Crude futures climbed to fresh 13-month highs Feb. 12 as oil demand outlooks improved amid signs of progress on US COVID-19 vaccination distribution and a coronavirus stimulus package.
NYMEX March WTI settled up $1.23 at $59.47/b and ICE April Brent climbed $1.30 to $62.44/b.
President Joe Biden announced late Feb. 11 that the US has secured deals to buy 200 million more COVID-19 vaccines from producers Moderna and Pfizer, boosting optimism that a rapid rollout of doses will lead to a robust oil demand recovery in the second half of the year.
“The crude demand outlook looks like it could get its best-case scenario as Americans who want a COVID[-19] vaccine will be able to get it by April,” OANDA senior market analyst Edward Moya said in a note. “WTI crude is having an amazing February and given the strength heading into a long weekend, it seems energy traders are hesitant on scaling back.”
Meanwhile, the president’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill continued to advance through Congress, with the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee passing a $940 billion portion of the package that included a third round of direct relief payments totaling $1,400.
NYMEX March RBOB settled up 4.23 cents to $1.6925/gal and March ULSD climbed 2.68 cents to $1.7714/gal.
Over the next three years, global oil consumption is set to see the fastest rise in absolute volumes since the 1970s, according to Bank of America’s Global Energy Weekly report, released late Feb. 11. Total demand is expected to grow nearly 9 million b/d by 2024, the report said, with 5.3 million b/d of that total being realized in 2021, 2.8 million b/d in 2022, and 1.4 million b/d in 2023.
Notably, the recovery in demand has not been even across sectors and has not improved steadily, either, on a sequential basis, BofA analysts said.
“For instance, mobility dropped across a broad range of regions in December and January, dragging down fuel demand. Meanwhile, segments like petrochemical demand have flourished due to increased use of single-use plastics, while others, like jet fuel, have floundered,” the Global Commodity research team wrote in the report.
“This lack of consistency in the oil demand recovery is visible also across different regions and points in time. For example, workplace mobility in Europe has taken a major hit, particularly in the UK … . Also, after a steady improvement since [first-quarter] 2020, China has seen a sharp drop in the number of flights heading into the Chinese New Year,” they added.
In the US, crude inventories have declined more than 17 million barrels since mid-January and are rapidly approaching their five-year average following three weeks of counter-seasonal draws, but European demand outlooks remain under pressure as Germany recently extended its nationwide lockdown to March amid concern regarding the spread of new variants of the virus.