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[TOKYO] Goldman Sachs has slashed its 2015 oil price forecasts, making it the most bearish among major financial institutions, following a near 25 per cent fall in crude prices over the past five months.
The US investment bank said rising output will outstrip demand - and its new numbers weighed further on benchmark Brent crude prices - as forecasters generally pare back estimates for oil due to slowing global growth, a strengthening dollar and ample supplies.
Goldman analysts said in a report released late on Sunday that they expect US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude to fall to US$75 a barrel and Brent to US$85 a barrel in the first quarter of 2015, both down US$15 a barrel from their previous forecast.
WTI could fall as low as US$70 in the second quarter and Brent as low as US$80, when oversupply would be the most pronounced, before returning to first-quarter levels, Goldman said.
Goldman's projections contrast with those of Standard Chartered Bank's oil analyst Paul Horsnell, known for having called the market's long rally a decade ago. He is sticking with a more bullish bias.
Last week, Mr Horsnell and his team cut their first quarter Brent forecast to US$98 but pared back their forecast for calendar 2015 by just US$5, to US$105 a barrel.
Brent crude futures dipped 0.3 per cent on Monday to less than US$86 a barrel, extending their decline despite a continued easing of worries over the global economic recovery, said Tomomichi Akuta, senior economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Research & Consulting. "I personally think prices have room for declines though not as steep as Goldman," Mr Akuta said.
NYMEX crude for December delivery was up 4 cents at US$81.05 a barrel by 0848 GMT, after settling down US$1.08 on Friday following a spike up on Thursday.
If WTI fell to US$70 a barrel next year, as Goldman Sachs is forecasting, it would be the U.S. benchmark's lowest level since mid-2010.
Goldman said production outside Opec countries was expected to accelerate, led by Brazil and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico with the end of extensive deep-water maintenance following the 2010 Macondo disaster.
Non Opec-production outside the US lower 48 states is forecast to increase by 412,000 barrels per day this year, 573,000 bpd in 2015 and 505,000 bpd in 2016.
Output from Brazil's Santos basin is forecast to start to pick up, increasing Brazilian output by 206,000 bpd in 2014 and 325,000 bpd next year. Gulf of Mexico production is expected to increase by 155,000 bpd in 2015.
Among Opec countries, Iraqi production is seen increasing by 200,000 bpd and Libya's output stabilising at about 700,000 bpd, compared with recent production of about 900,000 bpd.
Iranian production and exports are unlikely to see further growth because Goldman analysts do not expect a resolution to the country's nuclear dispute with the West by the Nov 24 deadline, meaning sanctions on Tehran will not be lifted.
On the demand side, growth has only averaged 630,000 barrels per day year-on-year so far, less than half Goldman's initial forecast for 2014, the report said.
Global economic growth is forecast by Goldman analysts to increase to 3.5 per cent next year but there is a "risk that the historical relationship between global GDP growth and oil demand has weakened," the report said.
In the United States, rising shale production is increasingly affecting global energy flows and eroding Opec's pricing power, Goldman said.
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