US Refiners Facing a Gasoline Glut Take Fresh Hit From Venezuela

Oil Price Fundamental Daily Forecast – Unexpected Inventories Build Sinks Prices

International Brent crude oil futures were at $60.89 a barrel at 0352 GMT, down 25 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last settlement, having closed down 0.6 percent in the previous session. Shortly after President Donald Trump recognized Guaido, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro severed relations with the United States and gave USA diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave the country.

On Wednesday, oil prices slipped almost 1% on the reports that the European Union (EU) is considering to circumvent U.S. trade sanctions against Iran while weaker United States gasoline prices further added to the weight on the USA oil. The loss of Venezuelan barrels could drive up crude prices and squeeze American refineries that take in hundreds of thousand of barrels of Venezuelan oil each day.

"We view a blockade on Venezuelan imports as low probability and a last resort measure that is likely weeks if not months away should it materialize", Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note.

"The quickly devolving situation in Venezuela appears to be approaching some type of tipping point", Helima Croft, RBC's global head of commodity strategy, wrote to clients on Wednesday.

The EIA data is due out later on Thursday, after Wednesday's release by the American Petroleum Institute saying USA crude stocks rose by 6.6 million barrels in the latest week, versus expectations for a fall of 42,000 barrels.

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More broadly, the slide in USA oil followed a tumble in global stock markets on Tuesday, with investors anxious about the threat of a widespread economic slowdown.

The bank said it expected Brent and WTI prices to average $70 and $59 per barrel respectively in 2019.

US energy firms this week increased the number of oil rigs operating for the first time this year.

West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery slipped 15 cents to $52.98 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 12:52 p.m. London time.

Refining profits for gasoline are crashing around the world as consumption stalls amid a huge wave of new supplies, resulting in record inventories in Asia, America and Europe.

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Official U.S. government oil production and inventory data is due later on Wednesday.

Worries about the longer-term outlook for global economic growth, and therefore demand for crude, has been undermining bullish moves in the oil market.

A trade dispute between the U.S., China and tightening financial conditions around the world have hurt manufacturing activities in most economies and dragged China's growth in 2018 to the weakest in almost 30 years.

According to Reuters' polls of hundreds of economists worldwide, a synchronised global economic slowdown is under way and would deepen if the US-China trade war escalated.

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