Oil Prices Volatile as Markets Weigh Impact of China Reopening & US Inventory Builds

Oil prices have been volatile this week as markets attempt to weigh the impact of China’s reopening, supply curbs announced by Russia, and rising concerns of a US recession. On Wednesday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) raised its 2023 global oil demand forecast by +200,000 bpd to 101.9 million bpd from a prior estimate of 101.7 million bpd, citing the reopening of China’s economy.[0] The IEA said that China will account for nearly half of the global oil demand growth this year.[1]

Meanwhile, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported on Wednesday that US crude oil inventories as of February 10 were +7.3% above the seasonal 5-year average, while gasoline inventories were -4.9% below the seasonal 5-year average, and distillate inventories were -15.3% below the 5-year seasonal average. US crude oil production in the week ended February 10 was unchanged w/w at a 2-3/4 year high of 12.3 million bpd, which is only 0.8 million bpd (-6.1%) below the Feb-2020 record-high of 13.1 million bpd.[2]

The EIA also reported on Tuesday that crude oil stockpiles increased by 16.3 million barrels in the week ended February 10. Inventory levels currently total 471.4 million barrels, which is approximately 8% higher than the five-year average for this time of year.[3] Gasoline inventories rose by 2.3 million barrels to 241.9 million, while distillate stocks fell 1.3 million barrels to 119.2 million barrels.[4]

The US Department of Energy late Monday said it plans to sell 26 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve starting in April, sending West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude prices down 1% to trade near $79 a barrel.[5] On Tuesday, the industry-funded American Petroleum Institute reported that US commercial crude inventories expanded by 10.5 million barrels last week, according to people familiar with the figures.[6] Data showed that stockpiles of gasoline and distillates rose as well.[6] WTI crude lost as much as 3.3% when hitting an intraday low of $77.46 a barrel on Tuesday.[7]

0. “Oil rates rise with optimistic China request forecast” MENAFN.COM, 16 Feb. 2023, https://menafn.com/1105584487/Oil-rates-rise-with-optimistic-China-request-forecast

1. “Oil slightly lower on mixed U.S. economic data, crude stocks growth” CNBC, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/02/16/oil-edges-up-as-market-shrugs-off-us-inventory-surge.html

2. “Crude Falls On Dollar Strength And Surge In EIA Crude Inventories” Barchart, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.barchart.com/story/news/14237607/crude-falls-on-dollar-strength-and-surge-in-eia-crude-inventories

3. “USOIL Shrugs Off US Stockpile Expansion, Helped by China Optimism” FXCM, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.fxcm.com/markets/insights/usoi-shrugs-off-us-stockpile-expansion-helped-by-china-optimism/

4. “WTI drops and extends its losses below $79.00 after an increase in US oil inventories” FXStreet, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.fxstreet.com/news/wti-drops-and-extends-its-losses-below-7900-after-an-increase-in-us-oil-inventories-202302151935

5. “Oil declines on U.S. requirement to sell more crude from the SPR” BNN Bloomberg, 14 Feb. 2023, https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/oil-declines-on-u-s-requirement-to-sell-more-crude-from-the-spr-1.1883387

6. “Oil Extends Drop on Large Stockpile Build and Inflation Concerns” Bloomberg, 14 Feb. 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-02-14/oil-extends-drop-on-large-stockpile-build-and-inflation-concerns

7. “Oil prices drop as the US plans to sell more oil from strategic reserve” Markets Insider, 14 Feb. 2023, https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/commodities/oil-prices-spr-crude-petroleum-reserve-energy-global-market-supply-2023-2