Crude prices gained modestly Friday, helped by a weaker dollar, putting the U.S. benchmark on track for a 10-day winning streak that would be its longest since December 2016.
A move higher in the last few minutes of trading on Thursday allowed oil futures to notch a ninth straight session of gains, the longest winning streak in about nine years for the U.S. benchmark and in more than 11 years for global crude prices.
The market gained after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell stressed again Thursday that the central bank is flexible and patient and can change policy on a dime if the economic outlook worsens, a move seen potentially supportive for future oil demand. Following the comments, the dollar continued to strengthen and U.S. benchmark equity indexes traded higher as oil futures settled.
"Powell took the spotlight amid a Fedspeak frenzy echoing his recent comments from last week that the central bank’s commitment was to proceed with caution on the monetary policy, which of course was viewed very favorably by oil markets as a Fed pause will be great for risk assets," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-region trading with Oanda.
Early Friday, West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery CLG9, +0.61% picked up 32 cents, or 0.6%, at $52.91 a barrel. The settlement Thursday at $52.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange was the highest since Dec. 7, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Oil prices are significantly higher for the week to date, with WTI up about 10%.
Prices climbed out of a bear market Wednesday, and have now climbed by about 24% from the 52-week low of $42.53 on Dec. 24.
A slightly weaker U.S. dollar DXY, -0.23% boosted crude prices. A cheaper buck makes U.S. crude less expensive for investors using another currency.
March Brent crude LCOH9, -0.79% rose 15 cents, or 0.2%, at $61.83 a barrel. The settlement at $61.68 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe Thursday was the highest since Dec. 4.
The recent advance for the energy complex has been powered by optimism over U.S.-China trade talks, as well as a December output drop from major producers and a more-recent decline in U.S. crude inventories. OPEC oil production fell by 630,000 barrels a day to a six-month low of 32.43 million barrels in December, according to an S&P Global Platts survey released earlier this week.
"The market is latching on to the recent industry insider reports that Iran will see its crude exports quashed further in January as it struggles to find new buyers amid fresh U.S. sanctions even though its traditional customers secured waivers," said Innes.
As for other supply indications, the Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday that domestic crude supplies fell by 1.7 million barrels for the week ended Jan. 4. That was bigger than the fall of 1.4 million barrels expected by analysts polled by S&P Global Platts.
Product stockpiles, however, climbed by much more than the market expected. Gasoline stockpiles rose 8.1 million barrels last week, while distillate stockpiles rose by 10.6 million barrels, according to the EIA.
On Nymex, February gasoline RBG9, +0.13% rose 0.1% to $1.4325 a gallon, while February heating oil HOG9, +0.17% added 0.2% to $1.9094 a gallon.
February natural gas NGG19, +2.63% jumped 2.6% to $3.047 per million British thermal units.
The EIA reported Thursday that domestic supplies of natural gas fell by 91 billion cubic feet for the week ended Jan. 4. Analysts polled by S&P Global Platts had forecast a decline of 84 billion cubic feet, on average, while the five-year average decline stands at 187 billion. The data, however, included a revision that resulted in decreased working gas stocks of about 4 billion cubic feet in the Mountain region last week.