Surprise Crude Drawdown Surprises Analysts, Causes 2.5% Price Rise

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Wednesday October 23, 2019

While it was hardly enough to determine a trend, crude prices climbed for a second consecutive session on Wednesday, this time by a substantial 2.5 percent, due to a surprise U.S. inventory draw supported by the prospect of deeper production cuts overseas.

According to Energy Information Administration data, crude stocks fell 1.7 million barrels last week compared to analytical expectations of a 2.2 million barrel build, and as a result Brent on Wednesday settled at $61.17 per barrel, up $1.47, or 2.5 percent; West Texas Intermediate rose $1.49, or 2.7 percent, to end at $55.97 per barrel.

The crude drawdown came at a time when refineries hiked runs by 429,000 barrels per day (bpd), oil imports fell, and exports reached a record high of 3.7 million bpd - which helped put into question the contention of the analytical community that demand for oil is waning.

Some analysts, unsurprisingly, were muted in their response: Gene McGillian, vice president of market research at Tradition Energy, said the drawdown "has put some buyers in the market, but it will be interesting to see if it lasts.

"While this will distract from demand destruction, the market will eventually come back to it."

McGillian argued that the drawdown did not signify a firming of demand but instead appeared temporary, and that investors are still concerned about the global economy following reports of slowing growth in China and Europe (even though reports have also shown China's demand for oil to be robust, combined with a report that it has lifted its crude oil import quotas to allow mostly private refiners to bring in a further 12.9 million tonnes this year).

John Kilduff, founding partner at Again Capital, was more charitable in his assessment of Wednesday's news: "Gasoline numbers are summer-like; that's endemic of a good economy [in the U.S.] and people driving to work."

In a similar vein, Matt Sallee, portfolio manager at Tortoise, said, "There's a fair bit to like in this report; we view inventories moving lower from here."