U.S. oil inventories are at record levels, but there are a few glimmers of hope that the glut could be starting to subside.
Storing crude oil for sale at a later date is no longer profitable, as the futures curve has flattened out in recent weeks, depriving traders of a strategy that has served them well over the past few years. The market "contango," in which front-month oil contracts trade at a discount to oil futures six months or a year out, has all but vanished. The differential must be large enough to cover the cost of storage, and for many time spreads that is no longer the case. After three years of a steep contango, storing oil simply to take advantage of the time spreads is increasingly uneconomical.