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James Hyerczyk
WTI and Brent Crude Oil

U.S. West Texas Intermediate and international benchmark Brent crude oil futures are trading slightly better on Wednesday shortly before the regular session opening and the release of the government’s weekly inventories report at 15:30 GMT.

Crude oil prices finished higher for a sixth straight session on Tuesday after industry data showed a bigger than expected drop in inventories and investors downplayed rising new deaths and infections in the pandemic and their potential impact on future demand.

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At 10:46 GMT, March WTI crude oil futures are trading $53.38, up $0.14 or +0.26% and March Brent crude oil is at $56.68, up $0.10 or +0.18%. Both contracts are off their highs and in a position to form a potentially bearish technical reversal.

Rising coronavirus cases are grabbing the headlines, but may not be having that great of an effect on crude oil prices. Prices may not be declining on the news, but we can’t determine that it’s not limiting gains.

We do know that prices are higher than they were when the impact of COVID-19 started to hit the U.S. economy last March although demand is still well off levels at that time. The divergence suggests that buyers are betting heavily that the virus will eventually be contained and the vaccines are going to work.

American Petroleum Institute Weekly Inventories Report

The American Petroleum Institute (API) reported late Tuesday a draw in crude oil inventories of 5.821 million barrels for the week ending January 8. Analysts were looking for an inventory draw of 2.266 million barrels for the week.

The API also reported a build in gasoline inventories of 1.876 million barrels for the week ending January 8 – compared to the previous week’s 5.473-million-barrel build. Analysts had expected a 2.695-million-barrel build for the week.

Distillate inventories also saw another large increase of 4.433 million barrels for the week, compared to last week’s 7.136-million-barrel increase, while Cushing inventories fell this week by 232,000 barrels.

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Daily Forecast

Prices are still be buoyed by Saudi Arabia’s offer last week to single-handedly and voluntarily cut another 1 million barrels per day off its oil production in February and March.

In my opinion, buyers are reacting to this news as if there is no real downside risk because they believe OPEC+ will make adjustments to production to meet any significant demand changes, if necessary.

Traders will have the opportunity to react to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) weekly inventories report at 15:30 GMT. It is expected to show a 2.7 million barrel drawdown.

U.S. oil production held steady at 11.0 million bpd for the fourth week running, according to the latest data provided by the Energy Information Administration. This is still millions of barrels below the 13.1 million bpd high reached in March 2020.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.
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