Oil prices rose on Wednesday morning, despite a somewhat surprising EIA inventory report, which reflected a build in crude stocks and virtually unchanged gasoline inventories.
Crude oil prices rose today after the Energy Information Administration reported a crude oil inventory build of 1.3 million barrels for the week to February 19. The build was much lower than the one the API had estimated a day earlier.
The report came a day after the American Petroleum Institute estimated an oil stock build of over 1 million barrels. It also compared with analyst expectations of a 5.372-million-barrel draw for the reported week and a 7.3-million-barrel inventory draw the EIA reported for the previous week.
Gasoline stocks surprisingly stayed virtually unchanged in the week to February 19, after a modest build of 700,000 barrels for the previous week, despite disruptions to refining operations by the Texas Freeze.
Gasoline production last week declined as a result of the Texas refinery shutdowns, to 7.7 million bpd. This compared with an average production rate of 9 million bpd during the previous week.
In distillates, the EIA reported an inventory decline of 5.0 million barrels for the week of the Texas Freeze. Middle distillate stocks remain above seasonal averages but are declining steadily, currently at 3 percent over the five-year average.
Distillate production averaged 3.6 million bpd last week, compared with 4.6 million bpd the week before.
Last week’s events in Texas will likely keep oil prices higher for some time as production restarts slowly, and some of it may not return at all as companies leave uneconomical, marginal wells idled, despite WTI prices of above $60 a barrel.
A growing bullish sentiment among banks and traders has also contributed to higher oil prices recently, especially after Goldman said it expected prices to hit $70 and top it by the summer. Recovering demand is driving this sentiment, and the production outages in the United States only served to strengthen it further.
At the time of writing, Brent crude was trading at $66.61 a barrel, with West Texas Intermediate at $62.76 a barrel.
Amid all the issues ignited in the Texas turmoil, and as oil prices roar to post-COVID highs, analysts across the energy space appear to be outdoing each other with their bullish forecasts.
Brent Crude prices could hit $70 a barrel in the second quarter of 2021, while they are set to average $60 this year, Bank of America said this week, raising its average price outlook by $10 a barrel from its previous projection.
Echoing Bank of America, Morgan Stanley also sees Brent touching the $70 mark this year, but a bit later – in the third quarter, expecting “a much-improved market,” including on the demand side.
On Sunday, Goldman Sachs started the investment banks’ upgrades of oil price forecasts, expecting Brent Crude prices to hit $75 a barrel in the third quarter this year, on the back of faster market rebalancing, lower expected inventories, and traders hedging against inflation.
But those forecasts all pale in comparison to Azerbaijan’s Socar Trading SA predicts global benchmark Brent could hit triple digits in the next 18 to 24 months, and Bank of America sees potential spikes above $100 over the next few years on improving fundamentals and global stimulus.