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  • WTI has been rangebound but trading with a positive bias and is now eyeing a key fib at $62.30.
  • There has been lots of crude relevant new flow though nothing has really injected too much direction into the market.

It’s been a relatively uninspired day for crude oil markets, which at the moment cling onto modest gains, but have been undulating between positive and negative territory for most of the session so far. Front-month futures for West Texas Intermediary, or WTI (the American benchmark for sweet light crude oil), currently trade at the upper end of a roughly low-$60.00s to $62.00 range. To the upside, traders should note resistance in the form of the 50% Fibonacci from last week’s highs at around $66.40 to last week’s lows at around $58.20 – this 50% fib is at roughly $62.30, just above current levels and is likely to offer solid resistance.

Driving the day

There has been a fair amount of news flow relevant to crude oil markets at the start of the week. Starting with a quick update with regards to the state of the pandemic in developed market economies; unsurprisingly Germany is now looking at a fifth consecutive extension of its lockdown, following in the footsteps of other European nations that have been tightening restrictions as the EU is hit by a third Covid-19 wave.

The bloc’s sluggish rollout has left many of its vulnerable population, but there are even now some emerging concerns about a third wave in vaccine “champion”; UK PM Boris Johnson was on the wires on Monday talking about how a third wave would inevitably have some impact on the UK, while New York and New Jersey states in the US are talking about pausing reopening plans amid rising cases – the US appears to be struggling with the spread of the more virulent and unfortunately also more deadly UK strain of Covid-19, just as the EU currently is as well. The fact that most of the US’ vulnerable population has now been vaccinated is hoped to prevent as bad a spike in hospitalisations and deaths, however.

Lockdowns in the EU and third wave talk in other countries of course is not good for the short-term outlook for crude oil markets, but there are a few other stories that have been a little more positive; firstly, Chinese Premier Li said China’s 2021 GDP growth could exceed the country’s target (China is the world’s largest oil consumer so their economy doing well is always good news for crude). Moreover, the CEO of Saudi Aramco has been talking up how bullish he is on crude oil markets going forward (though you would expect this). Meanwhile, news that US daily air travel passengers rose to its highest since March 2020 is good news for the recovery in jet fuel demand – air traffic is likely to continue to recover into the summer. Finally, OPEC+ compliance in February hit a record 113%, though this was primarily due to Saudi Arabia’s  voluntary 1M per day cut.

The above-noted news has probably negated any further negative sentiment in crude oil markets surrounding the pandemic, although after last week’s sell-off, some might argue that recent bad news regarding the pandemic is now in the price. A few geopolitical stories are worth keeping an eye on; firstly, the Chinese Foreign Minister is expected to visit Iran on Friday – this comes in the context of China unofficially importing record levels of crude oil from Iran over the last few months in defiance of US sanctions. Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabians are reportedly proposing a new peace initiative to end the war in Yemen, but the opposing Houthi militias commented that the new proposal contained nothing new, although they will continue to engage in talks – significant strides towards peace in this war would lead to an unwinding of some geopolitical premium in crude prices and would so be negative for crude.

Crude oil markets are most likely seeing consolidative trade given tentativeness ahead of incoming risk events later in the week in the form of the usual weekly US inventory updates, a heavy slate of Fed speak, global preliminary Markit PMI surveys for this month and US Core PCE inflation numbers.