Brent, WTI Crude Prices Converge

WASHINGTON – European crude futures dipped Friday although the price gap with U.S. WTI narrowed, with few upward price signals for Brent and plenty of demand for U.S. products as the cold weather continues.

The spread, or price difference, between WTI and Brent has closed in to the narrowest point since early November, as a North American cold snap supports demand for oil products and drives up the price of the raw material used by refiners.

Brent crude for March delivery fell as much as 131 cents, or 1.2%, at $106.26 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. U.S. crude-oil futures were down 63 cents, or 0.6%, at $96.4 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In Thursday’s Energy Information Administration report, distillates stocks decreased by more than expected, by 3.2 million barrels.

Brent, WTI Crude Prices ConvergeBNP Paribas, in a note to clients, said stocks remain “below the bottom of the five year range.” Demand, meanwhile, saw “a 12% annual increase, as recent poor weather has increased underlying consumption,” they said.

All this has helped drive up the price of U.S. crude, bringing it closer to Brent. The gap closed to $9.69 Friday, the narrowest since Nov. 11.

JBC Energy noted, though, that U.S. refiners are also finding the export markets increasingly important. For the first time in several years, “refiners will need to look also at exports opportunities to determine how high them can run, or whether they [will] need to slash runs,” JBC wrote.

Brent crude oil, meanwhile, is “having trouble getting above the $108 per barrel mark,” said Commerzbank. CBK.XE -2.10% The seemingly well-supplied market is providing few clear upward price signals.

The ICE’s gasoil contract for February delivery was down $6.50 at $916 a metric ton, while Nymex gasoline for March delivery was down 152 points at $2.6545 a gallon.

– WALLSTREET JOURNAL

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