(Reuters) - Crude oil will likely continue falling before posting only a mild recovery in the second half of this year, a Reuters survey of analysts showed on Friday, with prices set to average even less in 2015 than during the global financial crisis.
The survey of 33 economists and analysts forecast North Sea Brent crude LCOc1 would average $58.30 a barrel in 2015, down $15.70 from last month’s poll, in the biggest month-on-month forecast revision since prices last collapsed in 2008-2009.
If the forecasts for 2015 prove correct prices will average the lowest since 2005, even if they recover after June, illustrating the impact of OPEC’s decision to maintain output in the face of fast-growing U.S. shale output.
“It should be a year of differing halves. The likelihood of further near-term fund selling will see Brent trade down to $42 per barrel and WTI at $40 per barrel by the end of Q1 2015,” ANZ analyst Mark Pervan said.
“The mood will remain cautious for the remainder of the first half of the year, before high-cost U.S. supply discipline starts to emerge in the third quarter,” he added.
Twenty seven of the 28 analysts who contributed to data for both the December and January Reuters polls have slashed their forecasts. More than half of those lowered their projections by $15 a barrel or more from last month.
European investment bank Barclays, which has the lowest forecast according to the poll, cut its 2015 price outlook for Brent by almost 40 percent to $44 per barrel.
Goldman Sachs, widely-seen as one of the most influential banks in commodity markets, sees WTI hovering around the $40 per barrel mark for much of the first half of this year. It has slashed its 2015 Brent forecast by $33.40 to $50.40 per barrel.
Most of the analysts were in agreement that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would maintain its stance of not cutting production despite oil prices touching multi-year lows, with any tightening of supplies expected to come from higher-cost producers outside the group.
“Low crude prices negatively affect (U.S.) shale oil profitability,” Intesa Sanpaolo analyst Daniela Corsini said.
“I expect to see lower rig counts and lower investments over the next months... before the end of the year, shale oil supply should start contracting.”
Brent has averaged $49.57 so far in January, consolidating over the past two weeks after hitting a near six-year low of $45.19 a barrel on Jan. 13. It was trading around $48.75 on Thursday.
The poll forecasts U.S. light crude CLc1 will average $54.20 a barrel this year and $64.90 in 2016. WTI has averaged $47.24 a barrel so far in 2015, hitting a post-2009 low of $43.58 on Thursday.
Brent’s premium CL-LCO1=R to U.S. crude, known as the Brent-WTI spread, is expected to widen to $4.10 a barrel in 2015 from around $2.20 so far this year, the poll showed.
That would be the smallest annual Brent-WTI average since 2010. Brent-WTI averaged more than $12.50 a barrel between 2011-2014 as the shale boom drove the U.S. benchmark to a steep discount to its North Sea rival.
Writing by David Sheppard in London; Editing by Michael Urquhart