Strong demand for diesel has supported the oil upsurge since the end of August, but the fuel’s surging demand could now thwart crude’s possible rise.
The demand for diesel and other so-called middle-distillate oil products, including fuel for trucks, jets, and ships have been driven by the continued growth of the global economy. In the latest event, arctic temperatures in the U.S. increased the need for heating oil, which is another middle-distillate like diesel.
According to the International Energy Agency, the global demand for diesel jumped to more than 28 million barrels per day in 2017, up from 27.5 million barrels per day in 2016.
Since August, the diesel price has risen close to 30 percent. This is when hurricane destruction to U.S. Gulf ports started the comeback of the fuel.
Brent crude prices, meanwhile, have increased by a similar percentage and is now soaring close to a three-year peak of $70 a barrel.
However, as the diesel price has risen, refiners have exited more products and speculative investors have dived in. That has sparked worries that the price of diesel could decline, putting pressure on crude, from which it is refined.
According to Sabine Schels, head of commodities research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the rise of oil can “by and large be traced back to the distillate markets.
“With refiners in max distillate mode and net speculative length at record highs, prompt prices could face near-term downside,” only means that crude prices “would certainly struggle to move higher,” she said.
Weekly net production of distillate fuel oil in the U.S. hit 5.5 million barrels a day in the last week of 2017, compared with 4.5 million barrels at the start of September, according to the Energy Information Administration.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, net-long positions in diesel increased more than 7,000 lots to 109,000 in the past week, which marked the most bullish they have been since June 2006, Giovanni Staunovo, a commodities analyst at UBS Wealth Management, said.
“If diesel comes off the boil, crude would also come off the boil,” Stephen George, Chief Economist at KBC Advanced Technologies, said.
Oil-market watchers primarily agree that the decline of diesel prices will at least end crude’s increase in the short-term to mid-term. But a lot of other factors have contributed to crude price gains and could rage a diesel-led reversal.
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