Energy market balance still seems elusive

Traders and analysts are looking for signs of supply-side pressures after a glut a few years ago pushed crude oil prices to historic lows.

By Daniel J. Graeber

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- The race toward energy market balance is getting closer to its goal, though U.S. data showed crude oil inventories "remain bloated," a Platts report found.

Crude oil prices are recovering in early Thursday trading after several sessions of decline. Prices rebounded sharply by Wednesday afternoon when the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported U.S. crude oil stockpiles increased 1.8 million barrels for the week ending Feb. 9.


Before the EIA's release, analysts surveyed by commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts said they were expecting a build of 3 million barrels.

A market tilted heavily toward the supply side helped drag crude oil prices to historic lows a few years ago. With help from Russia, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is now in its second year of an effort to erase the surplus from global stocks with coordinated production declines.

That's helped establish a floor under crude oil prices of around $50 per barrel. Meanwhile, the OPEC effort is offset by U.S. crude oil production, which has been above 10 million barrels per day and rivaling Saudi Arabia. The United States, however, is exporting more of its own oil than ever before.


Platts in analysis of EIA data said crude oil stocks are about 2.6 percent above the five-year average, an improvement from the 40 percent overhang a year ago. Geoffrey Craig, the oil futures editor for Platts, said in an emailed market report that inventories before this had increased for three straight weeks for a combined 10.5 million barrels, though that's still lower than previous years.

"However, inventories remain bloated compared with levels seen prior to 2015," he said. "Stocks are still 28 percent above the same point in 2014."

The latest monthly market report from the International Energy Agency nonetheless found the overhang in the five-year average in crude oil inventories for the world's leading industrial economies was shrinking to the point of near-balance.

U.S. crude oil production, meanwhile, increased 20,000 bpd last week to 10.3 million bpd.

The IEA said gains from the United States have been "colossal." The United States and other rising non-OPEC producers are churning out oil to the point that growth may outpace demand, the IEA said, and throttle momentum toward $70 per barrel.

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