Oil prices surged on Thursday, 8th February, 2024, fuelled by developments in the ongoing Gaza conflict and a declining dollar.
Brent crude futures saw an increase of 0.4%, reaching $79.56 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures climbed by a similar margin, hitting $74.17 a barrel at 0730 GMT.
The escalation of tensions in the Middle East, particularly in Gaza, has kept the oil market on edge since October. Talks to resolve the conflict have seen limited progress, with recent events adding further uncertainty. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of Hamas’ ceasefire offer, coupled with ongoing hostage situations in the Gaza Strip, has intensified the geopolitical tension.
However, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement suggesting potential negotiation room for an agreement offers a glimmer of hope amidst the deadlock. A Palestinian delegation led by senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya is set to engage in ceasefire discussions with Egypt and Qatar in Cairo, indicating a renewed diplomatic effort to de-escalate tensions.
In addition to geopolitical factors, a weaker dollar has contributed to the rise in oil prices. As the dollar index, measuring the greenback against six major peers, fell to 104.00 at 0730 GMT, crude became more attractive to traders holding other currencies. This dynamic has historically influenced oil prices, as fluctuations in currency values impact the purchasing power of international buyers.
Moreover, on the demand side, unexpected drawdowns in U.S. gasoline and middle distillate stocks have further bolstered the oil market. Energy Information Administration data revealed a significant decline in distillate stockpiles by 3.2 million barrels to 127.6 million barrels, surpassing expectations for a 1 million-barrel drop. Similarly, gasoline stocks fell by 3.15 million barrels, contrary to analysts’ predictions of a 140,000-barrel build.
Reduction In Inventories
The reduction in inventories has led to strengthening U.S. refinery margins, according to analysts at ING. They emphasized that this trend is likely to support crude oil prices, as refineries seek to capitalize on improved margins by increasing run rates. Consequently, the heightened demand for crude to meet refining needs contributes to the overall upward pressure on oil prices.
Furthermore, ANZ Research highlighted a 13% year-on-year surge in U.S. oil exports, reaching a record 4.06 million barrels per day in 2023. This increase, coupled with the decline in gasoline stocks, underscores the robust demand for crude oil in the global market.
Moreover, the ongoing geopolitical tensions in the Middle East have heightened concerns about potential supply disruptions. The uncertainty surrounding the Gaza conflict, coupled with broader regional instability, has raised fears of disruptions to oil production and transportation routes in the region.
Any escalation of conflicts or disruptions to key infrastructure could exacerbate market volatility and exert additional upward pressure on oil prices. Consequently, market participants are closely monitoring developments in the region, ready to react to any significant geopolitical developments that may impact oil supply.
As geopolitical tensions persist and market fundamentals remain dynamic, the trajectory of oil prices will continue to be influenced by a myriad of factors. The outcome of Gaza peace talks, the trajectory of the U.S. dollar, and shifts in supply and demand dynamics will be closely monitored by market participants in the coming days.