March 26, 2019 / 4:19 PM / a month ago

Top traders see oil price sustained by tighter market in H2 2019

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, March 26 (Reuters) - Four of the world's biggest traders expect the Brent oil price in 2019 to largely linger in the $60s a barrel with a slight rise in the second half of the year due to a tightening market, they said on the sidelines of the FT Commodities Global Summit.

Glencore's head of oil Alex Beard expects Brent to stay in the mid-$60s while Gunvor chief executive Torbjorn Tornqvist saw $60s to low $70s a barrel.

"I think they (the Saudis) like to see the oil price where it is and not lower," Gunvor's Tornqvist said.

"Having said that, the fundamentals will tighten a little bit in the coming months as refining capacity comes back online from turnaround and new capacity coming later in the year so more crude needs to be put on the market later on. U.S. shale is ramping up but it remains to some extent bottlenecked."

Vitol predicted a wider range, with its chief executive Russell Hardy saying he expected the oil price to be in the range of $60-$80 a barrel for 2019.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would provide a cap on prices, Hardy said, as the group would not want to see the price to go above $80 a barrel for fear of demand destruction. OPEC is set to meet in June to discuss whether it will extend production cuts.

Last year, the oil price dropped sharply after hitting a four-year high at nearly $87 a barrel when the United States granted waivers to some importers of Iranian crude oil.

These waivers are due to expire in April but the traders do not see Iran having a significant impact on the price on the expectation that some waivers will be renewed.

"My personal guess is that they (Washington) will renew some of them and I suspect that some that have the waivers won't ask for them," Glencore's Beard said during a panel at the conference.

Vitol's Hardy told the conference that he expected a little less Iranian crude availability in May.

On Monday, Trafigura said the current level of around $66-67 a barrel seemed sensible with a possible rise later in the year but that a weaker macroeconomic outlook would provide a cap to gains. (Reporting By Julia Payne; editing by David Evans)

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