2020 November 20 10:55
The Bunker Review was contributed by Marine Bunker Exchange (MABUX)
Oil prices slipped on Thursday as hopes for a vaccine were overshadowed by a surge in new cases of the coronavirus around the world, which raised concerns about the outlook for crude demand.
Brent crude settled down 14 cents to $44.20 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude slipped 8 cents to settle at $41.74 a barrel.
The Brent price contango, a market structure in which near-month barrels are cheaper than those in later months, implying current oversupply, was at its shallowest in more than four months. This suggests concerns about a glut are easing.
“COVID is definitely weighing on the market,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. For crude oil, specifically, though, there’s a risk that a new OPEC price war could emerge, Yawger said. “I think they will come to an agreement, but 24 hours ago, it seemed like a done deal,” he said.
While official data on Wednesday showed U.S. crude inventories rose 768,000 barrels last week, crucially the rise was smaller than the 1.7 million barrels analysts had expected in a Reuters poll.
Stocks of distillates, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 5.2 million barrels, far more than expectations.
But concerns about the demand outlook persist. The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 250,000, while daily cases in Japan and Russia surged. Among tougher curbs to prevent the virus spreading, New York City shut public schools.
U.S. oil prices slipped on Friday, dropping for a second day as concerns mounted about the hit to demand from the surge in COVID-19 infections forcing new lockdowns, but prices were supported by signs of movement on a stimulus deal in Washington.
West Texas Intermediate was down 9 cents, or 0.2%, at $41.65 a barrel by 0039 GMT, after dropping around 0.2% on Thursday. Brent crude was yet to trade, having fallen 0.3% in the previous session. The contracts are heading for a third week of gains.
U.S. Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to resume discussions on providing more COVID-19 relief as cases surge across the United States, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Thursday, according to CNBC.
“Any stimulus deal done before the holidays will help keep crude prices stay near the upper boundaries of its recent trading range,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.
Hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19 in the United States have jumped nearly 50% in the past fortnight, forcing states to impose new restrictions to curb an alarming spread of the virus with Americans facing the prospect of a grim winter and holiday season.
“While falling demand is bearish for oil prices, that has mostly been priced in and should not drive significant weakness as the U.S. announces more lockdowns over the next couple of weeks,” Moya said.
To counter the fall in demand from movement restrictions, OPEC+ members are likely to delay a plan to boost production from January by 2 million barrels per day, sources told Reuters.
OPEC+, a grouping that includes the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Russia and other producers, will discuss its output policy at a meeting on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
Oversupply concerns continue to weigh though as Libya has boosted its production much faster than analysts had expected, after shut-ins from the country’s conflict.
Loadings of Libya’s largest crude stream are set to increase, after the OPEC member raised production to pre-blockade levels of 1.25 million bpd.
Oil Future close 19th November, 2020
Brent crude: $ 44.20 (-0.14) /brl FM delivery Jan (FM=Front Month)
Light crude (WTI): $ 41.74 (-0.08) /brl FM delivery Jan
Gasoil ARA; $ 357.75 (-3.00) /mton FM delivery Dec
NY Harbor Ulsd: $ 391.20 (+2.06) /mton FM delivery Dec
Oil Futures trading at GMT 07.12; Brent: $-0.05, WTI: $+0.07. We expect fuel oil prices to change slightly today (Fuel Oil, means 380 HS plus VLSFO together), as well as MGO and NY Harbor ULSD.
All prices are based on Oil Future close last night Thursday evening.