Oil prices experienced a slight decrease on Thursday as market participants kept a close eye on ongoing discussions concerning an increase in the U.S. debt ceiling. This followed a period of optimism about U.S. fuel demand, which led to a substantial rise in oil prices during the previous trading session.
Brent Crude and West Texas Intermediate Show Dips
Brent crude futures fell 76 cents or 1%, landing at $76.20 a barrel. Meanwhile, U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude also dropped 66 cents or 0.9%, resulting in a $72.17 barrel price.
Factors Driving Oil Prices: Demand Surge and Debt Ceiling Talks
A significant drop in U.S. gasoline inventories, induced by demand reaching its highest levels since 2021, alongside positive expectations around the U.S. debt ceiling talks, contributed to an increase of more than $2 in the main crude benchmarks on Wednesday. Meanwhile, European stocks rose, and the U.S. dollar reached a new seven-week high, making oil pricier for those holding other currencies.
Progress on U.S. Debt Ceiling Negotiations: Biden and McCarthy's Perspective
President Joe Biden and leading congressional Republican Kevin McCarthy asserted their commitment on Wednesday to formulating a deal to raise the federal government's $31.4 trillion debt ceiling. Such an agreement is critical to avoid a potentially devastating economic default. The urgency of these talks is accentuated by the nearing deadline, which suggests that the government could run out of funds to cover its expenses as early as June 1.
Anticipation of Fed Rate Hike Influences Oil Prices
The potential for an additional interest rate increase from the U.S. Federal Reserve also exerted pressure on oil prices. The Federal Reserve closely observes the number of Americans applying for job benefits, and recent data suggests a more significant than anticipated drop last week, indicating a robust labor market. Consequently, traders are now assigning approximately a 20% probability to a Fed rate hike in their June meeting, starkly contrasting last month's expectations of a 20% chance of a rate cut.
Expectations of Further Hike Bolstered by U.S. Economic Data
April's strong U.S. economic data, optimism around the debt ceiling talks, and the performance of regional banking stocks have bolstered market expectations of another interest rate hike, according to a note by ANZ Research on Thursday.