A counter to EIA’s argument about a balancing market in early 2022 was given by Russell Hardy, the head of Vitol Group, the world’s biggest independent oil trader. Speaking online at the Reuters Commodity Trading Conference on Tuesday he said that global oil demand is back to 2019 levels and will exceed those during the first quarter of 2022. Not ruling out $100 per barrel Brent in 2022 he said oil market tightness will continue for the next 12 months with OPEC spare capacity down to between 2 and 3 million barrels per day.
Ahead of today’s weekly stock report from the EIA, the American Petroleum Institute late yesterday reported a price supportive 2.5-million-barrel drop in crude stocks and a near 8-million-barrel combined drop in gasoline and distillate stocks. The market will also be keeping an eye on flows in and out of Cushing, Oklahoma, the key delivery hub for WTI crude oil futures. A month-long drop in stocks to 26.4 million barrels, some 4.6 million above the August 2018 low, has supported the front end of the WTI curve resulting in very steep backwardations with the spot month of December trading some 11 dollars per barrel above the December 22 contract. The equivalent 12 month spread in Brent trades somewhat lower at 8.75 dollars per barrel.
As per the WTI chart below, the recent recovery has taken the price close to $85 and a potential breakout. Brent meanwhile currently sits around two dollars below a double top at $86.75. Whether or not the price will break higher at this stage will to a large extend depend on developments in the gas market, not least in Europe.