Oil futures inched higher on Thursday, on track to score a fourth climb in a row, with prices holding ground at their highest levels since mid March after upbeat monthly oil demand forecasts and a weekly decline in U.S. crude inventories.
“Demand optimism continues to be a key component…with recent data out of the U.S. showing highway traffic exceeding pre-COVID levels,” said Robbie Fraser, manager, global research & analytics at Schneider Electric.
Traders have also kept an eye on ongoing talks on a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. “A recent attack on Iran’s nuclear-linked infrastructure is set to complicate any further talks around a U.S. return to the Iranian nuclear deal,” he said in a daily market update. “The attack is viewed as likely delaying any timeline for Iran to develop nuclear weapons, but has also prompted Iran to pursue uranium enrichment at weapons grade levels in response.”
For now, the lack of any clear path to a quick deal keeps 2 million barrels a day of Iranian oil exports off the global market, said Fraser.
On Thursday, West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery CLK21 CL00 added 19 cents, or 0.3%, at $ 63.34 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after rising 4.9% on Wednesday to end at the highest level since March 17, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
Global benchmark June Brent crude BRNM21 BRNM21 picked up 23 cents, or 0.4%, to trade at $ 66.81 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.
Prices for WTI and Brent crude looked to notch a fourth straight session rise.
Some market analysts, however, suggested that oil may face some resistance to further gains on Thursday after its recent uptrend. They also suggest that more upbeat news on the global economic recovery could fuel a fresh push.
“Keep a close eye on prices as WTI tries to break resistance in the $ 63.15-$ 63.60 range and Brent tests its own key resistance around $ 66.80,” wrote Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at ThinkMarkets, in a note.
“If these levels give way then expect further technical buying in the days ahead,” he wrote.
On Wednesday, the International Energy Agency lifted its demand outlook for crude and a U.S. government report revealed a third-weekly drop in weekly inventories.
In its monthly report, the International Energy Agency raised its forecast for global oil demand in 2021 by 230,000 barrels a day from its previous forecast. It now sees an increase of 5.7 million barrels a day from 2020 to 96.7 million barrels a day this year. Meanwhile, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Tuesday raised its forecast for global economic growth to 5.4% from 5.1%.
In a weekly report also issued Wednesday, the Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. crude inventories fell by 5.9 million barrels for the week ended April 9. That followed supply declines in each of the previous two weeks.
The EIA data also showed a weekly climb of 300,000 barrels for gasoline supplies, along with a decline of 2.1 million barrels for distillate stocks.
On Nymex Thursday, May gasoline was up 0.2% at $ 2.04 a gallon and May heating oil rose 0.2% to $ 1.89 a gallon.
Natural-gas prices edged higher as EIA reports a 61 billion cubic foot rise in U.S. natural-gas supplies
On Thursday, the EIA reported that domestic supplies of natural gas rose by 61 billion cubic feet for the week ended April 9, slightly less than the average increase of 65 billion cubic feet forecast by analysts polled by S&P Global Platts. Supplies, however, now stand 11 billion cubic feet above the five-year average.
May natural gas NGK21, +1.80% was up 2.3 cents, or 0.9%, to $ 2.64 per million British thermal units. It traded at $ 2.62 shortly before the data.