Oil futures lose steam on threat of U.S. crude inventory growth

By Alex Longley on 1/30/2018

LONDON (Bloomberg) -- Oil’s slowing down as danger signs flash ahead.

Futures fell for a second day as U.S. crude stockpiles were seen expanding for the first time in 11 weeks, ending a record run of declines. A sharp contraction in Brent’s premium to West Texas Intermediate may lead to further inventory gains as U.S. exports grow less economical.

While U.S. oil has risen more than 7% this year as OPEC trims supply to reduce a glut, speculation is increasing that the rally may encourage growth in American output, which is already at the highest level in more than three decades. The nation’s crude  inventories probably rose by 800,000 bBL last week, according to a Bloomberg survey before government data Wednesday.

“You have a correction, but we need to see how long it will continue,” said Olivier Jakob, managing director of Petromatrix GmbH in Zug, Switzerland. “There is the narrowing of the WTI-Brent spread, which is bearish for WTI. The U.S. needs to export crude otherwise it will translate into oil moving back into stocks.”

WTI for March delivery lost 67 cents, or 1%, to $64.89/bbl on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 8:05 a.m. New York time, after falling 58 cents on Monday. Total volume traded was about 41% above the 100-day average.

Brent for March settlement dropped 47 cents to $68.99/bbl on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, after sliding $1.06 on Monday. The global benchmark crude traded at a premium of $4.11 to WTI, after reaching the smallest premium since August on Monday.

U.S. stockpiles fell to 411.6 MMbbl in the week ended Jan. 19, the lowest level since February 2015. Nationwide oil production climbed to 9.88 MMbpd in the period, the highest in weekly government data since 1983.

Other news. BP Plc returned to the peak-oil debate Tuesday, saying some companies’ assets will be left undrilled. “We’re facing competition from alternative sources of energy like we’ve never had before,” upstream head Bernard Looney said. Libyan National Oil Co. Chairman Mustafa Sanalla met an official from BP in London on Monday for talks on the company’s return to exploration in the nation. Russia’s top oil driller, Eurasia Drilling Co., reported an 18% increase in oil and gas wells in 2017.

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