(New York) Oil prices ended up slightly on Thursday, still pushed by good Chinese indicators and a jump in American demand for gasoline, but fail to extract themselves from the corridor in which they have been evolving for several months .
A barrel of Brent North Sea oil for May delivery gained 0.52% to close at $84.75.
The barrel of American West Texas Intermediate (WTI), for delivery in April, took him 0.60%, to 78.16 dollars.
The two oil benchmarks remained oriented by the first concrete sign, Wednesday, of economic recovery in China, seen in two PMI activity indices for February well above expectations.
“It seems that the reopening of the economy, after nearly three years of rigid lockdown, is starting to bear fruit,” said Tamas Varga of PVM Energy, adding that China appears to be “on the mend”.
Operators were also satisfied with the contraction of American gasoline stocks and an increase in daily demand, to more than 9 million barrels per day for the first time in two months.
As for crude inventories, they increased for the tenth consecutive week, but less than expected, to 1.2 million barrels against 1.9 expected.
For two months, the prices of black gold have been stuck in a tight range between 72 and 82 dollars for the WTI, after having experienced brutal oscillations last year.
The upturn in China contrasts with a very uncertain world economy, undermined by general monetary tightening that is still in progress.
“We are in a waiting position”, explains Andy Lipow, of Lipow Oil Associates, as to the trajectory of the economy, but also to the effective extent of the Chinese rebound and the effects of international sanctions on Russian exports.
Tamas Varga sees prices remaining within these tight ranges, as “the continued concern over inflation will dampen any prolonged recovery in the near future.” On both sides of the Atlantic, the latest indicators point to a slower inflation deceleration than expected.
For Edward Moya, from Oanda, the recent resurgence of the dollar also plays against a more marked appreciation in oil prices.
The majority of oil contracts are denominated in this currency, and a stronger dollar therefore automatically makes the price per barrel higher, which can deter some of the demand and put prices under pressure.
Most operators nevertheless see prices rising this summer as uncertainty dissipates and the year ends with a bang. Andy Lipow is thus counting on a WTI around 90 dollars at the end of 2023, with a Brent close to 95 dollars.