Oil futures: Crude eases from earlier highs, Brent around $112.50/b

23 May 2022

Quantum Commodity Intelligence - Crude oil futures Monday were little changed, having earlier in the session extended the strong gains seen at the back end of last week after markets focused on growing demand for transport fuels.

Front-month July ICE Brent futures were trading at $112.66/b (1720 GMT), compared to Friday's settle of $112.55/b and but from Monday's high of $114.34/b.

At the same time, July NYMEX WTI was trading $109.68/b, versus Friday's settle of $110.28/b.

"Crude oil prices gained for the fourth consecutive week amid signs of strong demand in oil products," said ANZ commodity strategist Daniel Hynes on last week's gains, noting the US auto club AAA expecting an 8% year-on-year increase in travel over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Global gasoline cracks surged on Friday following an explosion at the Ulsan refinery in South Korea, although have since corrected after S-Oil said the key RFCC unit had resumed operations.  

In Asia, the spot 92 RON crack in Singapore jumped to a record high of $38.74/b on Friday, up nearly $8/b, according to Quantum data.

Traders also focused on the likelihood of growing sanctions against Russia and what is looking increasingly like a prolonged war.

Ukraine has ruled out a ceasefire or concessions to Moscow, while Russia intensified its offensive in the eastern Donbas region and stopped sending gas to Finland, responding to the latest proposals on Western sanctions and Finland's NATO application.

After taking the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol, Russia is waging a major offensive in Luhansk, one of two provinces in Donbas.

In China, Shanghai reopened a small part of its subway system after some lines had been closed for almost two months, as the city prepares for a complete lifting of its Covid-19 lockdown next week. But the broader Chinese economy continues to slow, as Bloomberg Economics cut its full-year China growth forecast to just 2% from 5.7%.

Stephen Innes, managing partner SPI Asset Management, noted US President Joe Biden is considering meeting with Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman next month in what could be an important meeting for oil markets, with the US expected to lobby for higher OPEC+ output.

"Perhaps the top side could be limited until traders iron out this news," said Innes. 

However, Saudi Arabia signalled it will continue to support Russia's role in the OPEC+ group of producers, undermining US-led efforts to isolate Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, the Financial Times reported.