- WTI has stabilised just below monthly highs near the $114 level, as bulls eye a push towards $120.
- Familiar themes of strong US demand, EU/Russia oil sanctions, OPEC+ output struggles and easing Chinese lockdowns are supporting prices.
- WTI looks set to end the week around $3.50 higher.
Oil prices have stabilised close to monthly highs on Friday, supported amid a strong end to the week for global risk assets and commodity markets, and with familiar supportive themes in focus. Front-month WTI futures were last trading ever so slightly in the red near the $114 per barrel mark, on course to post a weekly gain of just shy of $3.50. For now, earlier monthly highs in the $115s and late-March highs in the $116s are offering resistance.
Traders continue to cite expectations for strong US fuel demand as peak driving season there approaches and as US gasoline inventories continue to decline (weekly EIA data released on Wednesday showed another drop) as supportive to the price action. The EU’s plans to sanction Russian oil imports have also been in the headlines. The bloc is now reportedly working on a deal that would ban seaborne imports, but allow pipeline imports to continue in a bid to placate land-locked Hungary, the nation that has held things up until now.
EU officials reportedly think a deal on this could be reached by next week’s EU Council Summit meeting of EU 27 leaders. Commodity analysts expect fresh EU sanctions would be a major hit to Russian production, which has already dropped substantially since the start of its invasion of Ukraine back in February. Indeed, Russia accounted for around half of OPEC+’s 2.6M barrel per day (BPD) miss on its output target for April, a recent Reuters survey showed.
OPEC+ production woes are another factor being cited as supportive of crude oil prices by analysts at the moment. Aside from Russia, plenty of other smaller (mostly African) producers have struggled to keep up with output quota hikes in recent months. Only Saudi Arabia and the UAE really have any spare capacity to rapidly increase output and, despite Western pressures, they don’t seem to want to. Indeed, OPEC+ sources told Reuters earlier this week that the group would stick with its policy of lifting output quotas at a gradual, 432K BPD each month when they meet next week.
Elsewhere, the situation in China is less of a concern as of late. Though Beijing remains in lockdown, restrictions in Shanghai are soon set to be lifted and further improvement could provide further tailwinds for crude oil prices next week. Looking at WTI from a technical perspective, the commodity appears to have formed an ascending triangle below resistance in the $115-$116ish area.
Typically, these chart patterns precede a bullish breakout. Bullish fundamental developments in the form of an EU deal on Russian oil sanctions plus an improving demand outlook could combine with technical buying upon a break of resistance to send WTI towards $120 next week.