Last Updated: February 25, 2018
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Business Trends

Crude ended the week on a high note — with Brent closing above $67/ barrel and WTI above $63 — as sentiment in the global financial markets continued to recover from a fresh jolt Wednesday. US stocks gained the most at Friday’s market close after equities in Europe and Asia made modest recoveries. However, stocks remain vulnerable to volatility and more sell-off, which we expect to be mirrored in crude. Bullish bets by speculators in ICE Brent and NYMEX WTI crude futures dropped consistently from a record high in the two weeks to February 20 but remain well above historical norms.

Crude began reconnecting with its own fundamentals this week as the financial markets appeared to be consolidating after the previous two weeks’ extreme volatility. But the unease around inflation and interest rates, which maintained pressure on equities, was a driver in the crude markets too. This was especially evident in the intraday price movements of Brent and WTI futures round the clock, which were often in sync with the movements in the respective region’s stock indexes.

Understanding the ongoing relationship between the turmoil that racked the financial markets across the world starting February 2 and crude prices is important. As long as the financial markets remain volatile — current signals suggest continued turbulence — we see the linkage remaining intact. That means looking at just the usual oil price drivers will yield only part of the picture. The US dollar has re-established a strong inverse correlation with crude prices since December and will also be buffeted by the shifting expectations on interest rate hikes. That offers another reason to keep a close watch on the financial markets.

Fears over a more hawkish Fed re-emerged following the release Wednesday of the minutes of the January Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The minutes showed several members of the Fed policy-making body had revised up their forecasts for economic growth in the US and elsewhere in the near term compared with their outlook in the December 2017 meeting. The market interpreted that as bullish and confirming expectations of three quarter-point interest rate hikes by the Fed through 2018.

The benchmark US 2-year Treasury yield closed at 2.26% Wednesday, its highest in nearly a decade, and the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average indexes tumbled. The dollar closed at its highest level in a week. Brent settled a mild 17 cents higher on the day, while WTI eased 22 cents.

Crude climbed 1.5-1.8% Thursday after the US Energy Information Administration reported a surprise decline of nearly 1.62 million barrels in commercial crude inventories in the country for the week to February 16. However, Brent and WTI futures were alternating between green and red in intraday trading Friday, moving in step with the mood in each region’s stock markets, before being led to a strong finish by a rally in the US stocks.


Understand the mechanics of oil pricing. Learn how global benchmark oil prices are set and how that information percolates down to the price tag at the petrol pump. 

Attend "What Determines the Price of Oil" - with Vandana Hari this March 2018 in Singapore 

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