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Dodgy Demand Data? The Oil Price Collapse Conspiracy

Dodgy Demand Data? The Oil Price Collapse Conspiracy

  • WTI oil prices have given up nearly all their gains since Russia invaded Ukraine, falling roughly 9.5% over the course of the week amid fears oil demand is collapsing.
  • Some oil pundits are now claiming that the Biden administration has been fabricating low gasoline demand data in order to drag prices lower.
  • While Gasbuddy claims there was a 2% rise in gasoline demand last week, the EIA reported a 7.6% drop in demand.

WTI crude oil prices fell to their lowest point since early February on Thursday, giving up virtually all gains since Russia invaded Ukraine. WTI crude for September delivery tumbled -1.5% to close at $89.26/bbl while Brent crude for October delivery fell -2.1% to $94.71/bbl. WTI crude has lost ~9.5% over the course of the week, marking the largest one-week percentage decline since April amid growing fears that oil demand will collapse when western nations descend into a full-blown recession.

While oil producers are certainly beginning to feel the heat, it’s refiners like Valero Energy (NYSE: VLO), Marathon Petroleum Corp.(NYSE: MPC), and Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX) who have been hardest hit by the pullback thanks to a sharp decline in their refining margins aka crack spreads.

For months, refiners have been enjoying historically high refining margins, with the profit from making a barrel of gasoil, the building block of diesel and jet kerosene, hitting a record $68.69 in June at a typical Singapore refinery. The margin later settled in the high 30s a few weeks later, a level still nearly four times higher than the $11.83 at the end of last year, and some 550% above the profit margin at the same time in 2021.

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