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Matt Smith

Matt Smith

Taking a voyage across the world of energy with ClipperData’s Director of Commodity Research. Follow on Twitter @ClipperData, @mattvsmith01

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Oil Prices Inch Higher Ahead Of Inventory Data

Today is national submarine day, and oil prices are trying not to submerge after a recent sustained rally. Today we get the opening gambit from the triumvirate of reports from the EIA, IEA and OPEC, with the EIA's short term energy outlook on deck first. OPEC is waiting in the wings tomorrow, before the IEA's Oil Market Report follows as the caboose on Thursday. In the meantime, hark, here are five things to consider in oil markets today:

1) We discussed last week how more Atlantic Basin crude is heading toward Asia, due to the relative weakness seen in Brent and WTI versus the Dubai-Oman benchmark. Just as we have seen with less Angolan crude heading to the U.S. and more heading to China, Algerian loadings are following a similar trend.

Our ClipperData show that while flows to Algeria's biggest market, Europe, are holding up, we have seen export loadings increasing to the Asia Pacific region for Algeria's light crude - and dropping off thus far this month to North America:

(Click to enlarge)

2) Iran has cut a number of its preferential terms relating to oil sales to India, in response to India cutting the amount of oil it buys from Iran. Iran has cut its credit period to 60 days from 90, while also reducing its shipping discount. India announced last week it would reduce Iranian imports by just over 60,000 bpd. Related: Why Breakeven Prices Are Plunging Across The Oil Industry

Our ClipperData show that imports from Iran averaged 550,000 bpd between April - December, which mirror India's ministry data. Imports so far this year are averaging just over 500,000 bpd.

India is the second-largest destination for Iranian crude; China is first. As India looks to put pressure on Iran as it tries to secure development rights to an Iranian gas field in the Persian Gulf, this latest move could either fast-track that decision, or conversely, push more Iranian oil to other leading destinations such as South Korea or Japan.

(Click to enlarge)

3) India gasoline demand has shrunk for a third consecutive month, as the country continues to experience the detrimental impact of demonetization from late last year. After the vast majority of the country's currency was taken out of circulation in November in an attempt to clamp down on corruption, oil demand dropped by 5.9 percent YoY in January, the most in 13 years.

India's banknote demonetization has had such a big impact because the majority of the Indian economy runs 'informally' - i.e., via the transfer of cash. Hence, the sudden halt in available cash flow has caused fuel purchasing to dry up. Total fuel consumption was lower year-on-year in February at 3.1 percent, before dropping to just 0.7 percent last month. Although demonetization has dealt a hefty dent to demand, it appears to be recovering.

Related: How U.S. LNG Transformed The Market

4) While it is seasonally typical to see retail gasoline prices push to a high for the year as we approach summer driving season, the recent oil price rally is super-charging this move, lifting the national average to just under $2.40/gallon. This is the highest since the latter half of 2015, and prices look likely to push on toward mid-two dollardom as we approach the starter's flag of summer driving season.

(Click to enlarge)

5) Finally, stat of the day comes from an estimate from the Boston Consulting Group, who projects that as many as 925 million miles traveled in the U.S. in 2030 will be in self-driving electric cars, as an estimated 4.7 million autonomous electric vehicles join the auto fleet.

By Matt Smith

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