Crude Oil Supply-Demand Balance in Sight: IEA

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In its monthly Oil Market Report for April released Friday morning, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that global crude supplies fell by 120,000 barrels per day in March to 97.8 million barrels per day. The modest decline was due to higher U.S. production that offset a further cut to OPEC production.

The IEA expects 2018 supply growth from non-OPEC countries to rise by 1.8 million barrels a day, more than double the 700,000 barrel-a-day growth in 2017. As both the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and OPEC have already projected, the IEA also expects U.S. production to surpass 10 million barrels a day this year.

Along with the rise in non-OPEC production the agency sees demand growth of 1.5 million barrels a day, unchanged from last month’s report. The IEA the estimate accounts for a healthy global economy and the 55% increase in crude prices since June. A price increase of that size and speed “can dampen oil demand growth to some extent.”

First-quarter demand from non-OECD countries was revised downward by 260,000 barrels a day “due to weak Chinese data.” Demand from India increased by 380,000 barrels a day in the first two months of the year.

Commercial stockpiles in the OECD countries declined in February by 26 million barrels to stand at 2.84 billion barrels, higher than the five-year average by just 30 million barrels. Preliminary data indicate that stockpiles will fall to the five-year average level by May. Stockpiles of refined products already have fallen below the five-year average.

Here’s how the IEA sums it up:

Our balances show that if OPEC production were constant this year, and if our outlooks for non-OPEC production and oil demand remain unchanged, in 2Q18-4Q18 global stocks could draw by about [600,000 barrels a day]. With markets expected to tighten, it is possible that when we publish OECD stocks data in the next month or two they will have reached or even fallen below the five-year average target. It is not for us to declare on behalf of the Vienna agreement countries that it is “mission accomplished”, but if our outlook is accurate, it certainly looks very much like it.

Early Friday morning, WTI crude for May delivery traded at $67.33 a barrel, up about 0.4% compared with Thursday’s closing price of $67.07. Brent crude for June delivery traded up about 0.3% at $72.26 a barrel in London.