Profit Taking Eats At Crude Oil Gains

A gas station attendant pumps fuel into a customer's car at PetroChina's petrol station in Beijing

According to the Q4 Dallas Fed Energy Survey published at end-December, 42 percent of executives at 132 oil and gas firms expect the USA oil rig count to substantially increase if WTI prices are between $61 and $65 a barrel.

Last week, the API reported a large draw of 4.992 million barrels of crude oil, along with an increase in gasoline inventories of 1.87 million barrels.

Inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma, site decreased by 2.516 million barrels this week.

"Inventories ended 2017 9.3 percent above the five-year average, a stark contrast to the 35.6 percent surplus seen at the end of 2016", Oil Futures Editor Geoffrey Craig said in a statement emailed to UPI.

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This reduction in the size of excess stocks emerged as a catalyst for higher oil prices. The Brent benchmark was trading up 1.76 percent at 68.97 dollars.

"The ability to hold above $60 per barrel will likely be tested as refinery demand ebbs", he said.

Meanwhile, US production is showing signs of levelling after after huge shale oil output in the past two years. These levels of USA crude oil output are expected to continue increasing in 2019 to an average of 10.8 million b/d.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration report on oil inventories is due to be released on Wednesday at 10:30a.m. EDT.

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The IEA warned that mostly due to US shale, total supply growth could exceed demand growth.

Analysts and traders have warned about the risk of a price correction since the start of 2018, but they say overall market conditions remain strong, mainly due to output cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russian Federation. If confirmed, that would still be far higher than a year ago when utilization averaged 93.6%.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $63.53 a barrel at 0144 GMT, 4 cents below their last settlement but still close to a December 2014 high of $63.67 per barrel reached the previous day. Distillates production averaged 5.592 million b/d the week ending December 29, an all-time high for the second period in a row.

Though production hasn't been impacted, the protests are widely viewed as reason enough for U.S. President Donald Trump to go against the principles of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - the United Nations -backed Iranian nuclear deal - and decide Friday to re-impose oil-related sanctions on Iran.

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On top of usual sources of demand, many industrial and commercial customers in the region were asked by their local utilities to switch from natural gas to heating fuel.

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