Oil Edges Lower On Profit-Taking, Rate Hike Worries

  • Oil prices edged lower on Thursday as investors took profits after two days of gains amid fears of aggressive U.S. interest rate hikes, but the losses were cushioned by expectations of a strong economic recovery that will boost demand in a tightly supplied market. 
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled down $0.52, or 0.6%, at $82.12 a barrel, after rising 5.6% over the last two days. Brent crude futures fell $0.20, or 0.2%, to $84.47 a barrel. It had gained 4.7% over Tuesday and Wednesday. 
  • Some investors were taking a deeper look at data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday. While crude oil inventories fell more than expected, the report also showed fuel demand has taken a hit from Omicron. Gasoline stockpiles increased by 8.0Mn barrels in the week to Jan. 7, compared with analyst expectations for a 2.4Mn-barrel rise. 
  • In reality, the weekly EIA report was less bullish than the headline number, as total crude oil inventories fell 4.8Mn million barrels but were more than offset by a stock build across refined products. The drop in crude inventories might have been related to end-of-year tax issues on oil stocks onshore in Texas and Louisiana. However, losses were limited by speculation that Omicron was not severe enough to derail a global demand recovery and cold weather in North America. 
  • Oil prices soared more than 50% in 2021, and some analysts expect the rally to continue, forecasting that scant production capacity and limited investment could lift crude to $90 or even above $100 a barrel. JP Morgan forecast oil prices to rise as high as $125 a barrel this year. U.S. crude futures for delivery in February 2023 traded at a discount of more than $9 to crude futures for delivery in February, moving into overbought territory for the first time since November.

(Source: Reuters)