Oil rallies to fresh 3-year high

Source U.S. Energy Information Administration Short Term Energy Outlook May 2018

The difference between the two benchmarks briefly widened to more than $8 a barrel, the widest gap since April 2015, reflecting surging US crude supplies and a greater geopolitical risk to Brent-based crudes. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading up 0.5% at $71.33 a barrel.

The bottleneck in North America likely contributed to a 4.9 million barrel rise in United States crude oil inventories, to 435.6 million barrels, that the American Petroleum Institute reported on Tuesday. He said that Brent crude oil could rise as high as $85 (£63) per barrel, but predicted that they would not drop below $69.70 (£52).

The world is now watching the growing tensions in the Middle East, and oil market analysts are guesstimating just how much Iranian oil supply the renewed USA sanctions could stifle.

The strong crude import pace continued this year, and in March Chinese crude oil imports hit their second-highest level on record at that time, while refined fuel exports also jumped to an all-time high, up by 43 percent compared to March 2017.

These risks, including the re-imposition of oil sanctions against Iran, and the upcoming results of May elections in Venezuela, may materialise into actions that remove oil supplies from the global market, and in turn, tighten global oil balances.

Source U.S. Energy Information Administration Short Term Energy Outlook May 2018
Source U.S. Energy Information Administration Short Term Energy Outlook May 2018

OPEC, for its part, estimated that the excess oil inventories in the OECD had shrunk to just 9 million barrels.

Current estimates by investment banks that see lowered Iranian and Venezuelan supply pushing up oil prices also assume that the global-and Chinese in particular-demand growth will continue to be strong.

The Secretary-General, Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Mohammed Barkindo, attributed the rising oil prices to efforts by OPEC and non-OPEC countries to rebalance the market through production freeze.

The decision by US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Iran deal "has switched the focus of oil market analysis from the fundamentals to geopolitics", the International Energy Agency wrote in its regular monthly report. Although the group said its crude output inched up in the previous month, investors interpreted the minimal increase as a sign of OPEC's continued commitment to rebalancing the market, especially from its de facto leader Saudi Arabia.

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