By Saket Sundria and Alex Longley on 3/15/2021
SINGAPORE (Bloomberg) –Oil held above $69 a barrel in London after a raft of economic data from China added to signs of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Brent futures traded up 0.4% after earlier climbing 1.2%. Figures from China for the first two months of the year showed a surge in industrial output, underscoring the strength of its V-shaped rebound and reinforcing expectations for increased energy demand. Citigroup Inc. raised its full-year Brent forecast.
China processed more than 14 million barrels a day in January and February, and refiners have kept consumption above that level every month since June. There are also signs that demand is picking up in other countries. The number of U.S. air passengers hit a 12-month high on Friday, while road use is creeping up in parts of Europe.
Crude has rallied strongly this year, supported by the vaccine-aided recovery from the pandemic and OPEC+’s decision to keep a tight rein on supplies. That combination — plus attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure — helped Brent top $71 a barrel last week, and drawdowns from inventories are expected to continue.
“Further price strength is very feasible,” said Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd. An increase to $80 later this year “has now become more than just wishful thinking.”
- Brent for May settlement edged up 0.4% to $69.52 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange as of 10:42 a.m. in London
- West Texas Intermediate for April also rose 0.4% to trade at $65.90
Citigroup, like PVM, also said Brent could spike to $80 amid “aggressive” actions by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies. The bank sees prices averaging $69 this year, up $5 from its previous outlook.
There are some less positive signs in the short-term, however. WTI’s nearest timespread flipped into a bearish contango structure — signaling oversupply — after crude stockpiles in the U.S. grew in recent weeks.
- U.S. attempts to prevent Iran from exporting oil suffered a blow after a United Arab Emirates sheikh laid claim to a cargo that Washington seized and alleged is from the Islamic Republic.
- Iran said one of its container ships was hit by an explosion in the Mediterranean, the latest in a series of claims fueling reports that the Islamic Republic and Israel are targeting each other’s vessels.
- Petroleos Mexicanos discovered what’s expected to be a billion-barrel oil field in Tabasco as it aims to reverse a decade and a half of sinking production.