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U.S. Crude Could Break $90 as OPEC, Weekly Stocks and Dollar Weigh

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By Barani Krishnan

Investing.com -- U.S. crude’s long-held support of $90 may be the next to crack.

The front-month for U.S. West Texas Intermediate, or WTI, crude hit a six-month bottom, or its lowest since Feb. 24, as it fell to $90.83 a barrel on Wednesday. With just three days into August, the U.S. crude benchmark is already down 8%, more than the back-to-back loss of 7% for all of July and June.

“There’s a consensus building on the market that WTI’s $90 support could snap in the coming days and that $100-$105 could be the new normal of resistance,” said John Kilduff, founding partner at New York energy hedge fund Again Capital.

The last time WTI traded below $90 was on Feb. 21, when it hit an intraday bottom of $89.08. That was just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 that upended global commodity supplies and sent WTI to $130 by March 7.

WTI’s front-month settled at $90.66 per barrel, down $3.76, or almost 4%.

London-traded Brent, the global benchmark for crude, finished Wednesday’s trade below the key $100 per barrel level, at $96.78, for a drop of $3.76, or 3.7%.

Charts show WTI risks falling to as low as $82 after breaking key support at $93, said Sunil Kumar Dixit, chief technical strategist at skcharting.com.

“A break of the 50-week Exponential Moving Average of $93.16 exposes WTI to the horizontal support areas of $88, $85 and ultimately $82,” said Dixit.

London-traded Brent, the global benchmark for crude, finished below the key $100 per barrel level, trading at $97.40 for a drop of $3.14, or 3.1%.

Wednesday’s slump in crude prices came as oil exporters alliance OPEC+ agreed on a nominal production increase for September, after a hike of 50% from June levels for July and August.

Also weighing on WTI was a surprise jump in U.S. crude stockpiles for last week, with a mammoth 4.5 million barrels being added to inventories — virtually replacing everything that was drawn down a week earlier, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. The market had expected a decline of 630,000 barrels instead.

Gasoline balances also rose last week, by 163,000 barrels against a forecast draw of 1.61 million and the previous week’s decline of 3.3 million.

The rise in inventories of gasoline — the main automobile fuel in the United States — came even as pump prices continued to slide from mid-June record highs of $5.01 per gallon to $4.16 this week. Analysts said the surge of more than 65% in pump prices of gasoline from a year ago was partly what led to the demand destruction in fuel in recent weeks, causing stockpiles to rise.

Crude and gasoline stockpiles ballooned as the peak summer driving season in the world’s largest oil consuming country entered its final stretch.

There are just a few weeks more left of the peak US summer driving period as American parents take fewer road trips and prepare instead for the new school and college year beginning from mid-August to early September.

“We’ll be seeing more crude and fuel products’ builds in the coming weeks after this,” said Again Capital's Kilduff.

The dollar was another driver of oil’s weakness as its rally over the past two days made dollar-denominated crude contracts costlier for buyers holding other currencies. The Dollar Index which pits the greenback against after six majors led by the euro, hit a one week high of almost 106.7, rebounding from a near three-week low of 104.9 on Tuesday.

The dollar regained its mojo after remarks in recent days from Federal Reserve regional chiefs such as James Bullard of St. Louis, Mary Daly of San Francisco and Loretta Mester of Cleveland that the central bank wasn’t done with raising interest rates to deal with inflation remaining stubbornly at four-decade highs.

After four increases since March that brought rates from nearly zero to as high as 2.5%, the Fed is nonplussed that inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, hasn’t budged from four-decade highs, growing at a pace of 9.1% in the year to June.

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