Oil markets were steady to lower on Wednesday after a report of rising US fuel and crude inventories underscored concerns that a three-year supply glut is far from over. Brent crude futures were at $46.67 per barrel at 0329 GMT, close to their last close. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 8 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $44.16 per barrel. Oil had recovered some ground over the past week after falling nearly 20 percent since mid-May, but a report by the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed that U.S. crude inventories rose by 851,000 barrels in the week to June 23 to 509.5 million, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 2.6 million barrels.
Gasoline stocks rose by 1.4 million barrels even though the U.S. summer driving season began a few weeks ago. The U.S. inventory gains show global supplies are still ample despite the effort by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) between January 2017 and March 2018.
Ian Taylor, head of the world’s largest independent oil trader Vitol, says Brent crude prices will stay in a range of $40-$55 a barrel for the next few quarters as higher U.S. production slows a rebalancing of the market. “Everybody was positioned for a market rebalancing and a stocks draw to happen in the second quarter. And if you look at the macro analysis, that should start happening,” Taylor said in an interview with Reuters. “But so far it hasn’t happened and everyone has made the same mistake. Nobody has distinguished themselves,” he said.
Some analysts said that crude prices had likely bottomed out and would rise. “We believe that the selloff in crude is overdone … Brent is primed for a recovery,” BMI Research said.