Crude oil prices lost ground in the Q3 declining by more than 7%. The wild ride in September has now been replaced by a slow trend lower. US crude oil inventories continue to climb due to a rising trend in US production. This comes despite a knee jerk spike in prices during September, following an attack on the main Saudi Arabian crude oil production infrastructure. It’s unlikely that oil prices will be able to gain traction when economic growth is contracting.
The Saudi’s Were Attacked
On September 14, Saudi Arabia was attacked. Rocket strikes hit their oil infrastructure, pushing prices up more than 14% in one day. It was the largest one day increase in oil prices in decades. Saudi Arabia announced that more than 5% of the worlds crude oil production had been sidelined. By Tuesday, September 17, the kingdom announced they would have all their production up by November. By the end of the Q3, it now appears that all the oil production that was taken offline is now back up and running. The initial reports suggesting it could take months for production to return to normal, were inaccurate which put downward pressure on prices.
Crude Oil prices continued to fall on the first day of the Q4 as Saudi Arabia agreed to a partial ceasefire in Yemen. Houthi rebels said that the attacks on the Saudi’s would stop if the Kingdom stopped targeting its positions with air strikes.
Inventories Continue to Rise
US commercial crude oil inventories increased, more than expected according to a report from the Department of Energy. Inventories have been rising due to production in the US climbing to 12.5 million barrels a day. Stockpiles rose by 3.1 million barrels from the previous week, according to the EIA. At 422.6 million barrels, US crude oil inventories are at the five-year average for this time of year.
Gasoline inventories edged lower and are now 3% above the five-year average for this time of year. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 2.4 million barrels last week declining more than expected but remain 8% above the 5-year average according to the Energy Information Administration. Total commercial petroleum inventories decreased last week by 0.9 million barrels last week.
US Demand is Rising
Despite a decline in total global economic output, demand for oil products in the United States remains on the rise. According to the US Department of Energy, Total product demand over the last month averaged 20.9 million barrels per day, up by 2.1% year over year. Over the past month gasoline demand averaged 9.3 million barrels per day, down by 0.1% from the same period last year. Distillate fuel demand averaged 3.9 million barrels per day over the past month down by 0.6% from the same period last year. Jet fuel demand was down 4.2% year over year.
The outlook for demand continues to slide. While the US is growing at approximately 2% year over year, it appears that Europe and Asia are contracting. There is a good chance that German growth will contract in the Q3, putting Europe’s largest economy into recession. It’s unlikely that oil prices will be able to gain traction when economic growth is contracting.