Oil Prices Rise on Better Demand

By Timothy PukoFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Oil prices rose Thursday with growing momentum behind the International Energy Agency's prediction of higher global demand.

In its closely watched monthly oil market report, the IEA said it now expects global demand to rise by 1.5% this year to 98 million barrels a day, driven in part by rising consumption in Germany and the U.S. during the second quarter. The Paris-based adviser to governments and companies raised its 2017 demand forecast by 100,000 barrels a day, compared with a previous estimate last month.

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Oil prices initially fell after the report, with investors focused on rising production in June from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which hit its highest level of the year at 32.6 million barrels a day. But there are signs that demand, growing faster than expected, will call for all of that oil and ease oversupply that has lingered for about three years, analysts said.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery settled up 59 cents, or 1.3%, at $46.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the global benchmark, gained 68 cents, or 1.4%, to $48.42 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. They had both traded at losses, about $1 lower than their settlement price, before surging to gains around the traditional start of U.S. trading hours.

U.S. oil is now on a four-session winning streak and 13 winning sessions in the last 15. The rally hasn't put oil anywhere near the $60-mark that many had predicted it would be on its way to by now, but it does show that investors may believe the 11-month lows the market hit at $42.53 in June are about the bottom, said John Saucer, vice president of research and analysis at Mobius Risk Group in Houston.

"I think maybe there's more confidence of staying in the $40s," he said. "There's support under the market where we are now."

U.S. producers need oil at $55 a barrel to keep growing production and stay profitable, but would need to improve their efficiency to do it at $45, analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said Thursday. The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Tuesday lowered its production forecast for 2018 to 9.9 million barrels a day, slightly down from around 10 million before.

The IEA on Thursday also called the change in demand "a dramatic acceleration." Demand accelerated in the second quarter, growing to 97.4 million barrels a day -- 1.5 million barrels a day faster than in the second quarter of 2016. It warned that while real-time data don't show this causing oil stockpiles to shrink, that may change as new data come in and it may turn out that in fact global inventories are shrinking.

"We are seeing some signs out there that things are cleaning up," said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. "World oil demand is going to continue to grow."

The market has already been rising in part from falling stockpiles in the U.S. On Wednesday the EIA reported the 11th decline in U.S. crude stockpiles in just 13 weeks. At 7.6 million barrels, the drawdown for the week that ended Friday was the largest since September, according to the EIA.

"We have now witnessed two weeks in a row of massive U.S. inventory draws," analysts at Piper Jaffray Cos.' Simmons & Co. International, wrote in a note to clients Thursday morning. They said the rising global demand, and its outperformance of recent expectations should be the primary takeaway from the IEA report.

The downside is production gains in Libya and Nigeria, which aren't subject to an OPEC-led agreement to cut about 2% of the world's daily output. Production from those two countries, in particular, has surged in recent months, undermining the attempted cutbacks and helping to derail widespread predictions of a rally.

OPEC members have considered new output caps on Nigeria and Libya. Without some production restraints on these two nations, oil prices have little chance of returning to the $50 zone in the near term, said Stuart Ive of OM Financial.

Gasoline futures rose 0.53 cent, or 0.3%, to $1.5261 a gallon, its 11th gain in 13 sessions. Diesel futures gained 1.8 cents, or 1.2%, to $1.4917 a gallon.

--Christopher Alessi, Justin Yang and Jenny W. Hsu contributed to this article.

Write to Timothy Puko at tim.puko@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 13, 2017 17:22 ET (21:22 GMT)