Oil extended gains from the highest close in more than two years as optimism over burgeoning U.S.-led demand outweighed the concern that Iranian supplies will jump should sanction on official exports be lifted.
West Texas Intermediate rose 0.5% in early Asian trading after settling at the highest finish since October 2018. With the U.S. economy recovering from the pandemic, more drivers taking to the roads, and stockpiles drawing, most-active prices in New York are on course for a sixth straight daily advance.
That positive picture is being clouded, at least for now, by concerns that talks in Vienna between Tehran and world powers to revive a nuclear accord will pave the way for the lifting of U.S. sanctions. Should an agreement be reached, Iranian crude shipments may pick up just as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies relax collective curbs on exports.
Oil is on course for another monthly gain in May, the fourth of five this year, as investors wager that progress in combating the Covid-19 pandemic will spur energy consumption. The recovery is most evident in the U.S., Europe and China, while virus waves continue to roil economies in parts of Asia and Latin America. The rally in crude is part of a broader advance in commodities.
The vaccine-aided pickup in U.S. demand comes ahead of the summer driving season, which gets under way from the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. Data this week showed declining inventories of crude and gasoline, and that drivers are traveling almost as many miles on interstates as they did in 2019.
Ministers from the OPEC+ alliance, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, are set to meet on June 1 to assess the global market and their production policy. All but four of 24 analysts and traders surveyed by Bloomberg predicted they will ratify an 840,000 barrels a day increase scheduled for July, completing a three-part process to revive just over 2 million barrels this summer.
The market’s positive outlook is reflected in WTI’s widening longer-term spreads. The price of the U.S. benchmark for December 2021 was $4.93 a barrel higher than futures for the same month in 2022. The differential has expanded by almost $1 this week to hit the highest since mid-March.