U.S. crude oil on Friday posted a second weekly gain in a row, as gasoline demand has surged to post-pandemic highs.

Oil prices fell Friday but were ahead nearly 2.9% for the week. The oil rally has lifted the energy stocks, with the sector up 2.4% to lead the S&P 500 this week.

Gasoline consumption in the U.S. surged to 9.4 million barrels per day, or bpd, last week, the highest level for that time of year since the Covid-19 pandemic ended, according to JPMorgan.

Here are Friday’s closing energy prices:

  • West Texas Intermediate August contract: $80.73 per barrel, down 56 cents, or 0.69%. Year to date, U.S. crude oil has gained 12.6%.
  • Brent August contract: $85.24 per barrel, down 47 cents, or 0.55%. Year to date, the global benchmark is ahead by 10.6%.
  • RBOB Gasoline July contract: $2.51 per gallon, up 0.52%. Year to date, gasoline is up 19.5%.
  • Natural Gas July contract: $2.70 per thousand cubic feet, down 1.31%. Year to date, gas has increased 7.6%.

“Gasoline demand in the US has been on a steady rise since the Memorial Day weekend and we expect a further advance as record 71 million Americans are expected to travel during the upcoming July 4th holiday,” JPMorgan analyst Prateek Kedia told clients in a research note.

Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said prices at the pump could rise after U.S. oil, gasoline, and distillate stocks all fell for the first time in weeks, indicating stronger demand.

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WTI vs. Brent

“Crude oil continues to prove resilient, with inventory draws offering modest support to the complex,” Ryan McKay, senior commodity strategist at TD Securities told clients in a note Friday.

“However, we still argue that the rally could start to fade,” McKay said, arguing that commodity trading advisors could ease up on their buying if WTI prices fall below $81.73 per barrel and Brent drops under $85.46 per barrel.

Global oil demand has risen by 1.4 million bpd so far this month on U.S. gas consumption and robust summer travel in Europe and Asia, according to JPMorgan. Oil inventories rose by 15 million barrels in the second week of June as China restocked, though the investment bank is forecasting drawdowns later this summer.

JPMorgan is forecasting a Brent price of $90 per barrel by September as the market tightens on falling stockpiles due to summer fuel demand.

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