Oil gains on US crude drawdown, easing of tension in US-China spat

CNBC

  • Oil prices rose on Thursday, buoyed by the U.S.government data showing a surprise drawdown in crude stockpiles.
  • Oil also got support from firm global equities, as the U.S. expressed willingness to negotiate a resolution on trade.

An oil pump jack in Gonzales, Texas.

Getty Images
An oil pump jack in Gonzales, Texas.

Oil prices rose on Thursday, buoyed by the U.S.government data showing a surprise drawdown in crude stockpiles and an easing of tensions over a trade row between the United States and China.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery was up 27 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $63.64 a barrel by 0445 GMT after settling down 14 cents.

Front-month London Brent crude for June delivery was up 30 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $68.32, having ended down 10 cents.

Oil also got support from firm global equities, as the United States expressed willingness to negotiate a resolution on trade after proposed U.S. tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods prompted a quick response from Beijing that it would retaliate by targeting key American imports.

Oil prices have recently closely tracked equities.

“The two countries are using discretion in their actions, and it does not look like the situation is developing into a full-scale trade war yet,” said Tomomichi Akuta, senior economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting in Tokyo. “There is also hope for dialogue.”

Before the rebound late on Wednesday, after the release of the Energy Information Administration inventory data, WTI and Brent had hit two-week lows after China proposed a broad range of tariffs on U.S. exports, feeding fears of a trade war.

U.S. crude inventories fell by 4.6 million barrels last week, compared with analysts’ expectations for an increase of 246,000 barrels, EIA data showed on Wednesday.

Oil has also received support after a Reuters survey showed on Wednesday that OPEC oil output fell in March to an 11-month low due to declining Angolan exports, Libyan outages and a further slide in Venezuelan output.

Shanghai crude futures trading was closed on Thursday due to a public holiday in China. Trading will resume on Monday.

China is reportedly taking the first steps to pay for oil in yuan: Sources

CNBC

  • Annual trade in oil worth an estimated $14 trillion
  • Pilot could be launched as early as the second half of 2018
  • Beijing could start with crude purchases from Russia, Angola

Employees close a valve of a pipe at a PetroChina refinery in Lanzhou, Gansu province.

Stringer | Reuters
Employees close a valve of a pipe at a PetroChina refinery in Lanzhou, Gansu province.

China is taking its first steps towards paying for imported crude oil in yuan instead of the U.S. dollar, three people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, a key development in Beijing’s efforts to establish its currency internationally.

Shifting just part of global oil trade into the yuan is potentially huge. Oil is the world’s most traded commodity, with an annual trade value of around $14 trillion, roughly equivalent to China’s gross domestic product last year.

A pilot program for yuan payment could be launched as early as the second half of this year, two of the people said.

Regulators have informally asked a handful of financial institutions to prepare for pricing China’s crude imports in the yuan, said the three sources at some of the financial firms.

“Being the biggest buyer of oil, it’s only natural for China to push for the usage of yuan for payment settlement. This will also improve the yuan liquidity in the global market,” said one of the people briefed on the matter by Chinese authorities.

China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer and in 2017 overtook the United States as the biggest importer of crude oil. Its demand is a key determinant of global oil prices.

Under the plan being discussed, Beijing could possibly start with purchases from Russia and Angola, one of the people said, although the source had no details of anything in the works.

Both Russia and Angola, like China, are keen to break the dollar’s global dominance. They are also two of the top suppliers of crude oil to China, along with Saudi Arabia.

The move would mark a major step in reviving usage of the currency of the world’s second-largest economy for offshore payments after several years of on-again, off-again measures.

If successful, it could also trigger shifting other product payments to the yuan, including metals and mining raw materials.

All three sources, who spoke to Reuters on the condition that they not be named, said the plans were at early stages. Officials at some of China’s state oil companies said they had not heard of such plans.

Crude futures

The plans coincide with this week’s launch of the first Chinese crude oil futures in Shanghai, which many expect to become a third global price benchmark alongside Brent and West Texas Intermediate crude.

Shanghai’s new crude contract is traded in yuan.

Besides the potential of giving China more power over global oil prices, “this will help the Chinese government in its efforts to internationalize renminbi (yuan),” said Sushant Gupta, research director at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

Unipec, trading arm of Asia’s largest refiner Sinopec , has already inked a first deal to import Middle East crude priced against the newly-launched Shanghai crude futures contract.

U.S. bank Goldman Sachs said in a note to clients this week that the success of Shanghai’s crude futures was “indirectly promoting the use of the Chinese currency.”

People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the country’s central bank, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on the plan. The Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) also declined to comment.

Internationalization

China’s plan to use yuan to pay for oil comes amid a more than year-long gradual strengthening of the currency, which looks set to post a fifth straight quarterly gain, its longest winning streak since 2013.

The yuan retained its No.5 ranking as a domestic and global payment currency in January this year, unmoved from a year ago, but its share among other currencies fell to 1.7 percent from 2.5 percent, according to industry tracker SWIFT.

A slew of measures put in place in the last 1-1/2 years to rein in capital flowing out of the country amid a slide in yuan value has taken off some its shine as a global payment currency.

But the yuan has now appreciated 3.4 percent against the dollar so far this year, with solid gains in recent sessions.

“For PBOC and other regulators, internationalization of the yuan is clearly one of the priorities now, and if this plan goes off smoothly then they can start thinking about replicating this model for other commodities purchases,” said the person briefed on the matter.

It would not be easy, however, for China to shift the bulk of its commodity purchases to the yuan because of the currency’s illiquidity in forex markets.

Nearly 90 percent of all transactions in the $5 trillion-a-day currency markets involve the dollar on one side of a trade, while only 4 percent use the yuan, as per a triennial forex survey by the Bank for International Settlements.

Oil settles higher, scores a second straight weekly gain

MarketWatch

Baker Hughes reports a weekly rise in active U.S. oil-rig count

AFP/Getty Images
By

MYRAP. SAEFONG

MARKETS/COMMODITIES REPORTER

WILLIAMWATTS

DEPUTY MARKETS EDITOR

Oil settled higher Friday, following an intraday U-turn that prompted a swing to a weekly gain.

Expectations for growth in global crude demand outweighed pressure from concerns over strong U.S. production and a weekly rise in the number of active domestic oil rigs.

April West Texas Intermediate crude CLJ8, +1.73%  on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose $1.15, or 1.9%, to settle at $62.34 a barrel after making only modest moves in either direction in early trading. It saw its highest finish since March 6 and climbed roughly 0.5% for the week, according to FactSet data.

May Brent crude LCOK8, +1.34% the global benchmark, added $1.09, or 1.7%, to end at $66.21 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. That was its highest finish month to date and it rose 1.1% for the week.

The market went “from low volatility to wow,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group. There really wasn’t any one particular piece of fundamental news that drove the intraday turn higher, he said, adding that “when oil went higher on the week, prices exploded.”

“The consumer sentiment number was strong and that really signals record gasoline demand ahead,” he said. U.S. consumer sentiment in March rose to its highest reading in 14 years.

A monthly oil report from the International Energy Agency on Thursday said that global oil demand should grow by 1.5 million barrels a day, to average 99.3 million barrels a day in 2018. That was an upward revision of 90,000 barrels a day, compared with last month’s report.

Read: How Venezuela could be the ‘final element’ that tips oil market into deficit

But traders have been concerned about surging U.S. shale output.

Offering a peek at future production, Baker Hughes BHGE, +3.45%  reported Friday that the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil rose by four to 800 this week. The oil-rig count had fallen by four last week, marking their first decline in seven weeks.

The oil market is also seeing “a lot of short covering ahead of the April expiration on Tuesday” for WTI oil futures, said Flynn.

Meanwhile, expectations that the Trump administration will take a harder line on Iran’s nuclear deal or could move to impose an embargo on Venezuelan crude exports were providing some modest support, said Robert Yawger, director for energy at Mizuho Securities, in a Friday note.

Read: Here’s how Rex Tillerson’s exit could move oil prices

The replacement of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo is seen as heralding a potential tougher stance on Iran that could result in a partial reinstatement of export sanctions, analysts said. Other potential changes, including reports that national security adviser H.R. McMaster could soon be replaced, have underlined those expectations. The White House denied any changes were coming to the National Security Council.

In other energy trading, April natural gas NGJ18, +0.56%  rose 0.3% to $2.688 per million British thermal units, but still marked a weekly loss of 1.6%.

April gasoline RBJ8, +0.87%  added 1.1% to $1.946 a gallon—roughly 2.2% higher for the week, while April heating oil HOJ8, +0.93% rose 1% to $1.912 a gallon, for weekly rise of 1.3%.

US oil prices extend gains on compliance with output cuts

CNBC

  • U.S. oil rose for a third day on Friday after a survey showed strong compliance with output cuts by OPEC and others.

A pump jack and pipes at an oil field near Bakersfield, California.

Lucy Nicholson | Reuters
A pump jack and pipes at an oil field near Bakersfield, California.

Oil rose for a third day on Friday after a survey showed strong compliance with output cuts by OPEC and others including Russia, offsetting concerns about surging U.S. production.

Brent futures, the global benchmark, were up 19 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $69.84 a barrel by 0352 GMT.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was up 28 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $66.08 a barrel.

Production by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) rose in January from an eight-month low as higher output from Nigeria and Saudi Arabia offset a further decline in Venezuela and strong compliance with a supply reduction pact, a Reuters survey showed.

OPEC pumped 32.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in January, the survey found, up 100,000 bpd from December. Last month’s total was revised down by 110,000 bpd to the lowest since April 2017.

Even so, adherence by producers included in the deal to curb supply rose to 138 percent from 137 percent in December, the survey found, suggesting commitment is not wavering even as oil prices hit their highest level since 2014.

“It underscores the commitment of the cartel, and their Russian partners, to keep a floor under the oil price,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at futures brokerage AxiTrader.

That is drawing investors’ focus away from the rise in U.S. production.U.S. crude output surpassed 10 million bpd in November for the first time since 1970, the Energy Information Administration said this week.

Oil boosted by dollar weakness, but headwinds loom

CNBC

  • The U.S. dollar fell to 2014 lows this week.
  • A weaker dollar supported general fuel demand.
  • But demand outlook weakened ahead of refinery maintenance season.

An oil pump jack in the oil town of Gonzales, Texas.

Getty Images
An oil pump jack in the oil town of Gonzales, Texas.

The oil rally paused for breath on Friday after hitting fresh three-year highs in the previous session, but weakness in the dollar continued to underpin prices.

Brent crude futures stood at $70.49 per barrel at 1047 GMT, 7 cents above their last close. On Thursday, the contract climbed to as high as $71.28 per barrel, its highest since 2014.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $65.66 a barrel, up 15 cents from their previous close, recovering from a session-low of $64.91 a barrel. On Thursday, they also reached their highest since December 2014, at $66.66 per barrel.

Both contracts were set for weekly gains after support from a weakening dollar, which on Friday hit new three-year lows against a basket of other leading currencies.

“For as long as the U.S. dollar remains on the defensive, no more pronounced price fall on the oil market is likely to ensue,” Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said in a note.

As oil is traded in dollars, swings in the greenback can impact oil demand as they affect the price of fuel purchases for countries using other currencies. Still, crude prices were capped by seasonally weakening demand.

Georgi Slavov, head of research at commodities brokerage Marex Spectron, said despite a generally healthy outlook, there were short-term oil demand headwinds due to the coming end of winter in the northern hemisphere.

Low oil prices have generated high oil demand, says Total CEO  

Many refiners shut down after winter for maintenance, resulting in lower orders for crude, their most important feedstock.

“Demand is starting to weaken as … refining capacity was taken out of the market,” Slavov said.

This is reflecting in oil inventories. U.S. bank Morgan Stanley noted that global oil stocks built up overall in the week ending Jan. 19.

On the supply side, U.S. oil production is expected to hit 10 million bpd soon, putting it on a par with top exporter Saudi Arabia.

Output has grown by more than 17 percent since mid-2016. Only Russia produces more, averaging 10.98 million bpd in 2017.

Rising U.S. output threatens to undermine the supply restraint led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia, aimed at propping up prices.

The cuts, coupled with demand growth, have contributed to a near 60 percent rise in oil prices since mid-2017 as excess crude inventories have been drawn down.