Unfortunately for crude oik traders hoping for an end to the recent slump in oil prices, this week's industry data points provided little solace: Oil demand is flat, and inventories continue to build during a typically slow refining season.
West Texas Intermediate crude contracts for February delivery were trading up around 1% around 11 a.m. to $51.56 per barrel, while global benchmark crude futures were up over 6% to $54.27 per barrel.
On Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said domestic crude stockpiles (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) grew by 2.3 million barrels this week, after a 4.1 million barrel build in the previous frame.
A build in crude oil inventories should not be a total surprise, however, given the time of the year. U.S. refinery utilization is typically at its lowest between January and March, and indeed, the EIA reported refinery inputs averaged about 16.5 million barrels per day during the week ending Jan. 13 -- 639,000 barrels per day less than the previous week's average.
But the news comes one day after the American Petroleum Institute reported a 5.04 million barrel decline in crude inventories, much larger than the 1 million barrel draw analysts expected for the week.
EIA's report also comes one day after the Paris-based International Energy Agency weighed in on international demand. The agency maintained its 1.3 million barrel per day demand growth forecast for fiscal year 2017 and said OPEC output (excluding Indonesia) fell by 320,000 barrels per day month-over-month to 33.1 million barrels per day in December on Saudi Arabia's reductions and Nigerian disruptions.
Fortunately, the IEA also said early indications suggest OPEC countries will stay true to the organization's Dec. 12 agreement to reduce production by 1.2 million barrels per day in the first half of the year.
The U.S. is expected to lead the way for non-OPEC production growth, which the agency forecasts at 385,000 barrels per day in 2017. The U.S. will make up 320,000 barrels per day of that production growth after the country saw a 475,000 barrels per day decline in 2016.
Baker Hughes (BHI) reported last Friday that the U.S. oil rig count netted a loss for the first time in 11 weeks. Still, U.S. producers' drilled-but-uncompleted wells, or DUCs, remain at record levels and a brief pullback in rigs is not unusual after 10 consecutive rig additions.
Meanwhile, the EIA reported a larger than expected natural gas draw of 243 billion cubic feet, 6 billion cubic feet above analysts' consensus estimate. Natural gas futures were trading up more than 1% shortly after the 11 a.m. report to $3.34 per million British thermal units.