There has been a chorus of bullish voices on the outlook for crude this week, including a prediction from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. that oil demand will post a record jump over the next six months as vaccination rates accelerate. OPEC+ also raised its estimates for growth this year, but the alliance cautioned a worsening virus situation in India, Japan and Brazil could derail the recovery.
India has been hit particularly hard by a second wave that’s pummeled fuel consumption, prompting some refiners to consider boosting exports in a bid to avoid deep cuts to crude processing. Rystad Energy reduced its demand estimates for the nation and forecast a 1.4 million barrel-a-day surplus in global inventories next month due to the impact.
“Demand will be zooming back in the U.S. as the economy opens up further,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities strategist at SEB AB. “There will be weakness in India. But it is highly visible for OPEC+ and they can react at next meeting if necessary.”
The short-term risks to the demand outlook are starting to show up in gauges of market health. The structure of the Middle Eastern Dubai benchmark flipped into a slight contango on Thursday, an indication that market tightness may be easing. The nearest portion of the Brent futures curve has also weakened.
The market recovery is flowing through to big oil companies. Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s profit rose more than expected in the first quarter, while Total SE also had a strong start to the year. Some U.S. producers are also restoring dividends as they rebound from the pandemic-driven crash.
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