Oil futures on Wednesday posted their first gain in four sessions, as U.S. government data showed declines in domestic crude and gasoline supplies.
Traders also debated the impact of the Biden administration’s plans to release more crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and refill it when oil prices are much lower.
West Texas Intermediate crude for November delivery
rose $2.73, or 3.3%, to settle at $85.55 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, ahead of the contract’s expiration at the end of Thursday’s session. December WTI
the most actively traded contract, rose $2.45, or 3%, to $84.52 a barrel.
November natural gas
fell 4.9% to $5.462 per million British thermal units, pressured as forecasts for warmer weather look to cut heating demand. Prices logged the lower settlement since June 30, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
Oil futures snapped a three-day losing streak on Wednesday. Losses a day earlier were attributed in part to expectations that had been building around a release of further crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve by the Biden administration.
The market is still digesting that news, but it’s a “non-event given it is the final part of the 180 million-barrel release to hit the market,” said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst, Americas, at Kpler.
“What is more newsworthy is the wide range of tools that the administration is considering to keep gas prices in check — further SPR releases, a crude export ban, limiting clean product exports — a reflection of the government’s fixation on prices at the pump, and its apparent influence on mid-terms,” he said.
Administration officials late Tuesday confirmed that President Joe Biden on Wednesday would announce the release of 15 million barrels of oil from the U.S. strategic reserve Wednesday as part of a response to recent production cuts announced by OPEC+ nations. He will also say more oil sales are possible this winter, as his administration rushes to be seen as pulling out all the stops ahead of next month’s midterm elections. The move will complete the release of 180 million barrels of crude announced by Biden in March.
The administration also plans to repurchase crude oil to refill the reserve when prices are at or below about $67 to $72, in order to “protect taxpayers and help create certainty around future demand for crude oil.”
“Brent was down around 10% from just over a week ago at one stage on Tuesday; a sign of how concerned traders are about the economic outlook and how serious the Biden administration is about using the SPR to drive prices lower ahead of the midterms,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a note.
“With Brent stabilizing around $90 and WTI between $80 and $85, you have to wonder how OPEC+ countries will feel about how the markets are positioned and whether further cuts could be considered,” he wrote.
In the medium term, the impact of additional SPR releases will likely have “diminishing returns” with the SPR at a multi-decade low, said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.
On Wednesday, the Energy Information Administration reported declines in domestic crude and gasoline inventories, providing support to oil prices.
U.S. crude inventories fell by 1.7 million barrels for the week ended Oct. 14, according to the EIA.
On average, analysts forecasted a decrease of 1.2 million barrels, according to a poll conducted by S&P Global Commodity Insights. The American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group, late Tuesday said U.S. crude inventories fell by 1.27 million barrels last week, according to a source who cited the figures.
The fall in crude supplies came even as stocks in the SPR fell 3.6 million barrels to 405.1 million barrels last week, data show. Crude stocks at the Cushing, Okla., Nymex delivery hub edged up by 600,000 barrels.
“A smaller SPR release, much stronger exports and a dip in imports have encouraged a minor draw to crude inventories,” said Kpler’s Smith.
This week’s report is “fairly benign,” although implied gasoline demand continues to “seemingly face headwinds,” down 6.4% year on year on the four-week average, he said in emailed comments.
The EIA also reported a weekly inventory decline of 100,000 barrels for gasoline, while distillate stockpiles edged up by 100,000 barrels. The analyst survey had called for decreases of 2.2 million barrels for gasoline and 2.5 million barrels for distillates.