By Alex Kimani
This year has been a true rollercoaster ride for the U.S. stock market, but it is increasingly looking to end on a high note.
The S&P 500 has climbed nearly 11% in the first two weeks of November as the world moves closer to vanquishing one of mankind’s biggest threats in modern history.
Oil is anything but dead.
And here are two reasons to stick with oil:
#1 Vaccine optimism will keep driving things forward Barely a week after pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and BionTech gave the world hope of an effective Covid-19 vaccine, peer Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA) has unveiled a potentially better cure.
Moderna has reported that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, has demonstrated efficacy rates of 94.5% in early tests and remains stable at 2° to 8°C (36° to 46°F), or roughly the same operating temperature of a standard home or medical refrigerator, for at least a month. In contrast, Pfizer’s vaccine needs a much cooler temperature of -94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70° C) and up to -109 degrees Fahrenheit for shipment for the vaccine to remain viable, which could pose a major challenge in some locations.
Not surprisingly, the energy sector—one of the hardest hit by the pandemic—has been on a tear since the Pfizer vaccine hit news feeds, jumping 23.4% over the past week alone.
The oil and gas industry has been deeply out of favor over the past few years, and trying to call a bottom on the bear market might be a fool’s errand. However, the latest developments offer hope to the incurable optimists that the worst might finally be in the rearview mirror for the industry.
More vaccines in the pipeline
Other than his never-ending tweetstorm, Trump has mainly kept a low public profile after losing to Biden in one of America’s most divisive elections in modern history. But a few days ago, he came out and publicly accused Pfizer of delaying its Covid-19 vaccine ostensibly in a bid to ruin his chances at re-election. Well, guess what, it appears several other pharmaceutical companies are guilty of the same curious timing of their own—maybe even better—vaccines.
CureVac‘s (NASDAQ:CVAC) says its CVnCoV vaccine is stable for three months at +5 Celsius, or the standard refrigerator temperature. The vaccine remains stable for up to ready-to-use room temperature for 24 hours.
Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline‘s have announced that their two-dose recombinant protein vaccine can be stored between 2°C- 8°C.
Johnson & Johnson also has a Covid-19 vaccine in the pipeline, which, if successful, could be stable at refrigerated temperatures of 2°C – 8°C for at least three months and up to two years at -20 °C.
In short, there seems to be no shortage of Covid-19 vaccine candidates that are potentially even more stable than the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine.
That’s music to the ears of the oil and gas market, coming after a second wave of Covid-19 infections effectively killed the oil rebound.
Better still, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could go into mainstream distribution in a matter of weeks. Indeed, broad vaccine access is expected by mid-2021.
That might be just in time to validate OPEC’s latest projections, which have called for the oil market to bounce back next year at a historically quick pace. According to the July report, OPEC sees oil demand spiking ~25% to 29.8 million barrels per day in 2021, slightly above levels recorded in 2019.
Obviously, a lot of that will hinge on OPEC’s ability to maintain production discipline, but so far, the coalition has remained committed after the harsh lessons of the past few months.
That said, a solid recovery in oil demand might take months, even in the event of a successful vaccine. The IEA has predicted a recovery in oil demand of 5.8 million barrels per day in 2021, only ~300,000 barrels per day higher than its forecast a month ago after Pfizer announced its vaccine.
#2 Our Energy Transition Won’t Happen Without Oil & Gas
No matter how massive the hydrogen hype is, or how much money is being poured into this as the answer to our clean energy future, it’s still not a near-term solution.
It’s science fiction to imagine that oil and gas will suddenly disappear because of renewable energy progress. This is all longer term, even if the media makes it seem like it’s going to happen tomorrow.
It’s been clearly established that natural gas will be the bridge to a clean energy transition, especially since electricity will likely end up being one of our most important energy sources, and natural gas is at least cleaner-burning than oil.
For the near to medium-term, it’s only the COVID demand culling that’s really trouncing oil, and all the positive vaccine news will likely continue to drive forward momentum. And in the meantime, if oil demand starts to slow compared to pre-COVID rates as we bolster renewables, natural gas demand should emerge stronger still.