Maybe the oil bulls can take some comfort in the fact that oil was unable to close below $80 despite the fact that the euro hit a 10-month low and the stock market actually closed lower. (It can do that you know.) Oil prices shook off a mighty crude oil inventory build according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency. The EIA reported that U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by gigantic 7.3 million barrels from the previous week. The build was on the back of strong imports which averaged 9.4 million barrels per day which was up a cool 969,000 barrels from last week. Yet draw downs in products kept the oil somewhat supported. The EIA reported a fall of 2.7 million barrels in gasoline supply and a 2.4 million barrel drop in distillates. The drop was inspired in part by strong gasoline demand. The EIA says that gasoline demand rose 2.7%, or 238,000 b/d, to 9.087 million barrels a day which according to David Bird at Dow Jones was the highest weekly level since Nov. 20. Still year over year demand was down 13,000 barrels per day for the corresponding week a year ago. Bird says that the gain in gasoline led a 504,000 barrel per day, or 2.7%, rise in total oil demand for the week, to 19.336 million barrels per duty which was a two week high. Increasing gas demand usually is a sign that things for consumers are getting a little better and we may see that optimism grow in gas demand numbers first.
Over the last few weeks I have scoffed at strong gas demand numbers but the trend may have to be now taken more seriously. Perhaps the rally in the stock market has been more reflective of an improving backdrop for the economy than we have expected. Assuming we avoid a double dip maybe we can see a better than expected summer driving season. Still that does not mean that retail gas prices will go straight up. With gas production rising we should be close to the seasonal top.
Still for oil the dollar remains the key. Yesterday the flight to the dollar helped sink commodities as Portugal’s debt rating was downgraded. The EU members meet today and tomorrow and the outcome of this meeting may be the catalyst for the next big move in commodities. We are still buying breaks and selling rallies at what we project will be the high or low for that particular day. Long term position traders, both bulls and bears, will have their days but until we break out of the larger range there will be mounting frustration. Iron condors may be another way to play a market that is locked in a range. Long term players are just in a rut.
Phil Flynn is senior energy analyst for PFGBest Research and a Fox Business Network contributor. He can be reached at (800) 935-6487 or at email@example.com.