Brent hits $70 on US summer demand outlook

Singapore — Oil prices rose on Tuesday, with Brent topping $70, as optimism grew over the fuel demand outlook during the summer driving season of the US, the world’s top oil consumer.

Prices were also boosted after data from China showed that factory activity expanded at its fastest this year in May.

Brent crude futures for August gained 83c, or 1.2%, to $70.15 a barrel by 2.23am GMT. US West Texas Intermediate crude for July was at $67.61 a barrel, up $1.29, or nearly 2% from Friday’s close, with no settlement price for Monday due to a US public holiday.

“While there are concerns over tighter Covid-19 related restrictions across parts of Asia, the market appears to be more focused on the positive demand story from the US and parts of Europe,” analysts from ING Economics said in a note on Tuesday.

“In the US, the summer driving season officially got under way after the Memorial Day weekend, and we have entered this period with fuel inventories already trending lower, and not too far from a five-year low for this time of the year.”

Tracking firm GasBuddy said Sunday’s US petrol demand jumped 9.6% above the average of the previous four Sundays, the highest Sunday demand since the summer of 2019. The price gains were capped, though, as more output is expected to hit the market.

Oil cartel Opec is likely to agree to continue to slowly ease supply curbs at a meeting on Tuesday, sources said, as producers balance an expected recovery in demand against a possible increase in Iranian output.

Opec decided in April to return 2.1-million barrels a day of supply to the market from May to July, as it anticipated global demand would rise despite surging coronavirus cases in India, the world’s third-largest oil consumer.

“We believe that the market will be able to absorb this additional supply, and so would expect the group to confirm that they will increase output as planned over the next two months,” ING Economics analysts said.