Prices hold on below $60

04 November 2005
Consumers had some reason to cheer in late October. For the first time since July, global oil prices remained below the $60-a-barrel mark for four consecutive weeks. And, this was despite two category-4 hurricanes - Katrina and Rita - raging over the US and in their wake shutting in significant refining capacity and hitting oil production installations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Brent crude was trading at $59.77 a barrel on 26 October, a week-on-week increase of just 1.7 per cent. The relative price stability is expected to continue at least over the short term. 'November should be less affected as logistical disruptions subside. Global demand growth has been revised down by 90,000 barrels a day [b/d] for 2005, but should rebound to 1.75 million b/d in 2006,' Paris-based International Energy Agency said in its latest oil market report.

With winter approaching, the main concern continues to be on product, rather than crude, supply.

'The market appears relatively bearish, as there is ample supply of crude. Inventories are at comfortable levels and the outage of 14 per cent of US refining capacity should reduce demand requirements,' says the OPEC's October oil market report. 'However, with the tight supply and demand balance on the product side, the market is likely to continue to be led by products. As the market remains sensitive to refinery outages, any unplanned shutdown or unexpected improvement in demand throughout the winter could push prices up.'

US inventory data released on 26 October confirmed the point. Crude supplies rose to 316.4 million barrels, 12.3 per cent up year on year.

However, gasoline supplies, although rising marginally during the week, remain 3.9 per cent lower than a year previously.

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