Oil prices diverged Monday morning as drilling activity in the US is gaining momentum, compromising oil market fundamentals in the medium to long-term. Brent crude was trading at $70.32/bbl just before 9.00 AM GMT, 0.28% down from last week’s settlement, while surprisingly at the same time WTI had posted minor gains of 0.12% to trade at $66.22/bbl. The two benchmarks have narrowed their spread in recent trading sessions, trading at a differential of $4.1/bbl earlier this morning, as continued crude inventory declines in the US have supported the north American marker. A month ago Brent was trading at a $6.8/bbl premium compared to WTI.
The US Dollar also posted minor gains earlier this morning, weighing on international buyers and resulting at additional pressure on crude prices. The US Dollar index was trading at 89.26 by 09.10 AM GMT, 0.2% up from previously.
The fleet of oil rigs operating in the US increased by 12 units last week, according to the latest count from Baker Hughes. The fleet has now reached 759 units, from 566 a year ago and 498 two years ago. The number of drilled but uncompleted wells has also risen sharply in recent months, albeit momentum appeared to slow in Q4 2017. Higher oil prices could incentivise elevated drilling activity, which in hand could lead to higher supplies in the future.
Speculators continued to build their net long position in the US the past week, breaking through new record levels. The net managed money position rose to 496.11 million bbls, 13.81 million bbls up w-o-w. Similarly, producers also saw a small increase in their net position, which was lifted to 14.72 million bbls net short.