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Will US Oil Exports Moderate in the Coming Weeks?

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Brent-WTI spread

On May 20, Brent crude oil active futures settled ~$8.76 higher than the WTI crude oil active futures. On May 13, the spread was at ~$9.02.

In the past five trading sessions, Brent crude oil June futures have risen 2.5%, 80 basis points less than the rise in WTI or US crude oil June futures. During this period, the United States Brent Oil ETF (BNO) rose 3.2%, 50 basis points more than the rise in the United States Oil ETF (USO). BNO tracks Brent crude oil futures, while USO tracks US crude oil futures.

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Factors that could impact US oil exports

The above chart shows the generally positive relationship between US crude oil exports and the Brent-WTI spread since December 2015. Exports seem to follow the Brent-WTI spread with a lag. When the US lifted the ban on US crude oil exports in December 2015, US crude oil production started rising. From December 2015 to the week ending on May 10, US crude oil production rose ~31.8% to 12.1 MMbpd (million barrels per day).

In the same week, US crude oil exports rose by ~1.02 MMbpd to ~3.34 MMbpd. US crude oil exports rose by ~0.78 MMbpd year-over-year. The ongoing proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran after the US decision to end waivers widened the Brent-WTI spread. In fact, on May 16, the Brent-WTI spread rose to ~$9.8, the highest level since March 12. However, if US weekly oil production data continues to decline, the spread might contract and limit any rise in US crude oil exports in the coming weeks.

Moreover, on May 31, the EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration) is scheduled to announce the monthly crude oil production data. If the EIA reports a decline in the monthly oil production data like last month, the upside in the Brent-WTI might be capped.

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