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U.S. Debt Ceiling Uncertainty Balances Oil Market Despite Demand Optimism

Despite bullish predictions for oil demand and production cuts, the uncertain outcome of U.S. debt ceiling discussions holds oil prices steady.


Uneven Trading Amid U.S. Debt Ceiling Talks

On Monday, oil prices demonstrated a stable trend as concerns about ongoing negotiations over the U.S. debt ceiling counterbalanced optimism regarding future demand. Lower oil supplies from Canada and OPEC+ producers lent support but failed to offset the cautious sentiment.

Brent crude futures increased by 19 cents, or 0.3%, landing at $75.77 a barrel at 1323 GMT. Concurrently, the more actively traded U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for July delivery increased by 17 cents, or 0.2%, reaching $71.72. The June WTI contract, set to expire later the same day, matched this rise, settling at $71.72 a barrel.

The Market Spooked by Potential U.S. Debt Default

The prospect of a U.S. debt default and the potential economic downturn this could trigger, including a chilling effect on fuel demand, has unsettled markets. Talks aimed at averting such a default were due to recommence in Washington on Monday.

IEA Warns of Potential Supply Shortage

In the face of these financial uncertainties, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned about an impending supply shortage. In its recent monthly report, the Paris-based agency predicted that demand would outstrip supply by almost 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in the year's second half.

Vandana Hari, the founder of oil market analysis provider Vanda Insights, shared her perspective: "I expect plenty of volatility in the coming days and a bounce upward in crude prices as and when a deal is reached to raise the debt ceiling."

Production Interruptions and OPEC+ Cuts Impact Supply

Last week saw both oil benchmarks rise about 2% in their first weekly increase in five weeks. This upturn came after wildfires in Alberta, Canada, reducing crude supply significantly.

Simultaneously, voluntary production cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, including Russia, collectively known as OPEC+, began to impact the market this month. Total crude and oil product exports from the group dipped by 1.7 million bpd by May 16, with JP Morgan predicting a drop in Russian oil exports by late May.

G7 Pledge to Counter Russia's Price Cap Evasion

At their annual meeting, the Group of Seven (G7) nations committed to bolstering efforts to counter Russia's evasion of price caps on oil and fuel exports. The group emphasized maintaining the global energy supply and avoiding adverse side effects, although no specific plans were disclosed.

Despite these geopolitical moves, the supply situation for crude and oil products is expected to stay the same, according to IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, speaking to Reuters at the G7 summit.