The price of oil is surging, and that's great news for oil stocks like ExxonMobil (XOM 2.21%), ConocoPhillips (COP 3.81%), and Suncor Energy (SU 3.52%). At 2:35 p.m. EST on Monday, shares of Exxon, Conoco, and Suncor were up 4.4%, 6.4%, and 8.6%, respectively.
Driving the gains, as it's been doing all month long, is the rising price of oil. Brent crude prices gained 3.6% today, while WTI crude costs 4.1% more today than it did Friday. Indeed, after adding nearly $10 since the start of the month, WTI crude is approaching $62 a barrel, capping a surge from less than $36 at the end of October.
What's driving the spikes in oil price? Hope for an economic recovery was already spurring demand for oil around the globe, while Saudi Arabia has been hesitant to increase production too much, too fast.
Then, last week's deep freeze over Texas curtailed production in the U.S. even as it increased demand for oil and gas for heating. According to IHS Markit, the cold snap down South prevented as many as 4 million barrels per day from being produced, and another 6 million per day from being refined.
Today, we learned that Iraq has suspended an oil supply agreement with China, objecting that it's not getting paid enough in light of how much oil prices have already recovered -- and how much higher they might go.
How high might oil prices go, and what would that mean for oil stocks like Exxon, Conoco, and Suncor? According to a report just out from Goldman Sachs (GS 3.20%), $70 a barrel isn't out of the question within the next couple of months, and oil could hit $75 in the third quarter of 2021. J.P. Morgan analysts similarly see a good case for price increases -- maybe not $80 or $90 a barrel, says the bank, but additional price increases of $5 to $10 look possible if economies shut down by the coronavirus continue to reopen.
The real wild card, both analysts seem to agree, is the airline industry. JP Morgan calls air travel an important source of demand, but expects it to remain curtailed for the foreseeable future. Goldman Sachs is more optimistic, and predicts that travel will snap back in the second half of the year as vaccines become more widely distributed.
Which of these analysts are proved right could be the difference between oil continuing to drift up into the high $60s, or rushing all the way into the $70s or beyond.