(Bloomberg) --Oil surged by the most intraday in three weeks, lifted by broader market strength and optimism over demand recovering this year.
Futures climbed as much as 2.4% in New York on Monday with the S&P 500 rebounding from the worst selloff since October. Meanwhile, Saudi Aramco sees oil demand returning to pre-Covid levels later this year, saying it is confident the worst of the pandemic is now in the rearview mirror.
A significant strengthening has also taken place in the structure of the oil futures curve. Brent’s second-month contract is the most expensive versus a month later in more than a year. The formation -- known as backwardation -- has been growing in recent months and is a sign of market tightness with Saudi Arabia’s unilateral production cuts set to start this month.
“There’s a sense that normalcy will occur and it’s looking more certain,” boosting the outlook for oil demand, said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research. Meanwhile, “the Saudi production cuts start today, and people are focused on falling inventories and how the market is tightening.”
The market still faces lingering near-term risks to global reopening efforts. The outlook for Asian transport fuels has worsened again, with a resurgent coronavirus in the region hampering mobility and likely spurring more Chinese exports of diesel and gasoline. But with money flowing into commodities as vaccines are rolled out, and with OPEC+ still restraining output, there are hopes that inventories will fall sharply this month.
“The oil market continues to shake off any fears related to lockdown induced demand destruction as we see evidence that crude supply is shrinking at a faster rate than demand,” TD Securities commodities strategists including Bart Melek said in a note. “Crude oil markets remain in good shape to tighten in 2021, and the latest OPEC data suggest the cartel has been diligent in living up to their deal.”
West Texas Intermediate crude for March rose $1.18 to $53.38 a barrel at 1:30 p.m. in New York
Brent for April settlement advanced $1.21 to $56.25 a barrel
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said the rebalancing of the oil market continues to beat its above-consensus expectations, with the supply deficit seen averaging 900,000 barrels a day in the first half, compared with an earlier estimate of 500,000.
There were softer signs in the demand outlook from India, though. January diesel sales fell 5% from a month earlier, and were down 2.3% from the same period last year, according to preliminary data from officials with direct knowledge of the matter.
Other oil-market news:
West Africa’s oil exports slumped to the lowest level in at least three years last month, as infrastructure woes for some of Nigeria’s biggest streams combined with gradually waning output in Angola.
Libya’s observed crude and condensate exports declined 13% month-over-month in January as strikes at ports disrupted exports and a major pipeline was taken out of service for a week.
BP Plc will sell a stake in an Omani gas block to Thailand’s national energy firm for $2.6 billion, part of a push to divest billions of dollars of assets and focus more on renewable energy.