Oil prices tick up amid mixed signals from U.S. data

A kayaker passes in front of an offshore oil platform in the Guanabara Bay in Niteroi, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020.

Dado Galdieri | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Oil prices ticked up on Thursday after U.S. oil product stocks shrank, providing bulls with ammunition ahead of a meeting between OPEC producers and their allies to discuss their future output strategy.

Brent crude futures were up 46 cents at $41.17 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 29 cents to $38.25 a barrel.

Both benchmarks were down about 2% earlier in the session.

Worries about fuel demand rose after a surge in coronavirus cases led Beijing to cancel flights and shut schools and several U.S. states, including Texas, Florida and California, reported sharp increases in new cases.

A rise in U.S. crude stockpiles to a record high for a second week in a row weighed on sentiment, but U.S. government data showed lower inventories of gasoline and distillates, which includes diesel and heating oil, indicating higher demand.

“Gasoline and distillates both fell unexpectedly… Add to that that oil producers are still feeling the impact of the rout from March and April as (U.S.) crude oil output is now down at 10.5 (million barrels per day) and you might conclude that bulls have a case in point,” PVM oil analysts said in a note.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, are expected to hold an online meeting later on Thursday to discuss the future of a record 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) output cut.

OPEC+ compliance with crude production cut commitments in May was 87%, two OPEC+ sources said on Wednesday.

Iraq and Kazakhstan are expected to present their plans for production cuts and compensation for overproduction to a meeting of the OPEC+ ministerial committee, known as the JMMC, on Thursday, one OPEC+ source said.

OPEC warned in a monthly report the market would remain in surplus in the second half of 2020 even as demand improves, as it now expects supply from outside the group to be about 300,000 bpd higher than previously thought.

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