A day after the American Petroleum Institute once again surprised traders by reporting an estimated build in U.S. crude oil inventories, the Energy Information Administration released its own estimate, saying inventories had shed 4.8 million barrels in the week to August 30.
This compares with a draw of as much as 10 million barrels for the previous week, which propped up prices, reversing yet another slide brought about by concerns about U.S.-China trade relations.
It was news on the same topic that yesterday lifted prices, despite API’s estimate of an inventory build. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told media yesterday that talks with Chinese officials have been scheduled for “the coming weeks” in Washington. This rekindled hopes for a deal despite the recent exchange of yet more tariffs between the two.
Meanwhile, the EIA also reported a gasoline inventory draw of 2.4 for the last week of the summer driving season, with distillate fuels shedding 2.5 million barrels in the period. This compared with a 2.1-million decline in gasoline inventories in the week before, and the same-size draw in distillate fuel inventories.
Refineries processed 17.4 million bpd of crude last week, producing 10.3 million bpd of gasoline and 5.2 million bpd of distillates. This compared with a flat processing rate a week earlier, with gasoline production at 10.7 million bpd and distillate fuel production at 5.2 million bpd.
The trade war between the U.S. and China has become the number-one factor to watch when forecasting oil demand trends, overtaking even OPEC policies and the rising U.S. crude oil production. With the trade conflict already hurting economies around the world, all eyes are on the negotiating table with hopes this time the talks would yield a deal.
It’s anyone’s guess whether this will happen, however. Neither side seems all too willing to make any concessions even though both economies have suffered the consequences of the conflict.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com