On the New York Mercantile Exchange, WTI crude for March delivery rose 1.20% to $29.88 a barrel. Brent rose 0.44% to $29.74 a barrel. Ahead, rig count data from Baker Hughes will set the tone in the U.S. market.
Overnight, crude futures surged more than 5% on Thursday, bouncing from near 12-year lows as dovish comments from Mario Draghi on the possibility of further easing measures from the European Central Bank helped rally global equities, providing energy traders with an opportunity to cover record short positions.
Previously, WTI crude had tumbled more than 20% in 2016 amid further signals of a widening gulf between worldwide supply and demand, as Iranian exports return to global markets.
On the Intercontinental Exchange, Brent crude for March delivery wavered between $27.30 and $29.82 a barrel, before closing at $29.27, up 1.39 or 4.91% on the session. At session highs, North Sea Brent crude futures surged more than 6% on the day. Meanwhile, the spread between the U.S. and international benchmarks of crude stood at 0.30, below Wednesday’s level of 0.80 at the close.
Investors appeared to have every reason to continue to depart from their long positions in crude on Thursday, following a bearish supply report from the U.S. Department of Energy.
In its Weekly Petroleum Status Report, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) said Thursday that U.S. commercial crude oil inventories rose by 4.0 million barrels for the week ending on January 15, significantly above forecasts for a 2.8 million build. At the same time crude production rose to 9.235 million barrels per day last week, its seventh consecutive weekly increase, while Motor Gasoline inventories rose by 4.6 million barrels to reach its highest level since 1990.
Still, a host of traders anticipated even more bearish figures after the American Petroleum Institute reported an inventory spike of 4.6 million barrels in its weekly report on Wednesday afternoon.
At the Cushing Oil Hub in Oklahoma, inventories rose by only 191,000, increasing by levels much less than some investors had feared. Storage at the facility, the main delivery point for Nymex oil, is nearing full-capacity.
Crude prices have plummeted more than 50% in the last 14 months after OPEC rattled global energy markets with a decision in November, 2014, to keep its production ceiling above 30 million bpd. The strategy triggered a prolonged battle with U.S. shale producers for market share, depressing prices amid a glut of oversupply.
Energy traders also reacted to dovish comments from Draghi on the increased likelihood that the ECB could approve further easing measures when it meets next in two months. The potential for easy monetary policies in the euro zone helped global equities rally from Wednesday’s rout, providing a boost to oil. The ECB, as expected, left its benchmark interest rate and deposit rate unchanged at a meeting in Frankfurt on Thursday.
For the week ending on January 12, the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said bearish positions in WTI crude rose by 15% from the previous week resulting in the highest level in net short positions over the last decade. ~ Neal Bhai Reports