Whilst this week may not have been as volatile as much of 2022, oil prices did have a relatively abrupt change of direction as several events added downward pressure to oil markets, OilPrice said. 

Repeated crude stock builds amidst Gulf Coast refinery woes, the slowing down of industrial activity, and the appreciation of the US dollar combined forces to bring WTI back below $76 per barrel. Some upward correction might come from the G7 product price cap, but at the time of writing there is still no clear indication of whether the Price Cap coalition would manage to iron out their differences on Friday, the last working day before the February 5 deadline. 

The Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee of OPEC+, meeting for less than 30 minutes on Wednesday, endorsed the current production policy of the oil group and kept output targets unchanged as hopes for higher Chinese demand raised the specter of increases. 

Simultaneously to US crude stocks weighing on WTI prices, freight rates for VLCCs loading in the US Gulf Coast have fallen to their lowest in five months, meaning the costs of supplying a super-large tanker into China dropped to $3.6 per barrel, half of what they were in November.