Crude Oil Rises Again
Oil prices settled higher for the second straight trading day of 2019.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil for February delivery posted a 55-cent gain Thursday, settling at $47.09 a barrel. The WTI traded within a range from $45.35 to $47.49. Meanwhile, the March Brent contract price ended the day at $55.95 a barrel, reflecting a $1.04 increase.
Oil prices rose despite a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas showing widespread uncertainty among upstream business executives in three major oil and gas-producing states. As this Rigzone summary of the report indicates, a majority ofrespondents to the Dallas Fed survey plan to curb their capital spending as a result of the sharp drop in oil prices during the fourth quarter of 2018. Nevertheless, an economist quoted in the article pointed out that “many still expect capital spending to be higher in 2019 than in 2018.”
Uncertainty about the direction of the economy is not limited to the oil and gas industry. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported Thursday that economic activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector grew for the 116th consecutive month in December but at a lower rate than in November.
ISM’s 54.1 percent Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) figure for December – a gauge of the manufacturing and services sectors’ economic health – was down 5.3 percentage points from the previous month, the organization stated. According to ISM, an index greater than 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally growing while a figure below 50 percent shows an overall contraction.
The report, generated with input from a panel of U.S. supply executives, found that from November to December its indices of:
- New orders declined 11 percentage points (from 62.1 to 51.1 percent during the period)
- Production fell 6.3 percentage points (from 60.6 to 54.3 percent)
- Employment decreased by 2.2 percentage points (from 58.4 to 56.2 percent)
- Supplier deliveries dropped by 5 percentage points (from 62.5 to 57.5 percent)
- Inventories declined by 1.7 percentage points (from 52.9 to 51.2 percent)
- Prices fell 5.8 percentage points (from 60.7 to 54.9 percent)
“Comments from the panel reflect continued expanding business strength, but at much lower levels,” Timothy R. Fiore, Chair of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said in a written statement.
ISM also noted that six of the 18 manufacturing industries it tracks reported contraction last month. Two of the industries showing diminished activity include Petroleum & Coal Products and Plastics & Rubber Products. The organization added that one of its panelists, representing Petroleum & Coal Products, observed “No major changes” in late-2018 business operations. “However, we are carefully monitoring oil prices and outside influence from market conditions to better understand our 2019 outlook and capital plans,” the panelist stated.
Like crude oil prices, reformulated gasoline (RBOB) futures increased Thursday. The February RBOB contract gained more than two cents to settle at $1.35 a gallon.