Oil Futures Slip Ahead of Jobless Claims as Stocks Rise

Liubov Georges
By  Liubov Georges , DTN Energy Reporter

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Crude and refined products futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange and the Brent contact on the Intercontinental Exchange shifted lower in early trade Thursday after American Petroleum Institute data showed a surprise build in U.S. commercial crude supplies during the week ended Jan. 15, while continued weakness in U.S. dollar index and expectations for deeper public spending under Biden's administration buoyed sentiment in broader markets, lifting global equities to all-time highs.

U.S. Dollar Index fell 0.35% against a basket of its global peers to trade near 90.150 as broader risk sentiment improved and traders continued to factor in the costs of trillions in new spending from the Biden administration. U.S. equity futures are positioning to reset record highs Thursday after notching the strongest Inauguration Day gains in nearly 40 years.

Markets will keep a close eye this morning on weekly unemployment claims due out 8:30 a.m. ET after last week's figures unexpectedly jumped to nearly one million claims -- the highest since late March. Consensus calls for first-time jobless applications to ease slightly from the previous week to 890,000, while continued claims are expected at 5.3 million in the week ended Jan. 8. The worse-than-expected figures offer further evidence the U.S. economy is struggling to contain the fallout from the pandemic as the ongoing surge in new infections shutters businesses operations across the country.

President Joe Biden is expected to unveil Thursday a series of policy changes to unify the federal approach on virus testing as well as boosting government's ability to provide rapid vaccine distribution. The new administration's goal of immunizing 100 million people in Biden's first 100 days in office will depend, at least in part, on Congressional approval of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill laid out last week. Several Republican lawmakers, however, already singled their opposition to the massive spending bill that could feed into expectations of higher inflation later this year.

Separately, the American Petroleum Institute late Wednesday reported U.S. commercial crude oil supplies rose 2.562 million barrels (bbl) in the week-ended Jan. 15 versus calls for a draw of 1.3 million bbl while stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, hub slid 4.285 million bbl.

Gasoline stockpiles built by 1.129 million bbl, below calls for a 2.1 million bbl gain while distillate inventories added 816,000 bbl, less than a projected 1.1 million bbl gain.

The closely watched inventory report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is scheduled this week for an 11 a.m. ET release on Friday, delayed two days due to Inauguration Day.

Near 7:30 a.m. ET, West Texas Intermediate futures for March delivery traded near $53 bbl, and the March Brent contract on ICE slid 32 cents to below $56 bbl at $55.76 bbl. NYMEX February ULSD futures traded modestly lower near $1.5920 gallon and February RBOB futures slid 0.65 cents from Wednesday's $1.5439 gallon settlement.

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

Liubov Georges