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Oil Prices Slide as U.S. Crude Inventories Surge

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Oil prices faced a downward trend on Thursday as U.S. crude inventories witnessed a substantial surge, raising concerns about demand in the world’s largest economy and primary oil consumer.

Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian oil, fell by 38 cents or 0.5% to settle at $81.22 a barrel by 09:37 am, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil saw a decline of 43 cents, or 0.6% to close at $76.21 a barrel.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) disclosed a notable increase in U.S. crude inventories, rising by 12 million barrels to 439.5 million barrels for the week ending February 9.

This exceeded analysts’ expectations, who had forecasted a rise of 2.6 million barrels.

The unexpected surge in stockpiles prompted apprehension among traders about the level of demand.

Analysts attributed the buildup in crude supplies to reduced refinery utilization rates, notably affected by the shutdown of BP’s Whiting plant in Indiana, with a daily capacity of 435,000 barrels.

Lower refinery run rates contributed to a decline in gasoline stocks despite the overall inventory surge.

Market analysts anticipate a significant response to the upcoming March meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies (OPEC+), particularly regarding the decision on whether to extend output curbs.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Crude Oil

Nigeria’s Crude Oil Production Falls for Second Consecutive Month, OPEC Reports

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Nigeria’s crude oil production declined for the second consecutive month in March, according to the latest report from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Data obtained from OPEC’s Monthly Oil Market Report for April 2024 reveals that Nigeria’s crude oil production depreciated from 1.322 million barrels per day (mbpd) in February to 1.231 mbpd in March.

This decline underscores the challenges faced by Africa’s largest oil-producing nation in maintaining consistent output levels.

Despite efforts to stabilize production, Nigeria has struggled to curb the impact of oil theft and pipeline vandalism, which continue to plague the industry.

The theft and sabotage of oil infrastructure have resulted in significant disruptions, contributing to the decline in crude oil production observed in recent months.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) recently disclosed alarming statistics regarding oil theft incidents in the country.

According to reports, the NNPCL recorded 155 oil theft incidents within a single week, these incidents included illegal pipeline connections, refinery operations, vessel infractions, and oil spills, among others.

The persistent menace of oil theft poses a considerable threat to Nigeria’s economy and its position as a key player in the global oil market.

The illicit activities not only lead to revenue losses for the government but also disrupt the operations of oil companies and undermine investor confidence in the sector.

In response to the escalating problem, the Nigerian government has intensified efforts to combat oil theft and vandalism.

However, addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach, including enhanced security measures, regulatory reforms, and community engagement initiatives.

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Oil Prices Edge Higher Amidst Fear of Middle East Conflict

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Amidst growing apprehensions of a potential conflict in the Middle East, oil prices have inched higher as investors anticipate a strike from Iran.

The specter of a showdown between Iran or its proxies and Israel has sent tremors across the oil market as traders brace for possible supply disruptions in the region.

Brent crude oil climbed above the $90 price level following a 1.1% gain on Wednesday while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) hovered near $86.

The anticipation of a strike, believed to be imminent by the United States and its allies, has cast a shadow over market sentiment. Such an escalation would follow Iran’s recent threat to retaliate against Israel for an attack on a diplomatic compound in Syria.

The trajectory of oil prices this year has been heavily influenced by geopolitical tensions and supply dynamics. Geopolitical unrest, coupled with ongoing OPEC+ supply cuts, has propelled oil prices nearly 18% higher since the beginning of the year.

However, this upward momentum is tempered by concerns such as swelling US crude stockpiles, now at their highest since July, and the impact of a hot US inflation print on Federal Reserve rate-cut expectations.

Despite the bullish sentiment prevailing among many of the world’s top traders and Wall Street banks, with some envisioning a return to $100 for the global benchmark, caution lingers.

Macquarie Group has cautioned that Brent could enter a bear market in the second half of the year if geopolitical events fail to materialize into actual supply disruptions.

“The current geopolitical environment continues to provide support to oil prices,” remarked Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy for ING Groep NV in Singapore. However, he added, “further upside is limited without a fresh catalyst or further escalation in the Middle East.”

The rhetoric from Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reaffirming a vow to retaliate against Israel, has only heightened tensions in the region.

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Oil Marketers Call for Price Cut as Dangote Refinery Faces Scrutiny

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Oil marketers in Nigeria are intensifying pressure on the Dangote Petroleum Refinery to slash the pump price of diesel amidst increasing scrutiny over the refinery’s pricing strategies.

The call for a reduction in prices comes as the indigenous refinery continues to grapple with challenges in the local market, despite its ambitious plans to revolutionize Nigeria’s petroleum sector.

The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and the Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria have both joined the chorus of voices demanding a downward review of diesel prices produced by the Dangote refinery.

The current price of N1,225 per litre has drawn criticism from industry stakeholders, who argue that it is unreasonably high for a locally produced commodity.

Speaking to media, Chief Chinedu Ukadike, the National Public Relations Officer of IPMAN, commended the refinery for its efforts but stressed the need for more affordable pricing.

“During the construction of the Dangote refinery, we supported and welcomed it. Now that a private refinery with high capacity has started producing petroleum products in Nigeria, we would have appreciated that its products sold to Nigerians would be cheaper,” Ukadike stated.

One of the primary reasons cited for the demand for lower prices is the absence of import-related costs associated with diesel produced domestically. Unlike imported diesel, which incurs expenses such as vessel costs and import charges, diesel from the Dangote refinery should theoretically be cheaper due to reduced logistical overheads.

Oil marketers also argue that the recent appreciation of the naira against the dollar should translate into lower prices for domestically produced diesel. With imported diesel currently landing in Nigeria at N1,250 per litre, the disparity in pricing raises questions about the competitiveness of locally refined products.

The issue has prompted IPMAN and other industry groups to schedule meetings with the management of the Dangote refinery to discuss pricing concerns. The expectation is that these discussions will lead to a fairer pricing structure that benefits both consumers and industry players.

Despite the pressure from oil marketers, the Dangote refinery has remained tight-lipped on the matter, declining to comment on the calls for price reduction.

However, sources within the refinery have confirmed that diesel sales have commenced, with plans to introduce Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) to the market in the near future.

The Dangote Petroleum Refinery, with a nameplate capacity of 650,000 barrels per day, holds significant potential to transform Nigeria’s energy landscape.

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