Crude futures settle at 2008/09 lows on rising dollar, oversupply

New York (Platts)--17 Dec 2015 601 pm EST/2301 GMT

Crude futures settled Thursday at multi-year lows on a stronger US dollar and persistent concerns about oversupply.

NYMEX January crude settled down 57 cents at $34.95/b, lowest front-month settle since February 2009. ICE February Brent settled 33 cents lower at $37.06/b, a low for prompt delivery not seen since December 2008.

NYMEX January RBOB settled 2.88 cents higher at $1.2616/gal, helping limit crude's declines.

US gasoline stocks remain relatively tight, sitting at 219.384 million barrels last week, a 1.1% deficit to a year ago, according to the Energy Information Administration.

NYMEX January ULSD was nearly unchanged, settling down 69 points at $1.1053/gal.

The greenback gained ground Thursday against other major currencies after Wednesday's announcement by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates for the first time in nine years.

The US dollar index was up 1.358 points at 99.229 points Thursday afternoon, putting downward pressure on the oil complex.

Oversupply concerns lingered from weekly US government data Wednesday that surprised the market with a 4.8 million-barrel build in crude stocks.

Analysts surveyed Monday by Platts were looking for a decline of 2.5 million barrels compared with the previous week.

The increase was driven by greater imports and a slowdown in refinery activity, running counter to historical trends for this time of year.

"The import surge indicated the global market has plenty of barrels available too," IAF Advisors principal Kyle Cooper said.

Warm weather across much of the US has lowered heating oil demand, while imports have jumped on a relatively tight Brent/WTI spread.

The February ICE Brent/WTI spread was around 80 cents/b Thursday afternoon, compared with Wednesday's settle of 64 cents/b.

For March delivery, Brent regained its premium over WTI Thursday with the spread around 20 cents/b in the afternoon. The March ICE Brent/WTI spread reached minus 90 cents/b Wednesday.

"The Brent-WTI spread is widening back out to some degree, but not by enough to choke off the high rate of US imports that have translated into a counter-seasonal increase in US commercial crude stocks," Citi Futures and OTC Clearing analyst Tim Evans said in a morning note.

--Geoffrey Craig, geoffrey.craig@platts.com
--Edited by Derek Sands, derek.sands@platts.com

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