THE OIL TRADERS TUG-OF-WAR

By: Tsvetana Paraskova June 4th 2018

Despite the recent sell-off, Brent Crude prices continue to be supported by geopolitical events and supply concerns, while the U.S. benchmark WTI Crude has been pressured to the downside by pipeline constraints in the most prolific U.S. shale basin amid record-high American oil production.

The discount of WTI Crude to Brent Crude topped $10 a barrellast week, and even touched $11 a barrel last Thursday. The WTI-Brent spread is currently at its highest since 2015.

The huge discount of the U.S. oil benchmark to the international benchmark is setting the stage for a tug-of-war between oil majors and big oil trading houses that seek to capitalize on the wide price gap to make profitable arbitrage exports of U.S. crude oil on the one hand, and hedge funds and other money managers who bet that WTI will be pushed further into discount.

Hedge funds are betting that the spread will continue to widen, while physical oil traders bet on record U.S. oil export volumes to narrow that gap, brokers and traders tell Bloomberg.

The WTI discount to Brent has doubled from around $5 a barrel in mid-May, while U.S. production continues to break records by the week, and the Permian faces takeaway capacity constraints. The Permian’s production is expected to grow by another78,000 bpd in June over May, to 3.277 million bpd, EIA estimates show.