Oil Slips to Lowest in a Month as Traders Mull Reserves Release

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(Bloomberg) — Oil losses accelerated with both benchmarks dropping below their fifty-day moving averages as investors weighed the prospect of a release from strategic reserve supplies.

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Futures in New York fell as much as 3.3% on Wednesday to the lowest intraday level in more than a month. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping discussed the merits of releasing oil from their reserves in a virtual summit Monday but didn’t make a decision, according to officials familiar with the discussions. In a letter on Wednesday, President Biden urged the Federal Trade Commission to probe possible illegal conduct in U.S. gasoline markets.

“Energy markets are waiting to see what, if any, coordinated efforts with the U.S. and China happen before placing bullish bets,” said Ed Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda Corp.

Crude has drifted in a range of about $7 for the last six weeks, and traders are trying to figure out the market’s likely trajectory into 2022. The International Energy Agency said this week that while demand growth remains robust, supply is catching up. Meanwhile, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said a surplus may soon emerge as the rebound from the pandemic falters.

“When the trajectory of the oil market’s supply tightness is being challenged by both the IEA and OPEC, it’s difficult for the trading mood to not turn bearish,” said Louise Dickson, a senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy.

Japan, another major consumer that has voiced concern about high prices, is unlikely to release oil from its reserves due to a law that only allows it to release stocks in the event of supply disruptions, a government official said.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration earlier reported domestic crude inventories fell 2.1 million barrels last week and gasoline stockpiles slid 707,000 barrels. Yet, supplies at the nation’s biggest storage hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, edged higher.

“The market’s gaze has been distracted once again by the White House,” said John Kilduff, founding partner at Again Capital LLC. “We appear to be another step closer to a release, which is pressuring prices.”

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