Oil futures fall sharply after data shows USA gasoline build

Bloomberg News              Oil storage tanks at Cushing Okla

Bloomberg News Oil storage tanks at Cushing Okla

"The rebalancing in USA crude stocks may have got under way, but concerns about further gasoline builds are rife even as the US summer driving season shifts up a gear", said Stephen Brennock, an analyst with PVM Oil Associates.

Brent crude futures were up 27 cents at $55.16 a barrel at 1106 GMT, while USA crude futures were up 20 cents at $52.61.

Amid rising optimism about where oil prices are going, the EIA reported a 1-million-barrel draw in crude oil inventories for the week to April 14, just a day after the American Petroleum Institute estimated commercial oil inventories had fallen by a modest 840,000 bpd but gasoline inventories had gone up surprisingly by 1.37 million barrels. Gasoline stocks posted a counter-seasonal build of 1.5 million barrels, despite heavier refining activity.

And OPEC, in the wake of its production-freeze agreement late previous year, appears to be once again losing market share - the recapturing of which was the reason the oil sheiks engaged in their price war in 2014 in the first place.

The continued growth in USA production and the rise in stockpiles forced the market to respond bearishly based on the increased inventory outlook. While the OPEC and other countries remain compliant with the deal, the production in the United States has increased by more than half a million barrels per day.

"They drop production, we add production, and so at end of the day it's ugly", said Robert Yawger, energy futures strategist at Mizuho Americas.

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TheNewsGuru.com reports that on December 10, 2016, OPEC won the backing of countries outside the oil cartel to join supply cuts for the first time since 2001, overcoming the final major obstacle for a global agreement to curb output.

Benchmark Brent crude futures were down 56 cents at $55.33 at 0618 GMT (2:18 a.m. ET).

Analysts, however, are not buying the latest rhetoric coming out of OPEC and Middle Eastern producers, and expect oil prices to continue to be vulnerable, in light of rising USA shale production. Due to the long period of low energy prices, the authorities of the oil states are trying to find other sources of income.

USA shale production in May is likely to post the biggest monthly gain in more than two years, government data showed on Monday, as producers step up the pace of drilling with oil prices holding above $50 a barrel. "That doesn't really signal a market that's too concerned about geopolitical hotspots".

Saudi crude exports fell to 6.96 million bpd in February, from 7.7 million bpd in January, according to the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (Jodi). The group agreed to let Iran pump an additional 90,000 barrels a day to reach output of about 3.8 million as the country recovers from sanctions.

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