Oil Futures Fade Gains as Biden's Stimulus Up for Debate

Liubov Georges
By  Liubov Georges , DTN Energy Reporter

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- With equities resetting record highs on Wednesday, crude and refined products futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange and Brent on the Intercontinental Exchange remained on the offensive in afternoon trade, although backed off the intrasession highs after several U.S. lawmakers indicated their opposition to the new spending plan proposed by the incoming administration of Joe Biden, who today was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.

West Texas Intermediate futures for February delivery expired near an 11-month spot high $53.24 barrel (bbl), with the March contract settling 33 cents higher at $53.31 bbl. March Brent contract on ICE added 18 cents to finish just above $56 bbl at $56.08 bbl. NYMEX February ULSD futures settled modestly higher at $1.6004 gallon and February RBOB futures added 0.58 cents for a $1.5439 gallon settlement.

Wednesday's modest gains were spurred by investor expectations for U.S. crude stockpiles to decline for the sixth consecutive week through Jan. 15, down 1.3 million bbl from the previous week. Gasoline inventories projected to have risen by 2.1 million bbl from the previous week, while stocks of distillates are seen to have added 1.1 million bbl. Refinery run rates likely declined by 0.5% to 81.5% of capacity.

The closely watched inventory data from the American Petroleum Institute is scheduled for release at 4:30 p.m. EST, with the weekly report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration delayed to 11 a.m. EST Friday due to Inauguration Day.

Biden assumed the presidency on Wednesday amid economic turmoil brought on by the pandemic and government response to slowing the spread of the virus that continues to affect millions of American businesses and households. Biden's signature legislature to spur economic growth is centered around his plan for a $1.9 trillion in rescue aid designed to deliver direct payment checks to Americans and boost government efforts to flatten the curve. It became clear however, the new spending plan is likely to go through vigorous debate on the Senate floor as several Republican lawmakers suggested they opposed the legislation. Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Wednesday he is "not looking for a new program in the immediate future," while Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, indicated the plan requires a "fair amount of debate." It might be tough for Romney or Murkowski to vote against a bill that also includes pandemic and vaccine funding, however.

United States passed a grim milestone of 400,000 virus-related deaths on Tuesday, with the toll on human life projected to rise further in coming weeks before leveling off mid-February. The long-awaited vaccine rollout has so far been slower than expected, prompting top health officials to criticize the disorganized campaign. Biden plans to broaden the federal government's role to achieve nationwide immunization targets, setting up federal sites for mass distribution, along with mobile vaccination centers for people in rural areas.

Liubov Georges can be reached at liubov.georges@dtn.co

Liubov Georges