Oil bullish as both benchmarks surge pass $110 per barrel

The prices of both main benchmarks of the black liquid has extended their rally in the Asian session on Thursday, as trade disruption and shipping issues from Russian sanctions over the Ukraine crisis sparked supply worries while U.S. crude stocks fell to multi-year lows.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies (OPEC+) which includes Russia, have decided to maintain an increase in output by 400,000 barrels per day in March despite the price surge and ignoring the Ukraine crisis during their talks and snubbing calls from consumers for more crude.

The global benchmark, the brent crude futures is up 3%, currently trading $116.98 a barrel, the highest in almost 9 years (August 2013). The benchmark traded as high as $118.20 a barrel, during the Asian session.

The United States benchmark, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude is up 2.38%, currently trading at $113.27 a barrel. It traded as high as $114.62 a barrel in the Asian session today.

What you should know
  • The OPEC+ has stuck to an increase in output by 400,000 barrels per day for the past nine months. But it’s also an aspiration it has barely met, either due to production constraints at under-invested oil wells or a deliberate miss of the target, especially on the part of the Saudis, to ensure the oil rally doesn’t get short-circuited in any way.
  • John Kilduff, a partner at New York energy hedge Again Capital, said in comments carried by CNBC, “The Saudis have it within their power to snuff out some of this rally that we’re seeing for sure. They could easily put another 1 million to 2 million barrels per day of oil on the market with almost the flick of a switch.”
  • Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who sat in on Wednesday’s virtual meeting of OPEC+, called the oil market “balanced” and hoped that “oil market volatility would ease” going forth.
  • ANZ analysts said in a note that, “The White House ratcheted up pressure on Russia with the announcement that it will apply export controls targeting Russian oil refining. This raised concerns that Russian oil supplies will continue to hit constraints.”
  • The U.S. oil inventories continued to decline. The key Cushing, Oklahoma crude hub’s tanks were at their lowest since 2018, while U.S. strategic reserves dropped to a near 20-year low – and that was before another release announced by the White House on Tuesday in tandem with other industrialized nations.
  • The U.S. stockpiles of gasoline dipped by 468,000 barrels last week, adding to the previous decline of 582,000 barrels. Automobile fuel gasoline, also known as petrol outside the United States, is America’s most-consumed oil product. Prior to the past four weeks, gasoline saw builds of around 37,000 barrels in the preceding eight weeks, indicating weaker demand.
  • Distillate inventories slid by 574,000 barrels, on top of the previous week’s decline of 1.6 million barrels. Distillates, which are refined into diesel for trucks, buses, trains and ships as well as fuel for jets, have been the strongest growth component of the US oil complex for months, seeing non-stop inventory declines since mid-January.

The market is reacting to the latest round of sanctions by Washington on Russia’s oil refining sector that raised concerns that Russian oil and gas exports could be targeted next.

So far, however, it has stopped short of targeting Russia’s oil and gas exports as the Biden administration weighs the impacts on global oil markets and U.S. energy prices.

Russia is the world’s third largest oil producer and the largest exporter of oil to global markets, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The agency also stated that Russian crude and oil products exports reached 7.8 million barrels per day in December.