Oil Climbs Amid Output Cuts and Early Signs of Demand Recovery

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By Sharon Cho and James Thornhill –  Bloomberg.com

  • EIA reports surprise drop in American gasoline stockpiles
  • WTI futures rise around 13% after jumping 22% on Wednesday

Oil advanced for a second day on signs fuel consumption is starting to recover in the world’s biggest economies, while global production cuts also begin to offset the demand destruction caused by the coronavirus.

Futures in New York rose around 13% to above $17 a barrel. They surged by more than a fifth of their value on Wednesday as Energy Information Administration data showed a surprise drop in American gasoline stockpiles and a jump in demand. In China, traffic is returning to the streets, supporting a boost in fuel consumption and refinery processing rates.

On the supply side, U.S. output will fall by 2 million barrels a day in May compared with March and the price of crude has likely bottomed out, according to the head of trading house Mercuria Energy Group Ltd. Russia also flagged that its production would fall by around a fifth.

Despite the indications of a tentative rebound in demand, there’s still a massive global glut of oil that will need to be cleared before there can be any meaningful recovery in prices. A fleet of supertankers carrying 43 million barrels of Saudi Arabian crude is bearing down on the U.S., which will add to the over-supply in the world’s largest economy.

“Oil appears to have caught some tailwinds” with the EIA data less bearish than expected and gasoline demand recovering, said Vandana Hari, the founder of Vanda Insights in Singapore. “But it’s too early to call an inflection point.”

WTI for June delivery rose 13% to $17.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 11:3 a.m. in Singapore after jumping 22% on Wednesday. The discount for June futures relative to July was around $4 after blowing out to almost $8 Tuesday as major index funds ditched the front-month contract.

Brent added 9.1% to $24.60 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange after climbing 10% in the previous session.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told the Interfax news agency that the nation’s oil companies will cut production by about 19% from February levels. Nigeria, which has been struggling to sell its oil even at $10 a barrel, will ship the smallest volume of its key Qua Iboe crude grade since 2016 in May and June.

The EIA reported a smaller-than-expected 8.99 million-barrel increase in U.S. crude stockpiles and a 3.64 million-barrel build at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for futures. U.S. gasoline inventories fell by 3.67 million barrels, compared with expectations for a build of 2.49 million. Weekly gasoline supplied, an indicator of demand, rose by 549,000 barrels a day.

Other oil-market news
  • China’s head-start on the path to recovery in oil demand is giving traders a rare opportunity to profit as coronavirus lockdowns continue to depress consumption in other parts of the world.
  • China’s three biggest state producers will slash their spending plans this year by a combined $19 billion, with PetroChina Co.’s 32% chop leading the way, the fattest among global majors.
  • The Trump administration may announce as soon as Thursday a plan to offer loans to the ailing oil industry possibly in exchange for a financial stake, according to two people familiar with the matter.
  • Crude futures rose 4.7% to 235.1 yuan a barrel on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange after advancing 8.7% on Wednesday.

 

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