Brent rises as US crude stocks fall

Oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico

Oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico

11 March 2015 – Brent crude rose towards $57 a barrel on Wednesday, paring some of the previous session’s sharp losses, after data showed US crude stocks fell for the first time in two months.

The benchmark closed nearly 4% down in the previous session on a rallying US dollar and before an industry group said US crude inventories fell by 404,000 barrels last week. Analysts had expected a 4.4 million barrel build in stocks.

Brent for April delivery rose 45 cents to $56.84 a barrel in early trade after dropping $2.14, or 3.66%, in the previous session.

West Texas Intermediate for April delivery climbed 63 cents to $48.92 a barrel after falling $1.71, or 3.42 percent, on Tuesday.

“The sell-off was overdone,” said Jonathan Barratt, chief investment officer at Sydney’s Ayer’s Alliance.

“I think it was more of a knee-jerk reaction because of the substantial build (of oil stocks) at Cushing,” he told Reuters.

US crude inventories in the week to 6 March fell to 439.4 million barrels, while crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 2.2 million barrels, data from industry group, the American Petroleum Institute (API), said on Tuesday. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration will release official stockpile data later on Wednesday.

Analysts polled by Reuters expect a stock increase of 4.4 million barrels for the week ended 6 March.

The fall in stocks was surprising, said Tony Nunan, oil risk manager at Tokyo’s Mitsubishi, partly attributing it to a decrease in imports and an increase in refinery crude runs.

He was bearish short-term on oil prices, which could drop close to January’s near six-year lows.

With the US dollar near to multi-year highs against a raft of currencies “oil has done very well to hold on. Brent is still trading through $55 a barrel”, Barratt said.

A strong greenback makes commodities including more expensive for holders of other currencies.

Barratt said recent economic news had also been broadly encouraging and “if US crude doesn’t break below $48.50 again this is a great time to buy”.

The number of job openings in the US in January rose to the highest in 14 years, figures from the Labor Department on Tuesday showed even as US sales recorded their biggest decline since 2009.

Data due on Wednesday, including industrial output and retail sales in February in China, the world’s top energy consumer, could give further direction.

The United States will also issue its Federal budget for February.

The oil markets have also priced in geopolitical risks including Libya where two eastern oil fields have been shut following an attack by Islamist militants, an oil official said on Tuesday.

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