London. — Oil prices rose yesterday, lifted by a sustained decline in inventories and as Saudi Arabia prepared to cut crude supplies to its prized Asian customers.
Crude is down nearly 7 percent so far this year, suppressed in large part by concern that oil cartel Opec and its partners may not be able to force global oil inventories to drop by cutting production.
However, Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that it would cut supplies to most buyers in Asia – the world’s biggest oil-consuming region – by up to 10 percent in September.
Brent crude futures were up 29c at $52,99 a barrel by 8:55 am GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate crude was up 17c at $49,73.
In a sign that investors are becoming more optimistic about the pace at which oil supply and demand are re-balancing, prices for crude for prompt delivery are trading above those for future delivery.
“This is the march toward the flattening of the curve,” said SEB chief commodity strategist Bjarne Schieldrop.
“The major event now is the Middle East and Asian refineries rushing back into operation and consuming more crude, just as Saudi Arabia says it will cut September deliveries to Asia.”
The physical market is also showing signs of stronger near-term demand, after having suffered from a persistent overhang of unused crude.
Prices for prompt deliveries of North Sea crude oil are at their smallest discount to future prices in nearly two years and a surplus of oil stored on ships is gradually dissipating, having hit two-year highs. Inventories in the US are at their lowest since October, having fallen for 10 of the last 12 weeks. Global stocks remain above their longer term averages and with the summer driving season nearly at an end, investors are well aware that the attempts by Opec, Russia and other producers to boost prices may bring unwanted side-effects.
“The minute Opec tries to raise prices by cutting production, US producers will react accordingly to fill the void. This results in a tug of war that we have witnessed all year and the final outcome is a range-bound market,” said Matt Stanley, a commodities broker at Freight Investor Services in Dubai. – Reuters.