal, some Iraqis believe that growth in production could be meaningful in the coming decade:

    "In all, Iraq hopes the work will boost output capacity from the current 2.5 million barrels a day to 12 million barrels a day in less than a decade. That would be a feat unrivaled in the history of the modern oil era. Last month, Fatih Birol, the International Energy Agency's chief economist, called Iraq a potential "game changer" for global oil markets."

    In fact, Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA), which was awarded one of the Iraqi contracts last year, recently upped its Iraqi production from the Majnoon field from 45,000 barrels per day to 70,000 barrels per day. A small change, but incremental.

    No doubt this is a long-tail type scenario, and a lot would have to happen for Western Oil companies to up investment in less stable regions like Iran and Libya, but both Iraq and Russia do provide some credence to the idea that production, over the longer term, could grow if the ultimately outcome is the spread of democracy and rule of law.

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