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James Hyerczyk
WTI and Brent Crude Oil

U.S. West Texas Intermediate and international-benchmark Brent crude oil futures are edging higher on Thursday, helped by Wednesday’s government report that showed another draw in crude stockpiles, and after OPEC+ members agreed to continue its reduced output policy.

Additional support is being generated by optimism over a speedier U.S. economic recovery on the prospect of additional stimulus from Washington and a successful rollout of the U.S. vaccination program.

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At 10:04 GMT, March WTI crude oil futures are trading $56.09, up $0.40 or +0.72% and April Brent crude oil is at $58.79, up $0.33 or +0.56%.

US Crude Stockpiles Fall, Gasoline Inventories Surge:  EIA

U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell while gasoline inventories jumped unexpectedly, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Crude inventories fell by 994,000 barrels in the week to January 29 to 475.7 million barrels, their lowest since March. Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a 446,000-barrel rise.

U.S. gasoline stocks rose by 4.5 million barrels in the week to 252.2 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for a 1.1 million-barrel rise.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 9,000 barrels in the week to 162.8 million barrels.

In other news, crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. futures fell by 1.5 million barrels in the last week. Refinery crude runs fell by 80,000 barrels per day last week, as utilization rates rose by 0.6 percentage points to 82.3% of capacity, the EIA said.

Net U.S. crude imports rose by 1.3 million bpd.

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OPEC+ Sticks with Oil Policy as Prices Rise Towards One-Year High

OPEC+ maintained its oil output policy at a meeting on Wednesday, a sign producers are happy that their deep supply cuts are draining inventories despite an uncertain outlook for a recovery in demand as the pandemic lingers.

A Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, is “optimistic for (a) year of recovery in 2021,” OPEC said in a statement after the panel met virtually.

Speculators Less Pessimistic about U.S. Economic Outlook

The outlook for the economy has improved recently as progress in coronavirus vaccinations, moves by U.S. President Joe Biden to pass more fiscal stimulus, and improving economic data is encouraging aggressive speculators to add to their already establish bullish positions.

Daily Forecast

Looking ahead, OPEC+ is expected to maintain the production cuts into March. But after that they may have to start considering an exit strategy if the global vaccinations start to curtail the spread of coronavirus. Demand could then improve faster than anticipated, creating an even deeper deficit, while spiking prices higher. Sharply higher prices may even hurt the economic recovery. In order to avoid this from occurring, OPEC+ will have to increase output.

In a related development, India’s oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan warned on Thursday that rising oil prices could hurt global economic recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that caused most economies to shrink last year.

“Efforts at artificially distorting prices will have a dampening effect on the fragile global economic recovery that is underway,” Pradhan said.

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