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Oil jumps on report of falling US stockpiles, Iran tension

US crude drawdowns reported by American Petroleum Institute much larger than what market was expecting


OIL jumped to the highest in a week as an industry report showing a continued draw-down in US crude inventories tightened a supply outlook that's being threatened by rising tension in the Middle East.

Futures in New York rose as much as 2.3 per cent on Wednesday, as a slide in the dollar bolstered the appeal of commodities priced in the US currency. The American Petroleum Institute reported nationwide stockpiles fell by 8.13 million barrels last week, according to people familiar with the data. Government inventory figures were due to be published later on Wednesday.

After plunging almost 5 per cent last Tuesday, crude has clawed back most of those losses as Britain's seizure of a tanker carrying Iranian crude and the risk of retaliation by the Islamic republic kept investors wary. A resumption of US-China negotiations is providing some hope the trade war can be resolved, while Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell's two-day testimony to Congress that started on Wednesday will be watched closely for clues on rate cuts.

"The crude draws reported by the API yesterday were much larger than what the market was expecting," said Warren Patterson, a senior commodities strategist at ING Bank NV. "That is the key catalyst behind the move higher."

West Texas Intermediate crude for August delivery gained as much as US$1.35, or 2.3 per cent, to US$59.18 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest since July 2. It traded for US$58.98 as at 10.30am London time. The contract has rallied 4.8 per cent since last Tuesday's close.

Brent for September settlement increased US$1.15, or 1.8 per cent, to US$65.31 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe Exchange. The global benchmark crude traded at a US$6.25 premium to WTI for the same month.

The API figures may be changing expectations for the data coming later on Wednesday from the US Energy Information Administration. Analysts previously surveyed by Bloomberg predicted the EIA would show a drop of 2.9 million barrels, less than half the decline reported by the API. If the API figures are confirmed by the EIA data, it will be the fourth consecutive weekly decline in US crude inventories. Stockpiles have shrunk by 3.5 per cent since reaching the highest level in almost two years in the week through June 7.

The chief of staff for Iran's armed forces vowed on Tuesday to respond to Britain's seizure of the tanker off the coast of Gibraltar last week. The incident came after six vessels were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz since mid-May.

"The declining American inventories and Iran's warmongering rhetoric pave the road further for bulls to make a comeback," said Howie Lee, an economist at OCBC in Singapore. "But it promises to be a bumpy road ahead as there's still a lot of concern about declining energy demand." BLOOMBERG