Oil prices moved with considerable momentum at the start of the week, touching four-month highs. But by the end of the week Brent crude had settled at $43.34 per barrel. WTI also edged up to $41.34 per barrel.
Energy Information Administration data showed weakening gasoline demand after a surge in the number of coronavirus cases. The outlook for crude oil demand in the US turned bearish as the latest weak US jobs report fueled growing economic uncertainty.
While that was enough to trigger a sharp sell-off in equities, oil prices remained stable.
The US dollar slid to 22-month lows which would normally be accompanied by a rise in the inversely-priced crude oil.
A weaker greenback usually spurs buying of commodities priced in dollars, especially oil, because they become cheaper for holders of other currencies.
But that didn’t happen this time and prices remained tethered to the narrow band where they have been for more than two months.
Another major macro-economic theme in the shape of the escalating US-China trade war was also shrugged off by the market.
Refinery throughput also turned south suggesting that US oil demand is plateauing amid rising COVID-19 cases.
The number of long positions on the NYMEX WTI futures exchange fell by 6,205 contracts, compared with the previous week. It appears that speculators are staying away from the flat structure of current oil prices.
So as July closes out, oil prices remain trapped between the downside and upside pressures of the coronavirus and the recovery.
The only thing that can support a balanced market going forward is a pickup in demand and that will eventually happen.
But the shape and form of that pickup remains unpredictable.