Oil prices rose for a third straight session on Friday, with front-month WTI future last trading higher by close to 3% in the mid-$109.00s per barrel, more than $11 higher than mid-week lows in the $98.00s. The rally on Friday was partially spurred by a rebound in global equity markets at the end of what has, for them, been a difficult week marred by concerns about central bank tightening and weakening global growth.
However, WTI’s rally on Friday still leaves it lower by about $1.0, or 0.7%, on the week, though the bullish momentum of the past few days suggests a test of recent highs in the $111.00s is certainly a possibility by the end of this week/early next. Recent bullish momentum in crude oil markets comes despite a few potentially bearish fundamental developments in recent days.
Firstly, Chinese lockdowns show no sign of widely easing yet, even as cases in some key cities (like Shanghai) fall, with authorities in Beijing on Friday forced to deny rumors that the capital was headed into full lockdown. Separately, reports suggested the EU may abandon its plans for a Russian oil import embargo amid continued opposition from Hungary.
However, worries about a Russian gas export blockade, as Gazprom halts flows to a number of its European sub-units after Russia imposed sanctions on them, and as flows in Ukraine face disruption are likely negating the above noted bearish developments for now. Analysts on Friday have been fretting about the longevity of the global risk asset rally, and if sentiment takes a turn for the worse next week, it may be hard for WTI to hold in the upper $110s, especially if the EU’s Russian oil embargo plan collapses.
Oil traders shouldn’t forget that oil markets are also impacted by the very same global growth fears currently weighing on other asset classes. The International Energy Agency (IEA) and OPEC both downgraded their forecasts for oil demand growth in 2022 in their latest monthly reports released on Thursday, citing the impact of falling demand in China and slowing growth elsewhere. That’s another reason why, in the absence of further geopolitical risk being built up (EU embargo on Russian oil)/an improvement in the lockdown situation in China, it may be difficult for WTI to break back above $110.