As oil-battered investors say farewell to 2015, Tom Kloza, founder and global head of energy analysis at data firm Oil Price Information Service, or OPIS, is offering a pretty dour outlook for crude-oil prices in 2016. Kloza is predicting that West Texas Intermediate crude-oil futures traded on the New York Mercantile ExchangeCLG6, +1.28% will hit $32 a barrel.
On Thursday, the final day of the trading year for markets, WTI crude prices were at $37.76, or 3.6% higher. But over the longer term, Nymex-traded oil, the U.S. benchmark, has lost 30% of its value in 2015, while Brent crude, its European counterpart LCOG6, +3.13% fell 34%.
Investors might want to take heed of Kloza’s prognostication. After all, early last year he made a spot on call that crude prices would hit $35 a barrel in 2015.
The oil expert’s view this time is tied to the belief that U.S. shale producers won’t significantly pump the brakes much in their production levels in the new year. So far, shale production hasn’t substantially abated. On Wednesday, the Energy Information Administration showed U.S. crude oil stockpiles rose a greater-than-expected 2.6 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 25.
“I think next year is very similar to this year and I think there’s a good chance oil is going back to numbers reached back in December 2008,” Kloza told MarketWatch in an interview, echoing comments he made earlier on CNBC, in the video attached:
On the bright side, Kloza said he didn’t expect the market to achieve more dire predictions of a fall to $20 a barrel, but he described the outlook for crude as “very much a slog” for 2016.
“I would think that we are going to retest the lows…the market will be most severely tested in February, March and April when we get Iranian crude and we have refinery maintenance. I still think we hold at $32 [a barrel] or higher and before the end of the year is over maybe $55 [ a barrel],” Kloza said.
Iran is expected to push more oil into the market next year after sanctions preventing the country from exporting crude are lifted.
“On balance, about $5 lower on average in 2016 than 2015 so very, very much a slog,” he concluded.
Gasoline price jump
One benefit of cheaper oil has been cheaper gasoline for consumers, with prices falling below $2 a gallon. Kloza estimates that consumers scored a $118 billion windfall from low gasoline prices.
However, Kloza told MarketWatch that he is expecting a decoupling of oil and gasoline prices. “I would not be surprised if on St. Patrick’s Day [in 2016], we see $2.50 [a gallon] gasoline and we see crude prices at $40 or less,” he said.
The OPIS analyst’s forecast is based on the view that gasoline storage is limited and a dearth of storage might result in higher prices, among other factors.
That paints a fairly grim picture for investors and consumers alike, but Kloza did say that crude-oil could hit $55 a barrel sometime later in 2016 and envisions the possibility of it hitting $80 a barrel within the next five years or so.