Oil Surges After Record US Fuel Supply Drop From Deep Freeze

(Bloomberg) -- Oil jumped the most in more than a week after a U.S. government report showed a record drop in domestic fuel inventories from the aftermath of a deep freeze that shuttered refineries in several states.

Crude futures in New York climbed 2.6% on Wednesday, snapping a three-day streak of losses. U.S. gasoline inventories tumbled last week by the most since 1990 after a polar blast wiped out more than 5 million barrels a day of refining capacity in late February along the U.S. Gulf Coast, according to Energy Information Administration data. Crude stockpiles swelled with refineries still shut.

See also: Record U.S. Gasoline Decline Raises Prospect of $3 Pump Prices

“The market expected some noise from the storm’s lingering effects,” said Matt Sallee, portfolio manager at Tortoise, a firm that manages roughly $8 billion in energy-related assets. “Absent the magnitude of the changes, things came in pretty much as expected with the enormous product draw more than offsetting the record crude build.”

The U.S. data also showed gasoline supplied, a gauge for demand, surged the most since May, supporting those who say the oil market needs more barrels from producers as OPEC+ heads into a meeting on Thursday. The group is poised to agree on a coordinated production hike to cool the rapid surge in crude prices.

Oil has rallied more than 25% so far this year, shepherded by the OPEC+ alliance’s continued production curbs and expectations for demand to meaningfully rebound as Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out worldwide. That strength though has paved the way for the alliance to unleash more barrels, with OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo saying Tuesday that both the wider economic outlook and oil-market fundamentals continue to improve. The group could return the bulk of the 1.5 million-barrel-a-day hike that’s up for debate.

There are two parts to the potential production ramp-up that OPEC+ will discuss. The first is whether the cartel will proceed with a 500,000-barrel-a-day collective increase in April. The second is the question of how Saudi Arabia could phase out its extra reduction of 1 million barrels a day.

“Elevated price levels will incentivize the cartel to taper their output cuts, but given the uncertainty, the market is likely to be on edge heading into tomorrow’s meeting,” TD Securities commodity strategists including Bart Melek said in a note.

In the U.S., the decline in both gasoline and distillate inventories coincides with a spate of refinery outages left in the wake of the cold snap: Plants processed crude at the lowest level on record last week. While some refineries, like Motiva Enterprises LLC’s Texas site, have been able to restart key processing units, many that shut due to the freeze are still in the process of making repairs or restarting operations.

Meanwhile, much of the crude production hit by the cold temperatures has been restored. Crude supplies grew by a record 21.56 million barrels, signaling weak demand from refiners at the time.

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