West Texas Intermediate futures are heading for the best run of weekly increases since mid-February.
Oil appears set to muster a fourth straight weekly gain as product markets remained tight amid strong demand, eclipsing concerns about an economic slowdown that have roiled financial markets.
West Texas Intermediate futures traded near $113 a barrel and are heading for the best run of weekly increases since mid-February. Rising demand for motor fuels and shrinking inventories ahead of the summer driving season underscored a fundamentally tight oil market even as broader economic fears shook equity markets. US. retail gasoline and diesel prices surged to record levels.
“There continues to be a disconnect between the risk financial markets associate with crude financial assets and the physical market that is trying to digest SPR releases to meet product demand,” said Rebecca Babin, senior energy trader at CIBC Private Wealth Management. “This dichotomy keeps markets fragmented and volatile – it could end up being a cruel summer for energy traders.”
Crude has surged almost 50% this year, also helped along by Russia’s assault on Ukraine that sent shock waves through markets. While the US and UK have announced bans on Russian exports, flows to Asia have picked up. China is seeking to replenish strategic stockpiles with cheap Russian oil even as officials grapple to suppress Covid-19 outbreaks. India has also boosted purchases.
There were mixed signals from China on Friday. While banks cut a key interest rate for long-term loans by a record to bolster a slowing economy, Shanghai found the first cases of Covid-19 outside quarantine in six days. It raises questions on whether the easing of the city’s lockdown will be impacted.
- WTI for June delivery rose 4 cents to $112.25 a barrel at 10:26 a.m. in New York.
- WTI for July, which has greater volume and open interest, rose 10 cents to $109.99
- Brent for July rose 14 cents to $112.18 a barrel
- The global benchmark’s prompt spread, the difference between its two nearest contracts, widened as much as $2.45 in backwardation — a bullish pattern — compared with $1.80 a week ago
Traders are also keeping a close eye on refined products market, as a a global crunch on inventories coincides with entering the summer driving season. On Wednesday, US crude data revealed continued market tightness with gasoline inventories falling to the lowest since December and a pickup in demand.
Oil’s jump has contributed to the fastest inflation in decades, prompting the US Federal Reserve to vow that it’ll go on raising interest rates until there are clear signs that price pressures are easing. That’s spurred wild shifts in investors’ appetite for risk, swinging equity, bond and commodity markets.