Prices had their worst week in at least a month as the market contends with a potential deal that could lift US sanctions against Iranian crude. WTI futures in New York rose the most since mid-April on Friday, tracking a broader market rally that buoyed prices during most of the trading day. Nonetheless, crude benchmarks couldn’t shake off the specter of millions of barrels a day of Iranian crude returning to the market, with Brent futures in London posting the most significant weekly decline since March.
Prices have been stuck in a range lately, with optimism around global inventories rebalancing being offset by constant reminders that parts of the world remain far from a full recovery from the pandemic. The International Energy Agency said last week that the global glut that built up last year has cleared. However, the agency also lowered its demand estimates due to the virus’ resurgence in India.
The struggle between the spreading pandemic in the less developed world and the revival of economic activity in the US, Europe, and China continues to keep prices volatile as they move steadily higher. Last week, futures posted another gain as expectations for growing economic activity in the US and Europe fueled optimism around more robust summer demand, with New York prices advancing 2.1%. Fuel sales in the UK rose to the highest since the pandemic began, and in the US, refineries are running at their highest rate since the pandemic began as they gear up for the summer driving season. Declining crude inventories and progress in reopening the US economy are boosting oil prices.
Prices rose last month with much positive economic data and signs of a fuel consumption revival in key economies offsetting a worsening coronavirus crisis elsewhere. Futures in New York rose last week, extending their monthly gain to 7.5%. The near-certain likelihood of higher fuel consumption in the US, China, and the UK has brightened the overall demand outlook, even as a resurgent pandemic in India, Brazil, and Japan cloud those prospects. OPEC and its allies see world consumption rebounding by 6 million b/d this year, while Goldman Sachs says demand could post a record jump as vaccination rates increase.