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Volatile start for oil prices after mixed IEA report

IEA data show stockpiles evaporating, but at least one analyst says balance is fleeting.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Volatile start for oil prices after mixed IEA report
Oil prices could be in for a repeat for intra-day volatility as investors take stock of the latest industry report from the International Energy Agency. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices were swinging up and down in the early rounds of Thursday trading after a new report showed a fluid situation in the global energy market.

A report from the International Energy Agency, based in Paris, found the amount of products running through global refineries should lag behind what's expected in terms of demand growth, "eroding some of the product stock cushion built up since mid-2015."

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A build in stockpiles, spurred in part by higher production levels and a weak growth in the global economy, helped push crude oil prices well below the $100 per barrel mark common in 2014. In early 2016, crude oil prices dropped below $30 per barrel as data showed continued growth in inventory levels.

Crude oil prices trended lower in the hours before the start of trading in New York, only to turn positive in the opening rounds. The price for Brent crude oil was up 0.6 percent to start the day at $44.31 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for oil, moved up 0.5 percent to open at $41.92 per barrel.

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The situation Wednesday was no different, with slight gains in morning trading erased after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a gain of 1.1 million barrels of crude oil in storage for the week ending Aug. 5, the third straight week for an increase.

In emailed remarks on EIA data, Anthony Starkey, a market analyst for S&P Global Platts, said there are signs of market conditions improving, but headwinds remain.

"The market could be spooked by the idea that crude inventories may hit new all-time highs yet again, nullifying the notion of a market that was approaching balance and potentially a deficit in the near future," he said.

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Data from the IEA, meanwhile, show crude oil production from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries set near-decade highs in July, with Saudi Arabia setting records of its own.

On the demand side, the IEA said it expected a slowdown from 1.4 million barrels per day in 2016 to 1.2 million bpd in 2017.

"The 2017 forecast, though still above-trend, is 100,000 bpd below our previous expectations due to a dimmer macroeconomic outlook," it said in its monthly market report.

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