Oil waiting on central bank actions, inventory confirmation

The API report showed a surprisingly huge draw in crude oil stocks as well as unexpected declines in both gasoline and distillate fuel stocks. The API reported a draw (of about 11.6 million barrels) in crude oil stocks versus an expectation for a small build as crude oil imports decreased and even as refinery run rates decreased modestly by 0.9%. The API reported a strong draw in distillate stocks. They also reported a modest draw in gasoline stocks versus an expectation for a smaller build in gasoline inventories.

The report is bullish across the board. The market has not reacted much in overnight trading with prices modestly higher ahead of the EIA oil inventory report at 10:30 AM today.  The market is always cautious on trading on the API report and prefers to wait for the more widely watched EIA report due out this morning at 10:30 AM. The API reported a draw of about 11.6 million barrels of crude oil with a draw of 1.4 million barrels in Cushing, Ok and a 2.9 million barrel draw in PADD 2 which is bearish for the Brent/WTI spread. On the week gasoline stocks decreased by about 1.3 million barrels while distillate fuel stocks decreased by about 1.4 million barrels. 

At the moment oil prices are still being mostly driven by the events discussed above along with the direction of the euro and the US dollar as well as by a view that the global economy is continuing to slow and one or two of the major central banks will come to the rescue. The tensions evolving in the Middle East between Iran and the West seem to be in the background  for today. As such we may not see much of a reaction from market participants to this week's round of oil inventory data as the macro risk  of the markets is currently the main concern of all market players. This week's oil inventory report will likely be a background price catalyst unless the actual outcome is significantly different from the market projections.

My projections for this week’s inventory report are summarized in the following table. I am expecting the US refining sector to continue its campaign of converting a portion of the surplus crude that has been building for the last several months into refined products... in particular gasoline and distillate fuels whose inventories have been in decline.  I am expecting a small build in crude oil inventories and a build in both gasoline and distillate fuel stocks as the heart of the summer driving season is now in full play. I am expecting crude oil stocks to increase by about 0.5 million barrels. If the actual numbers are in sync with my projections the year over year surplus of crude oil will come in around 26.6 million barrels while the overhang versus the five year average for the same week will come in around 40.1 million barrels.

I am also expecting a modest draw in crude oil stocks in Cushing, Ok as the Seaway pipeline is now pumping and refinery run rates are continuing at high levels in that region of the US. This would be bearish for the Brent/WTI spread in the short term which is now trading around the $16/bbl premium to Brent level. I am still of the view that the spread will continue the process of normalization over the next 3 to 6 months.

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