Oil prices slip amid ample US output, Brent drifts away from five-month high

CNBC

Reuters

KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude futures were at $71.42 a barrel at 0235 GMT, down 20 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their last close. Brent fell 0.1 percent on Wednesday, after earlier touching its highest since Nov. 8 at $72.27 a barrel.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $63.69 per barrel, down 7 cents, or 0.1 percent, from their previous settlement. WTI closed the last session down 0.5 percent.
Reusable: Oil pump jack in North Dakota 150128
An oil pumpjack operates near Williston, North Dakota.
Andrew Cullen | Reuters

Oil prices dropped on Thursday as the impact of plentiful U.S. production offset a surprise decline in U.S. inventories, leaving international benchmark Brent retreating from a five-month high touched in the previous session.

Brent crude futures were at $71.42 a barrel at 0235 GMT, down 20 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their last close. Brent fell 0.1 percent on Wednesday, after earlier touching its highest since Nov. 8 at $72.27 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $63.69 per barrel, down 7 cents, or 0.1 percent, from their previous settlement. WTI closed the last session down 0.5 percent.

U.S. crude inventories fell by 1.4 million barrels in the week to April 12, compared with analyst expectations for an increase of 1.7 million barrels, Department of Energy (DoE) showed on Wednesday.

“A persistent rise in U.S. oil output, together with lingering demand-side concerns emerging from the U.S.-China trade dispute, is limiting price gains, ” Abhishek Kumar, Head of Analytics at Interfax Energy in London.

While official data on Wednesday showed China’s economy grew by 6.4 percent in the first quarter, defying expectations for a further slowdown, talks on a U.S.-China trade deal have yet to bear fruit.

While the U.S.-China trade war has rumbled on, prices have been supported this year by an agreement reached by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies, including Russia, to limit their oil output by 1.2 million barrels per day.

Global supply has also been tightened further by U.S. sanctions on OPEC members Venezuela and Iran.

Iran’s crude exports have dropped in April to their lowest daily level this year, tanker data showed and industry sources said, suggesting a drawdown in buyer interest ahead of expected further pressure from Washington.

Surging U.S. production has filled some of the gap in supplies, although not all of the lost production can be immediately replaced by U.S. shale oil due to refinery configurations.

“The unexpected drawdown in U.S. commercial crude oil stocks was balanced by lower-than-expected withdrawals in the country’s gasoline and distillate inventories,” Kumar said.

Gasoline stocks fell by 1.2 million barrels, less than analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.1 million-barrel drop.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell 362,000 barrels, also not as much as forecasts for a 846,000-barrel drawdown, the EIA data showed.

Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 659,000 barrels per day.