LONDON – Brent crude oil futures held above 48 dollars a barrel on Thursday as investor inflows offset data showing that U.S. crude stocks went up.
Brent was up 26 cents at 48.73 dollars a barrel.
Meanwhile, U.S. crude was trading at about 44.50 dollars a barrel, up five cents and off a six-year low hit on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said domestic crude stocks was nine million barrels per week to nearly 407 million, the highest level since the government records in 1982.
This pushed U.S. crude futures to an intraday low of 44.08 dollars a barrel, the weakest level since April 2009, but Brent held up relatively well.
“It’s a tug of war between non-supportive fundamentals and investor flows – investors are more concerned about missing a potential bounce,” said Ole Hansen, senior commodity strategist at Saxo Bank.”
Analysts expect stockpiles to keep building as U.S. production has shown no signs of slowing, and when refiners enter seasonal turnarounds, utilisation rates will fall.
In addition, the market structure induces traders to buy cheap crude to store, with the aim of selling it at a higher price for future delivery.
“With weak pricing and “contango’’ structures across most U.S. grades, storage plays will continue to attract material into tanks.
“Until seasonal maintenance is out of the way there appears to be little spur to do otherwise,” analysts at Energy Aspects said in a note.
Some traders believe this buying to store has provided a “false bottom” in the market.
The also trust that when land storage gets filled, or floating storage economics no longer work, there will be another sell off in futures.
“Traders buying and putting oil into storage may be holding the price for now,” said Christopher Bellew, a broker at Jefferies Bache in London.
“I see the market as being in a consolidating phase … (but) at some point I expect a move to the downside.” He suggested Brent could test 40 dollars or go lower.
“My reason for being so bearish is the production war within OPEC as Saudi and Iraq both seek to maximise sales and U.S. production has not yet started to slow.”
Saudi Arabia has said it is unwilling to balance the market alone and will maintain output in hopes low prices will drive higher-cost producers to cut their output. (Reuters/NAN)