WTI Crude Caps First Weekly Gain in Six on Economy

Aug 29, 2014 3:25 pm ET

(Corrects monthly Brent change in fifth paragraph. For Bloomberg fair value curves, see CFVL <GO>.)

Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) -- West Texas Intermediate crude capped the first weekly gain in more than a month on speculation an improving U.S. economy will boost fuel demand.

Prices rose for a fourth day after touching a seven-month low on Aug. 25. U.S. consumer confidence rose in August, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final sentiment index showed today. The economy expanded more than previously forecast in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said yesterday. Brent gained on escalating tension between Ukraine and Russia.

“Economic numbers continue to point to a slowly improving economic picture, and it means better fuel demand,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. “The market kind of overextended itself when it slid to the seven-month low. We do have new concern surrounding the fighting going on in Ukraine.”

WTI for October delivery advanced $1.41, or 1.5 percent, to $95.96 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest closing since Aug. 20. It was up 2.5 percent this week. The volume of all futures traded was about 5.9 percent above the 100-day average. Prices have declined 2.3 percent in August, a second consecutive monthly loss.

Brent for October settlement rose 73 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $103.19 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Brent gained 0.9 percent this week and fell 2.7 percent this month. Volume was 19 percent below the 100-day average. The European benchmark crude closed at a $7.23 premium to WTI, compared with $7.91 yesterday.

Consumer Confidence

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index rose to 82.5 from 81.8 in July. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 80 after a preliminary August reading of 79.2.

Gross domestic product, propelled by the biggest gain in business investment in more than two years, grew 4.2 percent last quarter, accelerating from an initial projection of 4 percent, the Commerce Department reported yesterday.

The U.S. will account for about 21 percent of global oil demand this year, almost double that of China, the second- largest consumer, forecasts from the International Energy Agency in Paris show.

Finished gasoline supplied, a proxy for demand, rose 3.7 percent to 9.1 million barrels a day last week, the Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s statistical arm, said on Aug. 27. Gasoline use averaged 9.04 million barrels a day in the four weeks ended Aug. 22.

Stronger Demand

“U.S. demand has been better,” said James Williams, an economist at WTRG Economics, an energy-research firm in London, Arkansas. “Russian troops are still in Ukraine, which is obviously driving up oil prices. Whenever there is an uncertain situation and you have a three-day weekend, prices tend to go toward the up side.”

WTI may increase next week amid worsening tension between Ukraine and Russia, a Bloomberg survey of analysts and traders shows.

Separatists in eastern Ukraine are battling government forces on two fronts near the Sea of Azov and south of Donetsk after NATO reported a surge of Russian troops and advanced equipment into the war-zone.

The U.S. and the European Union threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin with further sanctions, even as the EU began talks in Moscow today aimed at a temporary deal with Ukraine to allow natural-gas flows to resume.

Selloff Overdone

“This month’s selloff was a little overdone,” said Dan Heckman, a Kansas City, Missouri-based senior fixed-income strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, which oversees $120 billion in assets. “With the conflict between Russia and Ukraine there won’t be a lot of people wanting to go into the long weekend short.”

BP Plc’s Whiting refinery in Indiana reduced operating rates on all units due to an outage on a cat-feed hydrotreater, according to IIR Energy, an information provider in Sugar Land, Texas. A fire broke out at the refinery after an explosion on Aug. 27. The 405,000-barrel-a-day plant is the largest serving the Chicago area.

Gasoline futures gained 3 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $2.7827 a gallon on the Nymex, the highest settlement since July 31. The fuel rose 1.6 percent this week and fell 1.7 percent this month.

Ultra low sulfur diesel gained 0.3 percent to $2.8569 a gallon, up 1 percent this week and down 1 percent in August.

--With assistance from Mark Shenk in New York.