Oil nudges $50 a barrel as investors bet on shrinking overhang
LONDON | By Amanda Cooper
Oil rose towards $50 a barrel on Wednesday for the first time in seven months, driven by expectations that shrinking supply will help erode any overhang of unwanted crude, particularly after industry data showed a sharp fall in U.S. inventories.
A series of outages around the world, such as wildfires in Canada and a spate of violence in Nigeria's oil-producing region, has helped cut global oil supply by nearly 4 million barrels per day this month.
Although these hitches are temporary, they have contributed to a drop in the supply glut that has plagued the market for nearly two years.
Brent crude futures LCOc1 were up 58 cents at $49.19 a barrel by 0849 GMT, while U.S. crude futures CLc1 rose 56 cents to $49.18 a barrel.
"We are definitely moving out of this surplus situation that we've been living in since mid-2014. There will still be some time, maybe six months of surplus, but then we're basically into rebalancing," SEB head commodities strategist Bjarne Schieldrop said.
"There have been losses in equities and especially emerging markets (this month) and still oil is up, so it's definitely about oil fundamentals, rather than tailwinds from equities and currencies," he said.
Strikes across France that crippled output from most of the country's eight refineries have had little impact so far on crude oil prices, but rather helped lift refining margins for diesel and gasoline.
Data on Tuesday showed U.S. crude inventories fell by 5.1 million barrels to 536.8 million last week, double the expectations of analysts polled by Reuters.
Some of the drawdown was caused by falling imports due to the fires in Canada, which cut production by about 1.5 million barrels per day, said Ben Le Brun, market analyst at Sydney online brokerage OptionsXpress. Some crude producers restarted operations on Tuesday in Canada's energy heartland.
"A strong U.S. economy is (also) good for oil consumption and demand," Le Brun said.
Investors are awaiting confirmation of the big draw when the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) issues official inventory figures on Wednesday.
Masanobu Hamada, general manager of the crude oil trading department at JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp, said the current price rise was due to supply disruptions.
"Unless there is a halt in supply, the market lacks material (strength) to go higher because the inventory levels are high," Hamada said.
(Additional reporting by Osamu Tsukimori in TOKYO and Keith Wallis in SINGAPORE; Editing by Dale Hudson)
oceanstoryBrutus121 ----- Hibiscus is led by who and where to find his resume????
Benchmark Brent crude hit $50.22 per barrel at one stage on Thursday, its highest level since early November.
The rise followed US data showing that oil inventories had fallen after supply disruptions due to fires in Canada.
Brent crude has now risen 80% since it hit 13-year lows of below $28 a barrel at the start of the year.
US crude oil inventories fell by 4.2 million barrels to 537.1 million barrels in the week to May 20, according to US Department of Energy data.
Canada is the biggest supplier to the US and wildfires in the western provinces have reduced supplies by about a million barrels per day.
Talks in recent months between Opec and Russia about freezing oil production had already encouraged a price rise.
Short-term disruptions to oil supplies have also lifted the price, offsetting higher production from Iran and Saudi Arabia.
As well as the disruption to key oil production facilities in Canada, attacks by militant groups continue to restrict oil pipelines in Nigeria.
Demand has also been better than expected from major economies such as China, India and Russia.
Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said: "We do now appear to be seeing the effects that the decline in US output is having, and while supplies remain elevated, the glut does now appear to be diminishing."
Against this backdrop, analysts are starting to raise their forecasts.
Goldman Sachs said earlier this month that it now expected oil prices to consistently hit $50 a barrel in the second half of 2016 and $60 by the end of 2017.
The US bank said: "The oil market continues to deliver its share of surprises, with low prices driving disruptions in Nigeria, higher output in Iran and better demand.
"With each of these shifts significant in magnitude, the oil market has gone from nearing storage saturation to being in deficit much earlier than we expected."
Oiling the gears
In a sign of growing confidence, oil companies have started preparing for higher prices.
BP said last month it had budgeted for prices of at least between $50 and $55 a barrel in 2017.
And last month US oil producer Pioneer Natural Resources announced plans to add up to 10 new rigs when the oil price gets back up to $50.
Adam Laird, an investment manager at Hargreaves Lansdown, told the BBC: "This is an area that's been starved of resources and investment and that psychological barrier [of $50] could be enough to make some executives reassess."
However, Mr Laird cautioned that price volatility was likely to continue. "It's too early to say this is the beginning of the big rebound," he said.
Abhishek Deshpande, an oil markets analyst at Natixis, agreed and said: "We believe that the market is going up, but if it goes too quickly there will be auto-corrections."