Oil continues slide below $31 at 12yr lows. Stockpiles seen expanding.

By Ben Sharples

(Bloomberg) — Oil extended declines from the lowest close in more than 12 years before U.S. government data forecast to show crude supplies expanded, exacerbating a global glut.

Futures fell as much as 1.6 percent in New York after dropping 5.3 percent Monday. Stockpiles probably rose by 2 million barrels last week, a Bloomberg survey showed before a report from the Energy Information Administration Wednesday. Iran will begin selling a new grade of crude as soon as March as it prepares to boost production once international sanctions blocking exports are lifted, according to an official at the country’s state-run oil company.

A pump jack operates in an oil field near Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S. Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg
A pump jack operates in an oil field near Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S. Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg

“When you have a supply overhang, there’s going to be continued downward pressure on prices,” Ric Spooner, a chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, said by phone. “Investors are looking toward a difficult few months for oil, especially with Iran set to boost exports. We are likely to see production cuts at these prices, but they may take some months to come through.”

Oil slid more than 15 percent in the previous six sessions, the biggest such drop in more than four years, as volatility in Chinese markets fueled a rout in global equities and U.S. supplies remained about 100 million barrels above the five-year average. Brent crude, the global benchmark, may trade in the $20s if the dollar rapidly gains, according to Morgan Stanley.

Read also: Goldman Sachs downgrades oil price forecast: $20 a barrel now real prospect

West Texas Intermediate for February delivery fell as much as 49 cents to $30.92 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $30.96 at 10:57 a.m. Hong Kong time. The contract dropped $1.75 to $31.41 on Monday, the lowest close since December 2003. Total volume traded was about 24 percent above the 100-day average. Prices lost 30 percent last year.

Oil Supplies

Brent for February settlement lost as much as 47 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $31.08 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The contract declined $2, or 6 percent, to $31.55 Monday, the lowest close since April 2004. The European benchmark crude was at a premium of 14 cents to WTI.

U.S. crude stockpiles probably increased for the second time in three weeks, according to the survey. Gasoline inventories gained by 1.8 million barrels, the survey shows. Supplies of the motor fuel rose by 10.6 million barrels through Jan. 1, the most since May 1993, according to data from the EIA.

Read also: Global oil supply glut persists – headed for third monthly decline

Iran is increasing output at fields in the West Karoun region, near the Iraqi border, and most of the crude in the new blend will come from the Yadavaran, South Azadegan and North Azadegan fields, the National Iranian Oil Co. official said, declining to be identified due to company policy.

Estimates Cut

Oil is particularly leveraged to the dollar and may fall between 10 to 25 percent if the currency gains 5 percent, Morgan Stanley analysts including Adam Longson said in a research note dated Jan. 11. Societe Generale SA cut its average 2016 Brent forecast to $42.50 a barrel from $53.75 on Monday, while Bank of America Corp. trimmed its forecast to $46 a barrel from $50.

Petroliam Nasional Bhd. sees crude prices averaging $30 a barrel this year in its “low-price” scenario and warned the Malaysian state oil company faces two to three tough years. The company just two months ago forecast a 2016 average price of $48.

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