The Business Times

Crude oil falls by more than 1% as petrol weighs

Published Tue, Feb 7, 2017 · 10:53 PM

[NEW YORK] Oil prices fell more than 1 per cent on Tuesday, pressured by growing petrol stockpiles in the United States as evidence of a burgeoning revival in US shale production could complicate efforts by Opec and other producers to reduce a supply glut.

Brent crude settled down 67 cents, or 1.2 per cent, at US$55.05 a barrel, while US crude ended 84 cents, or 1.6 per cent, lower at US$52.17.

US petrol futures fell to US$1.4875 a gallon, after dropping earlier in the session below the 200 day moving average on a continuous chart, a bearish technical signal.

"It's a supply-driven setback ... We are within 2 million barrels of the record in US petrol stocks that we saw last February," said Tony Headrick, energy markets analyst at CHS Hedging. "A strong build in inventory reports could weigh on gasoline in a seasonal time frame where petrol demand is weak."

Analysts forecast that US crude stockpiles rose 2.5 million barrels last week - a fifth straight weekly build - while petrol inventories grew 1.1 million barrels - a sixth consecutive weekly build.

US petrol stocks are rising much faster than normal at the start of the year, threatening to leave refiners struggling to clear an overhang of motor fuel later in the year.

Inventory estimates from trade group the American Petroleum Institute are due on Tuesday at 4.30pm (2130 GMT) while US government data will be released on Wednesday.

The oil market has been supported for two months as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other exporters have agreed to cut output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) since the start of the year. Opec and Russia have together cut at least 1.1 million bpd so far.

But market players are concerned that rising US shale production and signs of slowing demand growth could offset these efforts.

The US government slightly trimmed its forecast for 2017 production but the market shrugged off the monthly report as its demand forecast was little changed. "The general perception is that Opec is cutting production, which is supporting prices, but high stock levels, rising rig counts and growing US production are capping gains," said Tamas Varga, analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil Associates.

Societe Generale oil analyst Michael Wittner said US shale oil output was recovering faster than expected.

"Rig counts are increasing at an accelerating pace, and given the technological advances of the past three years, this should translate into significant supply," Mr Wittner said. "US shale is coming back, and it's coming back strong."

Chinese oil demand grew in 2016 at the slowest pace in at least three years, Reuters calculations showed, the latest sign of slower demand from the world's largest energy consumer.


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