Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ahoy Ahoy: Floating Storage Coming Ashore

The chart above (Chart 1) puts this week's bearish US oil inventories (released each Wednesday) in perspective. Oil prices dropped by US$4 to almost US$68 per barrel (NYMEX WTI).

Chart 1 shows total US oil inventories by week. Total US oil inventories increased by 8.5 million barrels.  The second chart (Chart 2 below) shows US oil demand which looked as if it may have reached an inflection point over the past month (US gasoline demand is strong, offsetting weak diesel and jet demand).

The big question is now: has something changed that has suddenly derailed the recovery in demand and decline in US oil inventories seen over the past 2 months, or is the past week an anomaly?

One thought is that the increase in inventories could be oil in floating tankers coming onshore now that the forward curve is flattening which removes the incentive to store. So either the forward curve goes into steep contango again or flat price oil is about to fall (or a combination of both) as this floating material comes onshore. Or perhaps extrapolating a single week’s counter trend data point (the trend being falling inventories and higher prices) is not such a wise decision?

The last few weeks of September are always quite a volatile time for US demand and inventories. We are in the low demand shoulder period between driving and heating oil seasons.  This week's numbers could be reflecting the data noise during this seasonal transition.
Follow @CommodityMD