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All-Time High Oil Demand: Goldman Sachs Forecasts Imminent Deficits and Price Surge

Economic uncertainty and reduced rig count in the US drive warnings of a sharp rise in oil prices amid record-breaking demand.
Investment banking titan, Goldman Sachs, has issued a warning of impending record-breaking demand in the global oil market. This surge, accompanied by considerable deficits and escalated crude oil prices, is attributed to the diminishing rig count in the United States and widespread uncertainty about long-term oil demand.

In an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia" on Monday, Daan Struyven, Goldman's Head of Oil Research, detailed the bank's prediction of "pretty sizable deficits" in the second half of the year. As per his explanation, these deficits are anticipated due to the demand for oil reaching unprecedented highs.

Goldman Sachs anticipates that the price of Brent crude, a key benchmark, will jump from its current value just north of $80 per barrel to an estimated $86 per barrel by the end of the year.

Struyven clarified that while US crude production saw significant increases over the previous year, the pace of this growth is predicted to taper off for the remainder of 2023. The cause? A decrease in the number of operational rigs. Reports from last week showed that the US oil rig count has fallen to its lowest point since March 2022.

Struyven also pointed out the failure of the G20 energy ministers to reach a unified agreement on phasing out fossil fuels during last week's summit in India. This deadlock further illustrates the "very substantial" uncertainty clouding the future of oil demand.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), on the other hand, anticipates the oil markets to tighten in the year's second half. In its recent report, the agency cut back its global oil demand growth projections. However, IEA's Director Fatih Birol acknowledged these projections could be amended upward, depending on China and other countries' economic growth.

Oil prices experienced a roller-coaster ride for much of 2022, partly due to Western sanctions on Russia, a significant producer. However, as the year neared its end, prices experienced a sharp decline, thanks to a milder winter in Europe and a slowdown in global economic activity.

In a move to balance prices, OPEC+, consisting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies including Russia, agreed in October to reduce its output by approximately 2% of world demand from November until the end of 2023. Further cuts were agreed upon later to maintain equilibrium in prices.

As of Monday, Brent crude futures had reached over $82 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures in the US were trading above $78 per barrel. With these trends and the forecast from Goldman Sachs, the oil industry is bracing itself for an eventful near future.

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