Oil Advances With Signs Emerging of Fuel Consumption Rebound
An oil pumping jack in an oil field in Russia. (Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

Oil Advances With Signs Emerging of Fuel Consumption Rebound

Oil rose the most in almost a week alongside a broader market rally as signs emerged that a recovery in fuel consumption is gaining traction.

Futures in New York climbed 2.5% on Thursday. Vehicle miles driven on U.S. highways increased 10% last week from the previous seven days, while U.K. road use has also been climbing. A surge in the margin on refining crude into gasoline could drive an oil rally over the summer, according to RBC Capital Markets. Meanwhile, U.S. equities jumped to an all-time high as a $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill was signed into law.

“Refined products and particularly gasoline has been leading the most recent charge higher in oil prices,” said Ryan Fitzmaurice, commodities strategist at Rabobank. “On the demand-side, the vaccine rollout is progressing quite rapidly, boding well for a surge in summer driving, especially in the West which has lagged the economic recovery witnessed in Asia.”

There are risks to the recovery, though. OPEC downgraded its oil-market outlook over the next two quarters as the pandemic’s effects will continue to be felt, the group said in its monthly report. Output from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries fell last month as Saudi Arabia implemented extra cutbacks to speed the market’s rebalancing.

Oil Advances With Signs Emerging of Fuel Consumption Rebound

While oil’s rally of more than 30% this year had taken a breather in recent days, the outlook for some of the world’s biggest economies is starting to show the effects of vaccination efforts and fiscal stimulus. In the U.S., jobless claims fell to the lowest since November as inoculations accelerate and states eased more business restrictions.

“Things are heading fundamentally in the right direction,” said Peter McNally, global head for industrials, materials and energy at Third Bridge. “If second half demand improves, which is the consensus view, in order to meet that demand, supply doesn’t seem to be coming from the U.S. It’s going to come from OPEC, and OPEC has shown restraint.”

Prices
  • West Texas Intermediate for April delivery climbed $1.58 to settle at $66.02 a barrel, the highest in about a week
  • Brent for May settlement gained $1.73 to end the session at $69.63 a barrel
  • Nymex gasoline futures rose 2.8% to settle at $2.1380 a gallon

It’s possible that U.S. crude may have to trade at a bigger discount to the global Brent benchmark to boost U.S. crude exports, according to consultant Energy Aspects. That comes as the Brent market faces headwinds from refinery maintenance and sharp cuts to Saudi crude prices, forcing U.S. crude to trade even lower in turn, the consultant said.

Meanwhile, calendar spreads indicating longer-term strength rallied on Thursday. The spread between WTI’s nearest December contracts settled above $5 a barrel in backwardation -- indicating tightening supply -- for the first time since September 2019.

Other oil-market news:
  • When OPEC+ unveiled its bold move to tighten crude markets last week, the oil world was united in surprise. But on the merits of the plan, it’s starkly divided.
  • After months of being battered by a demand-killing pandemic and then a rare Gulf Coast freeze, U.S. refiners are being greeted with the best margins on turning crude oil into gasoline and diesel since the summer of 2019.
  • Europe’s diesel margin dropped to its lowest since late November, with U.S. refiners ramping up operations again after last month’s big freeze.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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