March 15 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices moved higher early in the Thursday session on signs of steady consumer demand, but long-term transitions in energy could throttle momentum.
Crude oil prices struggled to find clear direction in trading Wednesday after reports of a build of crude oil inventories in the United States. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude oil stocks rose by 5 million barrels last week, about twice as high as expected.
Gasoline, meanwhile, moved lower in a possible sign of improved demand and during a period where some refineries are in a maintenance period. Stocks fell 6.2 million barrels and are moving closer to parity.
An after-market survey from S&P Global Platts found gasoline stocks are 3.7 percent above the five-year average, compared with the 6.1 percent overhang one year ago.
For crude oil, the U.S. market was balanced by record-setting highs in production and elevated exports.
Traders look at data like this to get a sense of the balance between supply and demand. A market glut helped send oil prices below $30 per barrel as recently as January 2016.
A report Thursday from the International Energy Agency found the market surplus that dragged on oil prices two years ago has "all but disappeared." For demand, growth forecasts remain healthy over the next five years as the global economy picks up steam.
China and India, among the fastest growing economies in the world, will combine for about half of global demand. The IEA said that, by 2023, it expected global oil demand will be around 104.7 million barrels per day, an increase of 7 percent from last year.
"While there is no peak oil demand in sight, the pace of growth will slow down to 1 million barrels per day by 2023 after expanding by 1.4 million barrels per day in 2018," the IEA's report read. "There are signs of substitution of oil by other energy sources in various countries."
A series of corporate reports out Thursday show the energy landscape is changing. Norwegian major Statoil said it's removing the word "oil" from its name and will become Equinor. Royal Dutch Shell, meanwhile, restated its commitment to low-energy solutions while BP found that, by 2050, onshore wind will be the most economical source of electricity generation.