Oil prices face inventory, spare capacity test

The World Trade Organization, meanwhile, has warned of the global economic consequences of a trade war.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  July 5, 2018 at 10:29 AM
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July 5 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices were relatively flat before the opening bell in New York, though concerns about the lack of buffers could push indices higher Thursday.

A survey of analysts from commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts this week revealed expectations of a 4.5 million barrel drain in U.S. crude oil inventories last week. Data published by the American Petroleum Institute was in line with the estimate from Platts.

Official data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, delayed one day because of a federal holiday, is published at 10:30 a.m. EDT. The needle would move in parallel to any deviance from API or Platts figures.

Oil prices were flat ahead of the start of trading. The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark for the price of oil, was down 0.09 percent to $78.17 per barrel as of 9:23 a.m. EDT. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was down 0.12 percent to $74.05 per barrel.

The movement followed a warning Wednesday from the World Trade Organization about restrictive trade measures enacted by the world's leading economies. WTO data show there has been an average of six trade-restrictive measures enacted per month between October and mid-May, significantly higher than the previous three reporting periods.

"This continued escalation poses a serious threat to growth and recovery in all countries, and we are beginning to see this reflected in some forward-looking indicators," WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said in a statement.

Canada during the weekend issued reciprocal trade restrictions against the United States. Tighter measures are expected to enter into force between the United States and China on Friday.

The fallout could undermine global economic growth to the detriment of demand.

Oil prices moved sharply higher last week after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ended their regular meeting in Vienna with a tacit agreement to put more oil on the market to address supply-side concerns from Iran, Libya and Venezuela. The figure referenced for actual production wouldn't address the pending deficit.

On Thursday, Swiss investment bank UBS said the amount of spare capacity, what a producer could put on the market in short order, was approaching a 10-year low. Platts on Thursday, however, said OPEC produced about 32 million barrels of oil per day last month, about 90,000 barrels per day higher than May.

In the United States, U.S. tariffs on imported steel could create headwinds for the oil sector because of the lack of domestic pipeline producers.

Analytics company GlobalData reported Thursday that new oil from the North Slope in Alaska was delayed because of the lack of infrastructure. Recent discoveries there could add hundreds of thousands of barrels to Alaska pipeline systems.

"However, the coming online of these discoveries is contingent to the construction of infrastructures such as roads, drilling pads, gathering pipelines and processing plants," its emailed report read.

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