Oil prices up, heads for second week of gain on demand hopes, output cuts

Crude oil storage tanks are seen from above at the Cushing oil hub, appearing to run out of space to contain a historic supply glut that has hammered prices, in Cushing, Oklahoma. (Reuters)

Oil prices rose on Friday and were on course for a second consecutive week of gains as more countries moved ahead with plans to relax economic and social lockdowns put in place to halt the coronavirus pandemic and as
more output was shut in.

Brent crude was up by 76 cents, or 2.58 percent, at $30.22 a barrel by 1330 GMT, having fallen nearly 1 percent on Thursday.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained 78 cents, or 3.31 percent, to $24.33 after a decline of nearly 2 percent in the previous session.

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Both contracts are heading for a second week of gains after the lows of April, when US oil crashed below zero, with Brent advancing over 14 percent this week and WTI up more than 22 percent.

However, crude is still being pumped into storage, raising the prospect that any gains prompted by stronger demand will be capped.

“The market remains very oversupplied, but OPEC+ cuts and voluntary curtailments are helping and the modest beginnings of demand recovery could be imminent as lockdowns begin to ease,” said Jefferies equity analyst Jason Gammel.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies led by Russia, a group know as OPEC+, began implementing a deal on record supply cuts amounting to 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) from the start of May.

North American oil companies are cutting production quicker than OPEC officials and industry analysts expected and are on track to withdraw about 1.7 million bpd of output by the end of June.

The number of oil and gas rigs operating in the United States is expected to hit an all-time low this week - reflecting data going back 80 years.

Inventories

Still, US crude inventories at the Cushing storage hub in Oklahoma increased by about 407,000 barrels in the week through May 5, traders said on Thursday, citing Genscape data.

“Price-wise, we still expect to see some mild (if not wild) price swings as the traders get bullish on shut-ins and then again bearish on the stock builds that continue to pile up,” said Rystad Energy oil markets analyst Louise Dickson.

Australia on Friday became the latest country to plan an easing of lockdown restrictions as infections from the coronavirus slow to a trickle, aiming to relax social distancing restrictions in a three-stage process.

France, parts of the United States and countries such as Pakistan are also planning to ease restrictions instituted to stop the spread of the world’s worst health crisis in a century.

In the United States, the biggest oil and oil products consumer, motorists are starting to take to the roads as the lockdowns ease. Gasoline supplied to the US market rose to almost 6.7 million bpd last week, according to estimates from the US Energy Information Administration.

Prices received further support after US and Chinese officials discussed a trade deal agreed before the coronavirus outbreak, with both sides agreeing to implement the agreement.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:54 - GMT 06:54
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