Asia Open | Oil: Eye candy for oil bulls

Market Analysis / 2 Min Read
Stephen Innes / 15 May 2020

After several Covid-19 reopening potholes appeared this week on the road to recovery, triggering a surprisingly down intra-day on Wednesday with broader market weakness offsetting a surprisingly bullish DoE inventory data which saw a crude draw suggesting an accelerating pace of US production declines. 

Oil prices have come roaring back after the International Energy Agency's monthly oil market report flags a dramatic supply response from non-OPEC producers, down 1.1 million barrels per day (y/y) in April. The IEA forecasts a 6.7 million barrel per day non-OPEC production drop from March through June, with the US and Canada leading the way. Coupled with an inarguably bullish weekly inventory report from the US Energy Information Administration yesterday, this is positive for oil.

Evidence of proper compliance within the new agreement is a considerable boost; the stakes are high, so this unprecedented level of non-OPEC+ compliance is providing fabulous optics. 

The prompt WTI contract is surging toward $28 per barrel, despite expiry approaching and the CFTC issuing a warning to investors that there was a risk prices could turn negative again, signalling a significant U-turn in oil prices as the markets are shifting to a bullish bias for near term oil prices as distillate joins the gasoline recovery this week, with demand up +1 MMB/d from the low.

Gasoline demand is recovering in a more V-shaped fashion than macroeconomic data, and with distillate joining the recovery party it’s a massive boost. The recovery in the distillate market is providing a fantastic springboard for oil prices. Hopefully this will soon be complemented by an easing in travel restrictions which should eventually see a pickup in the extremely depressed aviation fuel sector.

Apple Maps driving behavior data shows US driving is nearly back to pre-Covid-19 levels and shows a positive divergence over public transport use globally. Together with the surge in China's first-time car buyer sales, this indicates a definitive trend emerging as consumers prefer the segregated mobility of an automobile to maintain social distance.

There are numerous cognizant risks to this bullish view, none more so that than a secondary global outbreak that could put the world back into another sudden stop. But the near-term outlook is skewing to a more favorable than a negative outlook. This is even more so on the supply side as US production has declined ten times faster than in the 2015-16 episode and US influence may also be a factor in the unexpected deepening of production cuts in Saudi, Kuwait and the UAE.

All this taken together as the markets pivot to June, which typically yields US inventory relief as summer driving season in the US begins in earnest, is providing excellent eye candy for oil bulls.

The information is not to be construed as a recommendation; or an offer to buy or sell; or the solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any security, financial product, or instrument; or to participate in any trading strategy. Readers should seek their own advice. Reproduction or redistribution of this information is not permitted.

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