Oil rides to seven-week high on Gulf storm, tightening U.S. supply

By Alex Nussbaum on 7/10/2019

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- Oil rode a tide of bullish news to its highest price in almost two months as a potential hurricane roiled the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. crude inventories dropped.

Futures advanced 4.5% to the highest settlement since May 22. The storm brewing in the Gulf could reach hurricane status before slamming ashore this weekend, according to government meteorologists. Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and other major oil producers are evacuating crews from offshore installations and almost one-third of Gulf crude output has been halted.

The Energy Department. meanwhile, reported that U.S. crude stockpiles shrank by 9.5 MMbbl last week, surpassing all 13 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. President Donald Trump vowed to increase sanctions on Iran “substantially,” adding to already simmering tensions in the Persian Gulf.

“The market is reacting to the impact of the storm and the price is getting further support from the crude oil inventory draw,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC in Houston.

In Washington, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank is concerned about the economic implications of global trade disputes, which investors took as a sign the Fed is ready to cut interest rates.

West Texas Intermediate crude for August delivery rose $2.60 to settle at $60.43/bbl on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent for September settlement climbed $2.85 to $67.01 on the ICE Futures Europe Exchange.

The global benchmark crude traded at a $6.49 premium to WTI for the same month.

“We started the morning pretty strong and on top of that the tropical depression in the Gulf was already leading us higher,” said Brian Kessens, a portfolio manager and managing director at Tortoise in Leawood, Kansas. “And Powell certainly didn’t hurt any markets with his dovish comments.”

The Gulf storm system was about 155 mi (250 km) from the mouth of the Mississippi River, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 2 p.m. New York time. It could turn into a tropical storm by Thursday and turn into Hurricane Barry on Friday, according to the agency.

Chevron said Tuesday that it began shutting in five of its platforms and is starting to evacuate all associated personnel. Royal Dutch Shell Plc slightly reduced production on two platforms and is removing non-essential personnel. BP Plc and Exxon also began evacuations.

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