Oil dips away from three-year highs on signs of overheated market
Oil dipped away from three-year highs on Thursday on signs that a 13-percent rally since early December may have run its course, although a surprise drop in US production and lower crude inventories offered prices some support.
US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were at 63.46 US dollars per barrel at 0753 GMT, 11 cents below their last settlement, though still close to a December-2014 high of 63.67 US dollars per barrel reached the previous day.
Brent crude futures were at 69.05 US dollars per barrel, 15 cents below their last finish, albeit also still close to the previous day’s peak of 69.37 US dollars per barrel - the highest level since an intra-day spike in May 2015.
"In Q1, the balance of risk to Brent lies to the downside, with prices overheating, record net-length built into the futures market and fundamentals set to weaken seasonally," BMI Research said in a note.
Oil drilling at Ukrnafta's oil and gas field processing site. /VCG Photo

Oil drilling at Ukrnafta's oil and gas field processing site. /VCG Photo

The mounting downward pressure on prices is also showing in the physical oil market, where the second and third biggest producers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Iran and Iraq, this week cut their supply prices to remain competitive with customers.
Oil markets have so far been generally supported by a production cut led by the OPEC and Russia that started in January last year and is set to last through 2018.
More immediate price support came overnight from the US, where crude inventories fell almost five million barrels in the week to January 5, to 419.5 million barrels.
That’s slightly below the five-year average of just over 420 million barrels.
US production fell 290,000 barrels per day to 9.5 million bpd, the EIA said, despite expectations of US output breaking through 10 million bpd.
The drop is, however, expected to only be for the short term, likely due to the extreme cold in large parts of North America which has shut down some onshore producers.
An Exxon Mobile Corp. gas station. /VCG Photo

An Exxon Mobile Corp. gas station. /VCG Photo

Ample fuel

Despite this, more bearish signals are appearing. Fuel inventories in Asia and the US remain ample, and in some cases are rising.
US gasoline stocks climbed 4.1 million barrels, EIA data showed, more than expected.
In Asia’s oil trading hub Singapore, average refinery profit margins have fallen below six US dollars per barrel this month, their lowest seasonal level in five years, resulting in lower feedstock crude orders.
With the crude price up by more than 13 percent since early December, some analysts expect a downward price correction following the recent bull-run.
"Markets are getting a bit fatigued, and a healthy correction could be on the cards,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.
Source(s): Reuters