Oil prices rise, set for strong Q1 amid bets on tighter supplies


Investing.com– Oil prices rose in Asian trade on Thursday as bets on tighter supplies, especially amid lower Russian production, put crude on course for a strong first quarter in 2024.

Crude prices saw two straight sessions of losses as an unexpected build in U.S. inventories and strong oil production in the country sparked some questions over just how tight markets will be in the coming months. 

Strength in the also weighed, as traders remained biased towards the greenback ahead of more cues on U.S. inflation and interest rate cuts. 

But JPMorgan analysts said that signs of easing Russian crude production were likely to underpin oil prices, also presenting a path for Brent to test $100 a barrel by September.

expiring in May rose 0.3% to $86.34 a barrel, while rose 0.5% to $81.78 a barrel by 20:45 ET (00:45 GMT).

Tighter supplies see oil prices set for strong Q1 

Brent and WTI prices were set for strong gains in the first quarter of 2024, and were trading up between 11% and 14% over the past three months.

Prices were boosted chiefly by a tighter outlook for markets, as Russia, Saudi Arabia and other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) kept ongoing production curbs in place. Russia had earlier in March said it will deepen its ongoing production cuts, while fuel supplies in the country also shrank following a series of debilitating attacks by Ukraine on Russian fuel refineries.

Signs of little de escalation in the Israel-Hamas war, which presented geopolitical disruptions for the broader Middle East region, also underpinned oil prices, as did persistent supply disruptions stemming from Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea. 

Russian production cuts to boost oil prices, US a potential hurdle- JPM

JPMorgan analysts said that Russia’s recent commitment to deepening its production cuts presented a tighter outlook for crude markets in the coming months, and also presented a path for Brent to reach $100 a barrel later in the year.

“Russia’s actions could push price to $90 already in April, reach mid-$90 by May and close to $100 by September,” JPM analysts wrote in a recent note.

But they saw the U.S. presenting a potential hurdle to prices, with high gasoline prices expected to become a contentious topic ahead of the 2024 Presidential elections. 

U.S. fuel demand picked up in recent weeks with the spring season, while increased refinery activity also saw inventories shrink in recent weeks. But oil production remained at record highs above 13 million barrels per day.

JPM analysts warned that the U.S. could once again turn to releases from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve to bring down oil prices. The Biden Administration had drawn the reserve to near 40-year lows in 2022, to counter the shock of high oil prices stemming from the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war. 

High oil prices could also chip away at demand, with deteriorating economic conditions across the globe already presenting a weak outlook for demand.