For the week commencing 1 January, refinery margins typically weakened. Crude prices continued to strengthen, with Brent having gained almost US$5/bbl over the past four weeks. As a result, Brent reached its strongest weekly average since 1 December 2014. Loadings from the Forties Pipeline System recommenced late December having been shutdown for almost 20 days. But anti-government protests in Iran have led to greater political risk being factored into crude prices. US crude runs reached a new seasonal high, which helped support a domestic stock draw of 7.4 mbbls and points towards a tighter crude market. Cushing crude stocks were at their lowest since February 2015, while the Brent-WTI differential continued to widen towards US$7/bbl.