New York — An unexpected US gasoline draw supported RBOB futures Jan. 22 while the rest of the oil complex came under pressure from pandemic-related demand concerns and rising US crude supply.
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NYMEX February RBOB settled up 8 points at $1.5487/gal while February ULSD settled 2.46 cents lower at $1.5760/gal.
US gasoline inventories saw a counter-seasonal decline in the week ended Jan. 15 amid a sharp uptick in demand, US Energy Information Administration data showed Jan. 22.
Total gasoline inventories fell 260,000 barrels to 245.23 million barrels last week, EIA said, well below the 4 million barrel build typically seen in mid-January. The draw left inventories 2.3% below the five-year average — the widest deficit since the week ended May 3, 2019.
The inventory draw comes as implied gasoline demand jumped 580,000 b/d to 8.11 million b/d, the largest one-week increase since the week ended Jun. 19. Gasoline demand was just 6.4% behind the five-year average last week, down from 11.9% the week prior and the smallest deficit since the week ended Nov. 6.
RBOB cracks surged. The front-month ICE New York Harbor RBOB crack versus Brent climbed to $9.62/b in afternoon trading, on pace for the highest close since mid-July.
Crude futures settled lower amid pandemic-tinged demand outlooks and rising US inventories.
NYMEX March WTI settled 86 cents lower at $52.27/b and ICE March Brent slid 69 cents to $55.41/b.
US commercial crude stocks climbed 4.35 million barrels last week to 486.56 million barrels, snapping five consecutive weekly draws and pushing inventories 9.3% above the five-year average.
The build exceeded market expectations. American Petroleum Institute data released late Jan. 20 showed US stockpiles climbed 2.6 million barrels in the week ended Jan. 15, while analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts Jan. 19 had called for a 2.5 million-barrel draw.
The larger-than-expected US crude build added headwinds to markets already on the back foot due to pandemic-related demand concerns. A new outbreak of coronavirus in some Chinese cities has sparked fears that the country could experience another wave of the pandemic. Chinese authorities have imposed mobility restrictions in affected cities, including Beijing, and have called on citizens to refrain from travel during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
With oil demand in Europe and the US already weak, market analysts fear renewed lockdowns in China could further weaken the demand outlook for oil and oil products.
"The news that China is restricting travel ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday underscores the severity of the recent uptick in infection numbers and concerns about oil demand in the world's second-biggest consumer," said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at AXI, in a Jan. 22 note. "The spread of [the coronavirus] in China is the most significant demand-side risk in Q1," Innes added.