IEA chief says U.S. shale is needed for now as oil prices climb

Saket Sundria and Alex Longley January 12, 2021
IEA director Fatih Birol
IEA director Fatih Birol

(Bloomberg) --Oil in New York climbed to a new 10-month high as the dollar declined, increasing the appeal of commodities priced in the currency.

Futures rose 1.5% to above $53 a barrel, to the highest since February 2020. Prices have climbed in recent days after promises of unilateral output cuts from Saudi Arabia spurred a further rally.

Oil has surged more than 45% since the end of October, boosted by Covid-19 vaccine breakthroughs and commitments from OPEC and its allies to curb oil output. Recent Democrat victories in U.S. elections have also spurred expectations of economic stimulus, while commodity index rebalancing is also expected to buoy prices this week.

“Oil prices are rising again after a brief timeout,” said Eugen Weinberg, head of commodities research at Commerzbank AG. “On the demand side, hopes of economic recovery and the massive fiscal stimuli being taken by governments are lending support.”


  • West Texas Intermediate for February delivery rose 78 cents to $53.03 a barrel at 10:30 a.m. London time
  • Earlier, prices touched $53.26 intraday, the highest since February
  • Brent for March settlement gained 1.6% to $56.53

Investors are also weighing the prospect of higher supply from North America. A “big chunk” of U.S. shale is profitable at current oil prices, but drillers should be aware of crude’s declining share in the future global energy mix, International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a Bloomberg television interview.

Many shale producers will be able to increase production this year and in 2022, and in the short term “we will need shale oil from the United States to fill the gap” in the supply-demand oil balance, Birol said. However, shale companies “shouldn’t underestimate” the electrification of the transportation sector, he added.

Other oil-market news:

  • A fuel primarily used for cooking surpassed gasoline as India’s second most popular oil product after a boost from a government buying program, cold weather and lockdowns due to Covid-19.
  • Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has raised its forecasts for gains in commodities over three, six and 12 months, while at the same time warning that there may be a pullback in the near term.
  • Carlos Slim and his family have accumulated stakes worth $230 million in oil refiner PBF Energy Inc. and pipeline operator PBF Logistics LP, continuing to snap up stock even as the shares have slumped.
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