U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and international-benchmark Brent crude oil futures closed higher last week with an impressive move that took the markets to multi-month highs. Last week, February WTI crude oil settled at $60.44, up +0.77% and March Brent finished at $65.20, up +1.46%.
Several factors helped to support crude oil prices this week including lower U.S. supply, the OPEC+ production cuts and demand growth expectations. Prices likely retreated on Friday on profit-taking ahead of the holiday-shortened week. Extremely light volume may have also contributed to the weakness at the end of the week as buyers were scare.
On Wednesday, the EIA reported that U.S. crude supplies down by 1.1 million barrels for the week-ending December 13. Traders were looking for a decrease of 1.5 to 2.5 million barrels during the period.
Two weeks ago, OPEC and other non-OPEC producers such as Russia agreed to deepen production cuts by a further 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) from January 1 on top of previous reductions of 1.2 million barrels per day.
Prices were lifted last week on increasing hope that the Phase One trade deal between the United States and China would lead to increased future demand. There weren’t any major announcements regarding the deal and traders remained in the dark as to where and when it would be signed. On Thursday, China announced a list of import tariff exemptions for six oil and chemical products from the United States, further boosting the demand outlook.
Progress of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is set to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), also boosted oil last week. However, a rise in the U.S. rig count, an indicator of future supply from the world’s largest producer, also put pressure on prices.
A holiday-shortened week can go either way. Low volume can also produce whipsaw action so be prepared for wild swings and try not to get caught chasing breakouts if the volume isn’t rising on the move. Those can be bull or bear traps. Unless there is major news, any breakout is likely to be triggered by a rogue trader gunning for stops.
Next Wednesday, the markets will be closed for the Christmas holiday, so the U.S. Energy Administration report won’t be released until Friday at 16:00 GMT. So essentially, we’re going to go the entire week without any fresh U.S. supply news.