- OIL FUTURES: WTI gains on producer cuts, but rest of complex slides as economic storm clouds gather
NYMEX WTI futures settled higher Friday as more producers announced output cuts, but the rest of the oil complex declined as weak economic data weighed on demand outlooks.
NYMEX June WTI settled up 94 cents at $19.78 while ICE July Brent settled 4 cents lower at $26.44/b.
A steady stream of announced producer cuts supported WTI prices Friday, but the impact was limited mainly to prompt-dated contracts.
ExxonMobil said Friday that it expects economic shut-ins and market-based curtailments to cut its global upstream production by 400,000 b/d of oil equivalent in the second quarter.
Chevron CEO Mike Wirth said during a first-quarter earnings call that the company would shut in 200,000-300,000 boe/d in May, with further volume reductions to come.
"Energy markets needed to see big oil signal deeper production cut efforts that would help balance the market," OANDA senior market analyst Edward Moya said.
ConocoPhillips said Thursday it now intends to curtail 265,000 b/d of gross oil, starting in May, representing an additional 40,000 b/d of cuts from the Lower 48 states. Output cuts will ramp up to 460,000 b/d in June, the company said.
The deep contango in the WTI forward structure somewhat eased Friday amid price declines in forward-dated contracts, but steep premiums to front-month contracts persisted throughout the curve. The second month July contract settled at a $2.51/b premium to June, in from $3.01/b on Thursday, and the sixth month November contract settled at a $7.96/b premium to June, in from $9.88/b the day prior.
Oil futures stepped higher ahead of US trading following the ExxonMobil production announcement. June WTI touched a session high $20.48/b, trading above the $20/b level for the first time since April 17, and July Brent hit $27.88/b. But prices pulled back amid a bevy of weak US economic data.
The IHS Markit manufacturing PMI index fell to an 11-year low 36.1 in April from 48.5 in March. The decline was the steepest in series history and signaled an unprecedented contraction in industrial production last month, IHS Markit said.
Later, the Institute for Supply Management reported its manufacturing index fell to 41.5% in April, down from 49.1% in March.
"The ISM survey at first glance looked encouraging, but the details and comments on the outlook suggest further economic pain will hit the manufacturing sector," Moya said.
Bright spot for product demand
Friday marks the end of the White House's official guidelines calling for a 30-day halt to nonessential work and travel, and more than two dozen states have now allowed mandatory stay-at-home orders to expire. But the weak manufacturing surveys suggest that the expected economic rebound may face headwinds.
NYMEX June RBOB settled down 1.74 cents at 76.63 cents/gal and June ULSD was down 3.70 cents at 79.61 cents/gal at the close of trading.
Still, the return of at least some nonessential business offered a bright spot for product demand, especially gasoline demand that has been particularly hard hit as drivers stay in their homes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As states begin to lift their mandates, particularly high-gasoline-demand states like Texas and Florida, drivers are venturing out on the roads, which bodes well for refinery margins.
S&P Global Platts Analytics noted that based on US Energy Information Administration data, US adjusted gasoline demand rose by 15% week on week, reaching 6.5 million b/d for the week ended April 24.
"This data appears to indicate the initial stages of resurgence in economic activity as states begin to ease lockdown restrictions," according to a recent Platts Analytics report.