Oil rises on surprise draw in US stocks, prospect of OPEC action

A pumpjack in Signal Hill, California. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2019

Oil rises on surprise draw in US stocks, prospect of OPEC action

  • OPEC, allies to mull deeper production cuts
  • Weak demand growth outlook weighs on sentiment

HOUSTON: Oil rose above $60 a barrel on Wednesday after government data showed a surprise draw in US crude stocks and as the prospect of deeper output cuts by OPEC and its allies offered support.
US crude stocks fell by 1.7 million barrels last week as refineries hiked crude runs by 429,000 barrels per day (bpd), the Energy Information Administration said. Analysts had expected an increase in US inventories of 2.2 million barrels.
Brent crude futures were up 44 cents, or 0.74%, to $60.14 a barrel at 10:13 a.m. CDT . West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for December delivery were up 48 cents, or 0.88%, to $54.96 per barrel.
Oil prices had fallen earlier in the session on data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showing US stocks rising more than analysts had expected, by 4.5 million barrels to 437 million barrels.
The US Energy Department’s report “has put some buyers in the market, but it will be interesting to see if it lasts. While this will distract from demand destruction, the market will eventually come back to it,” said Gene McGillian, vice president of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
The draw in US oil stocks appeared to have been caused by temporary market factors including higher refinery runs, rather than a fundamental firming of oil demand, and investors are still concerned about the global economy following reports of slowing growth in China and Europe, McGillian added.
A larger-than-expected decline in US gasoline stocks also supported prices, analysts said. Gasoline stocks fell by 3.1 million barrels, compared with analysts expectations of a 2.3 million-barrel drop.
“The continued decline in product inventory makes for a bullish report,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC in New York. “Gasoline numbers are summer-like; that’s endemic of a good economy (in the US) and people driving to work.”
Also helping to underpin prices, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is mulling whether to deepen production cuts amid concerns of weak demand growth next year.
OPEC and other oil producers including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, have pledged to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) until March 2020. OPEC and other non-members are scheduled to meet again Dec. 5-6.
“With the headwinds of strong US producer hedging and high freight rates fading, we expect stronger Brent timespreads and higher prices in coming weeks, with upside risk to our year-end $62 per barrel forecast,” Goldman Sachs said in a note.
The investment bank expects Brent prices to continue trading around $60 a barrel in 2020.


WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Keeping things in balance

Updated 08 December 2019

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Keeping things in balance

  • The over-compliance will result in cuts of 1.7 million bpd

Brent crude rose above $64 per barrel after OPEC+ producers unanimously agreed to deepen output cuts by 503,000 barrels per day (bpd) to a total 1.7 million bpd till the end of the first quarter of 2020.

The breakdown is that OPEC producers are due to cut 372,000 bpd and non-OPEC producers to cut 131,000 bpd.

Current market dynamics led to this decision as oil price-positive news outweighed more bearish developments in the US-China trade narrative that has weighed on oil prices throughout the year, with US crude exports rising to a record 3.4 million bpd in October versus 3.1 million bpd in September.

OPEC November crude oil output levels at 29.8 million bpd show that producers were already overcomplying with its current 1.2 million bpd output cuts deal by around 400,000 bpd. 

The over-compliance will result in cuts of 1.7 million bpd, especially when Saudi Arabia continues to voluntarily cut more than its share.

This makes the agreed 1.7 million bpd output cuts pragmatic since it won’t taken any barrels out of the market.

It isn’t a matter of OPEC making room in the market for other additional supplies from non-OPEC sources, as OPEC barrels can’t be easily replaced.

Instead, this is about avoiding any oversupply that might damage the global supply-demand balance.

Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has effectively kept his promise and managed to smoothly forge a consensus among OPEC and non-OPEC producers.

He has also successfully managed the 24-country coalition of OPEC+ including Russia in reaching an agreement.

Despite suggestions otherwise in recent coverage of the Vienna meeting, the deeper cuts announced on Friday have nothing to do with the Aramco IPO. Let’s remember this meeting was scheduled six months ago and the IPO has been in the works for much longer.

The Aramco share sale did not target a specific oil price. If that was a motivating factor it could easily have chosen another time.