Oil prices jumped more than 3 percent on Wednesday, with U.S. crude futures returning to above $40 a barrel, after a larger-than-expected gasoline draw offset a surprise build in crude stockpiles in the No. 1 oil consumer.
U.S. crude inventories rose for a second week in a row, gaining 1.4 million barrels last week, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 1.4 million barrels, Energy Information Administration (EIA) data showed.
Gasoline stocks slumped by 3.3 million barrels, versus forecasts for a 200,000-barrel drop. The large draw assuaged some market participants’ worry of a gasoline glut amid the peak U.S. summer driving season.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 settled up $1.32, or 3.3 percent, at $40.83 a barrel. On Tuesday, it settled below $40 a barrel for the first time since April.
Brent crude LCOc1 rose $1.30, or 3.1 percent, to settle at $43.10. It hit a more than three-month low of $41.51 the previous day.
“We are not surprised to see spot prices rebounding on the gasoline draw,” said Tariq Zahir, trader in crude oil spreads at Tyche Capital Advisors in New York. “But I think this will be short-lived.”
“The bottom line is the Street in the second quarter got a little ahead of itself in calling for rebalancing of supply-demand after Canadian and Nigerian supply disruptions. We are going into the third and fourth quarters with those supplies back online and refinery maintenance coming up.”
Oil rallied from 12-year lows of $26-$27 in the first quarter to almost $53 in June, boosted initially by expectations, later dashed, that OPEC would freeze output and later by supply outages.
But a worldwide oversupply since in motor fuels and other refined products has stymied the rebound. Worries about slowing economies in Asia – the driver of oil demand growth – and Europe have weighed, along with near record-high OPEC output and signs of a new price war by Saudi Arabia for crude.
Troy Vincent, analyst at New York-based oil cargo tracker ClipperData, said while last week’s gasoline draw was a relief, the rise in crude stocks despite a near 1 percent growth in refinery utilization was a “bigger concern”.
The global glut has led many traders to predict lower prices going forth.
“We expect to see a little bit of price consolidation from here but our target really is for $35 WTI, which means any rebound you get will be more of a bear market correction,” said Matthew Tuttle, chief executive of Tuttle Tactical Management in Riverside, Connecticut.
Goldman Sachs held its 2017 forecast of $52.50 and near-term range of $45-$50 for WTI. But it noted that oil’s recent decline came amid supportive factors like the dollar weakening .DXY and refining margins for gasoline 1RBc1-CLc1 widening.
“It will take a strong reversal in positioning to create substantial new upside,” Goldman said.