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Oil industry faces a 'sentiment problem': Nuttall

Eric Nuttall, partner and senior portfolio manager at Ninepoint Partners, remains optimistic about the global oil industry despite concerns of a potential slowdown in demand. According to Nuttall, there's a prevailing sentiment problem rather than a fundamental issue within the market.

During a recent energy-focused trip to Saudi Arabia, Nuttall observed a consensus among industry experts that the International Energy Agency (IEA) is overly pessimistic about oil demand in 2024. He suggested that the IEA's projections, indicating a demand of 1.2 million barrels per day, are unduly conservative. In contrast, OPEC, with a track record of more accurate predictions, forecasts a demand of 2.25 million barrels per day for the same period.

Nuttall expressed concerns about the politicization of the IEA, stating that it no longer serves its original purpose. He highlighted the need for a more balanced and accurate assessment of global oil demand to guide market decisions.

Addressing the market's current infatuation with narratives surrounding slowing demand and potential OPEC discord, Nuttall emphasized that these narratives are not reflective of the actual market fundamentals. He reiterated that the industry is grappling with a sentiment problem rather than a significant downturn in demand.

Regarding Canada's energy outlook, Nuttall pointed out disparities in the approach to the clean energy transition. Drawing comparisons with Saudi Arabia, he argued that Canada is less effective in navigating the shift. According to Nuttall, Saudi Arabia is wisely promoting oil and natural gas production, recognizing the continued demand for these resources. The country leverages its resource wealth to invest in technologies like carbon capture, demonstrating a more strategic and forward-thinking approach.

Nuttall expressed dissatisfaction with Canada's strategy, citing examples like taxing farmers who use natural gas for crop drying as a misguided solution to the climate crisis. He urged Canada to learn from other resource-rich nations and adopt smarter strategies to balance energy production and environmental sustainability.

Despite concerns about sentiment, Nuttall believes that strong fundamentals position Canadian energy stocks for success in the coming year. He attributed recent mergers and acquisitions in the industry to a response to poor sentiment, with companies seeking to gain relevance on the generalist investor's list by getting bigger.

In conclusion, Nuttall's insights highlight the need for a more nuanced understanding of the oil industry's dynamics. While acknowledging challenges in sentiment, he remains confident in the fundamental strength of the market and advocates for a more pragmatic and strategic approach to address the evolving energy landscape.