(S&P Global) Crude oil futures settled at 11-month highs on Wednesday after a larger-than-expected US crude inventory draw tightened supply outlooks and prospects for more stimulus funding increased as Democrats appeared poised to take control of the US Senate.
NYMEX February WTI settled 70 cents higher at $50.63/b and ICE March Brent settled up 70 cents at $54.30/b.
US commercial crude stocks declined 8.01 million barrels to 485.46 million barrels during the week ended Jan. 1, US Energy Information Administration data showed Jan. 6. The draw was the largest since the week ended Aug. 28 and left stocks 9.3% above the five-year average, in from 10.3% the week prior.
Analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts Jan. 4 had called for a 4.40-million-barrel crude stock decline. The larger-than-expected draw came on the heels of Saudi Arabia announcing at the end of the Jan. 5 OPEC+ meeting that it will limit its February and March crude production to 8.119 million b/d, well below its quota of 9.119 million b/d.
NYMEX February RBOB settled 2.29 cents higher at $1.4750/gal and February ULSD was up 98 points at $1.5287/gal.
“Crude prices surged after EIA crude oil inventory report posted the largest draw since August and as a ‘Blue Wave’ bolstered the prospects of stimulus and sent most risky assets higher,” OANDA senior market analyst Edward Moya said in a note. “WTI crude seems poised to rise higher as the Biden administration will clamp down on US crude production, the Saudis tentatively alleviated oversupply concerns with their 1-million bpd cut present, and as the dollar’s days seem numbered.”
It appears likely that Democratic candidates will prevail in twin Senate runoff elections in Georgia, placing Democrats in control of all both houses and the presidency for the first time since 2010. The incoming Biden presidency was already expected to be supportive of oil prices both through passage of more stimulus spending and fostering a weaker US dollar, and now with a Democratic majority in both houses the administration is likely to face fewer headwinds in implementing its agenda.
The ICE US Dollar edged down to 89.4 in afternoon trading, on pace to close at the weakest since April 2018.
Total gasoline stockpiles climbed 4.52 million barrels to 241.08 million barrels, the highest since the week ended Aug. 14, EIA data showed. It was the largest one-week build since the week ended April 10 but was less than what is typically seen in the last week of the year and stocks were left around 0.1% above the five-year average, the weakest supply overhang since early October.
Distillate inventories were up 6.39 million barrels at 158.42 million barrels.
Total product supplied, EIA’s proxy for demand, hit an 18-week low 17.05 million b/d last week after falling 2.26 million b/d, the biggest one-week drop since late August. While end of year holidays typically weigh on refined product consumption, last week’s decline pushed demand to more than 11% behind the five-year average, out from 3% the week prior and opening the largest deficit since late September.