Crude oil prices were on the backfoot on Tuesday as the United States confirmed it will release pressure on fuel prices, with a loan of crude from emergency reserve stockpiles.
America is going to release some 50mln barrels of the black stuff in a co-ordinated move with China, Japan, India, South Korea and the UK in a bid to lower fuel prices and cool inflation.
Some 32mln of the 50mln barrels will comes from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve, in so-called ‘swap’ deals, over the coming months whilst the other 18mln will be in the form of accelerated, previously agreed oil sales.
It’s the most significant release of US reserves without a backdrop of war and conflict.
The Biden Administration is reportedly prepared to take further steps, if needed, to keep a lid on prices.
Crude prices eased slightly, though market commentators noted that the short-term crude boost in supply would need to be returned into reserve in the future.
America’s move comes ahead of the next OPEC meeting, slated for early December, where the crude cartel will discuss their current output quotas, which have supported higher prices through much of 2021.
Some market commentators believe that the OPEC+ members (OPEC plus Russia) could change their current plans to raise volumes if large consumers (i.e. America and China) release reserves or if the pandemic further impacts demand.
Elsewhere, analysts at Barclays have given their outlook on oil prices into 2022 whilst highlighting that the market’s focal point is changing.
“For the past 18 months, we believe investors’ primary concern related to oil prices has been around demand. Supply was considered to be secondary,” Barclays analyst Lydia Rainforth said in a note. “However, demand has rebounded sharply from the pandemic to back above 99mn b/d, according to the IEA.
The analyst added: “For 2022, we cautiously assume an oil price of US$70/bl, roughly in line with this year.
“While this is below current prevailing prices and there is a chance prices could spike higher as demand recovers more quickly than supply, there remain downside factors that we think bear considering, including additional travel and industrial activity restrictions linked to stricter Covid measures that could potentially be enacted over the winter as well as the potential for supply to positively surprise.”
The Barclays analyst also said that there is some 5mln barrels of ‘spare capacity’ in the market and a lag in accessing additional production barrels may prove transitory, whilst noting that “the most impact to balances would likely come from the discretionary and hard to project actions of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Russia”.