Oil prices advance as investors reassess US inventories data


By Katya Golubkova

TOKYO (Reuters) -Oil prices edged up on Thursday, following two consecutive sessions of decline, as investors reassessed the latest data on oil and gasoline inventories and returned to buying mode.

Brent crude futures for May were up 40 cents, or 0.5%, at $86.49 a barrel while the more actively traded June contract rose 36 cents, or 0.4%, to $85.77 at 0757 GMT. The May contract expires on Thursday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for May delivery were up 44 cents, or 0.5%, to $81.79 a barrel.

Both benchmarks were on track to finish higher for a third consecutive month, and were up about 4.5% from last month.

In the prior session, oil prices were pressured following last week’s unexpected rise in U.S. crude oil and gasoline inventories, driven by a rise in crude imports and sluggish gasoline demand, according to Energy Information Administration data.

However, the crude stock increase was smaller than the build projected by the American Petroleum Institute.

“We … expect U.S. inventories to rise less than normal in reflection of a global oil market in a slight deficit,” Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB Research, said in a note.

“This will likely hand support to the price going forward.”

Also providing support to prices were U.S. refinery utilisation rates, which rose 0.9 percentage points last week.

Recent disappointing inflation data affirms the case for the U.S. Federal Reserve to hold off on cutting its short-term interest rate target, a Fed governor said on Wednesday, but he did not rule out trimming rates later in the year.

“The market is converging on a June start to cuts for both the Fed and the European Central Bank,” JPMorgan analysts said in a note. Lower interest rates support oil demand.

Investors will watch for cues from a meeting next week of the Joint Monitoring Ministerial Committee of producer group the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) amid supply concerns over geopolitical risks.

© Reuters. An aerial view shows oil tanks of Transneft oil pipeline operator at the crude oil terminal Kozmino on the shore of Nakhodka Bay near the port city of Nakhodka, Russia June 13, 2022. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Tatiana Meel

OPEC+ is unlikely to make any oil output policy changes until a full ministerial gathering in June, but any sign of members not sticking to current production quotas will be viewed as bearish, analysts at ANZ Research said.

“The lack of a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas continues to keep tension in the Middle East elevated,” ANZ said.