CNBC: Oil prices eked out gains on Wednesday in a volatile session as the market mulled U.S. government data showing that while there were signs a crude glut may be receding, crude inventories remain large with gasoline demand weak.
Futures firmed following the Federal Reserve’s decision to leave interest rates unchanged.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude ended the day’s trading 16 cents higher at $47.82 a barrel, after earlier dipping to a five-week low of $47.30. Benchmark Brent crude was up 27 cents at $50.73 a barrel, by 2:38 p.m. ET (1638 GMT)
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said weekly crude stocks fell by 930,000 barrels to 527.8 million, less than half the 2.3 million-barrel draw that had been forecast.
“U.S. domestic production rose again, and continues its steady climb,” said John Kilduff, a partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital in New York. He noted that a sharp decline in imports turned what would have been an increase in stocks into a small drawdown.
EIA data also showed gasoline stocks rose by 191,000 barrels, which was much less than the 1.3 million-barrel gain that had been forecast. However, gasoline demand slipped 2.7 percent over the last four weeks from the same period a year ago.
“This is continuing a trend since the beginning of the year in which sales have been lower and that is casting a shadow on the market and pressuring crude oil prices,” said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston,
“Gasoline demand is going to be the story going forward.”
But Kyle Cooper, consultant ION Energy in Houston saw “a slightly bullish report” when looking at the total inventory comparisons.
“With the (Strategic Petroleum Reserve) drawing, total U.S. petroleum stocks fell 161,000 barrels. Total U.S. inventories fell further below last year while the surplus to the five-year average fell. Total U.S. petroleum demand rose to almost 19.9 mbd and the highest since March 3,” he said.
While the market remains fixated on U.S. production, oil investors continue to watch whether producing countries have been complying with their 2016 deal to cut output around 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) by the middle of the year.
Russia said on Wednesday that as of May 1, it had curbed output by more than 300,000 bpd since October. Moscow is contributing the largest production cut outside OPEC.
This means Russia has achieved its reduction target a month ahead of schedule, just as the latest Reuters survey of OPEC production showed compliance had fallen slightly.
OPEC compliance with its production-cutting deal slipped to 90 percent from a revised 92 percent in March largely due Angola pumping more crude oil and higher-than-expected output from the United Arab Emirates, the Reuters survey showed.
News on Tuesday that rival factions in Libya’s long-simmering civil conflict had made progress toward a political solution also weighed on oil market sentiment, analysts told CNBC.
A resolution would help likely boost Libyan oil output that has regularly been curbed throughout the conflict. On Monday, Libya’s National Oil Corporation reported its production rose to the highest level since December 2014.