US conditions calm market

11 November 2005
The weather continued to move oil prices downwards in the second week of November, as further fair weather in the US calmed traders. In a more broadly benign American environment, both stocks and refinery inputs also rose. However, the heated debate over responsibility for the widely predicted longer-term strength of prices continued, while data on OPEC output showed falling supplies. Spot Brent was trading at $57.66 a barrel on 9 November, compared with $59.13 a barrel a week earlier.

Balmy seasonal temperatures in the US eased fears of winter heating oil shortages. Inventory data released on 9 November by the US Energy Information Administration was also broadly reassuring. Distillate stocks fell by a marginal 0.1 per cent to 120.8 million barrels, while crude supplies increased for the fifth week in a row, coming to rest at 323.6 million barrels, a 12.8 per cent year-on-year rise.

The latest figures also illustrated the ongoing revival of Gulf of Mexico refining facilities battered by the hurricane season. Inputs averaged 14.3 million barrels a day (b/d) in the week to 4 November, an increase of 316,000 b/d from the previous week. However, says Paul Horsnell of Barclays Capital: 'At a time when one might prefer that the world refining system remain at full pelt for a while yet, falling margins likely will lead to cuts just as falling retail prices buttress the demand side.'

The latest data from Platts, released on 9 November, shows that OPEC output during October fell by 240,000 b/d to 30.07 million b/d, largely due to falling production in Iraq, which suffered outages due to poor weather in the Gulf. Perennial obstacles of power outages and pipeline problems compounded the difficulties.

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