Supply discipline and demand to prop up oil prices in 2018

Brent weekly chart

Brent weekly chart

"In the week past, strong demand for refined products, especially distillates, continued to incent refiners to process crude oil at increasing rates", said David Thompson, executive vice-president at Powerhouse, an energy-specialised commodities broker in Washington. OPEC basket price reached 61 dollars and 84 cents, indicating a 13-cent increase compared to the previous week.

One of the most remarkable shifts that occurred in 2017, if a very technical one, was the change in the futures curve - first for Brent and more recently for WTI.

American crude oil exports are running double or triple their levels from a year ago thanks to a deeper discount relative to the worldwide benchmark and a sharp uptick in Chinese purchasing.

Dubai and Oman crude oil prices are respectively $61.84 and $61.90 per barrel, indicating an upswing of 63 and 57 cents. Inventories declined 1% week-over-week and 54.2 MMbbls or 11.15% year-over-year.

USA data showing the surplus on the five-year average in crude oil stocks at just 9 percent helped drive oil prices higher on the last trading day of 2017.

The WTI Crude Oil market rallied during the week, breaking above the $60 handle for the first time in ages. "We've approached an area where we really need to see a steady diet of positive information". As temperatures have dropped across the USA, analysts said fuel consumption should also rise.

Trading was typically thin at the end of the year, with many traders still on holidays. Gasoline futures settled up 0.3% at $1.7992 a gallon. Meanwhile, the net-bullish position on diesel rose by 26% to a record as the cold snap boosted heating demand.

However, analysts warn that oil's gains may reverse after traders return from the long holiday weekend and trading volumes pick up.

The net-long position on WTI increased 7.3% to 411,972 futures and options during the week ended December 26, according to data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Friday.

Refinery crude runs rose by 335,000 barrels per day, EIA data showed.

Based on total expected quotas, China's imports-which at around 8.5 million bpd are already the world's biggest-are expected to hit another record in 2018 as new refining capacity is brought on stream and Beijing allows more independent refiners to import crude.

More U.S. producers have begun selling to China in earnest.

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