Oil price rally continues as WTI crude hits one-year high

By Elizabeth Low and Alex Longley on 2/3/2021

(Bloomberg) --Oil extended gains after closing at the highest level in more than a year as declines in U.S. and Chinese crude stockpiles added impetus to a rally driven by tightening global supplies.

Futures in New York climbed to trade above $55 a barrel. The American Petroleum Institute reported crude inventories fell by 4.3 million barrels last week, people familiar with the data said. It would be a seventh decline in eight weeks if confirmed by government data later Wednesday. Chinese stockpiles dropped to the lowest in almost a year, according to data provider Kayrros.

The tighter supplies are bringing traders flocking back to the oil market. Holdings of WTI futures contracts are now at their highest level since April, having jumped by the equivalent of more than 235 million barrels so far this year.

Whittling down stockpiles has been a major objective for OPEC and its allies. A committee of the alliance is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the supply and demand situation as the pandemic continues to rage but more vaccines are being rolled out. Crude’s futures price curve is established in a bullish backwardation structure, suggesting investors are comfortable.

“The crude oil market is getting close to a frenzy,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB AB. “A reflection of the tightening global crude oil market is the continued strengthening of the Brent crude oil curve.”

Prices:

  • West Texas Intermediate rose 0.7% to $55.13 at 10:19 a.m. in London
  • Brent for April settlement advanced 0.9% to $57.99

An OPEC+ technical panel said Tuesday it expects the oil surplus will drain by the middle of the year after Saudi Arabia’s unilateral output cuts. Morgan Stanley said visible stockpiles have fallen by 3.6 million barrels a day over the last 30 days.

Prices further out along the futures curve are also climbing. WTI for next year topped $50 a barrel on Wednesday to trade at the highest since February. It may incentivize producers to add more supply in the coming months.

Other oil-market news:

  • The API also reported U.S. distillates and gasoline stockpiles fell by 1.62 million barrels and 240,000 barrels, respectively, last week. Crude inventories in the hub of Cushing declined by 1.9 million barrels.
  • A fragile recovery in Asian aviation is being snuffed out by a resurgence of Covid-19 in the region, pushing back forecasts for when air travel will get back to pre-virus levels and weighing on jet fuel margins.
  • The U.S. has filed court documents in a bid to seize oil on board a vessel because it says the crude came from Iran and falls under its terrorism laws.

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