Oil ends lower as April contracts expire ahead of U.S. crude-supply data

MARKET WATCH

Trades look for hints on potential for OPEC output cut extension

Shutterstock/zhengzaishuru

By

MyraP. Saefong

Markets/commodities reporter

RachelKoning Beals

News editor

Oil prices settled lower Tuesday in volatile trading tied to the expiration of the April futures contracts, ahead of data expected to reveal a rise in weekly U.S. crude supplies.

Traders also kept an eye out for hints on whether the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will extend the production-cut agreement between its members and other major producers beyond June. OPEC sources have indicated that members increasingly favor an extension but want the backing of non-OPEC oil producers, which have yet to deliver fully on existing cuts.

April West Texas Intermediate crude CLJ7, -1.49% declined by 88 cents, or 1.8%, to settle at $47.34 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract, which expired at the settlement, finish at their lowest level since November, according to FactSet data. May WTI CLK7, -0.58% which is now the front-month contract, shed 67 cents, or 1.4%, to finish at $48.24 a barrel.

May Brent crude LCOK7, -0.51% lost 66 cents, or 1.3%, to $50.96 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

“WTI crude oil was unable to hold on to early gains despite a falling U.S. dollar providing support to commodity prices in general,” Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, told MarketWatch.

“Given the high volatility and big surprises in both directions of the last three weeks, it appears some traders may be going to the sidelines ahead of the [supply data] news, while others may be expecting a big build after last week’s surprise decline,” he said.

Petroleum inventory data are due out from the American Petroleum Institute late Tuesday and Energy Information Administration early Wednesday. Analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts forecast a climb of 2 million barrels in crude inventories for the week ended March 17.

“A lot of the recent volatility in oil has been around traders trying to figure out if the big build we saw in U.S. inventories in the winter is over or not,” said Cieszynski. EIA data released last week showed the first decline in crude stockpiles in 10 weeks.

The world’s biggest crude exporter is conceding ground to shale producers in the U.S., people familiar with current Saudi policy said. Saudi Arabia’s crude exports to the U.S. for the week ended March 10 fell by 426,000 barrels a day compared with the previous week, according to U.S. data.

Elsewhere in energy trading, April gasoline RBJ7, -0.28%  fell by 0.4% to $1.605 a gallon, while April heating oil HOJ7, -0.39%  lost 0.7% to $1.503 a gallon.

April natural gas NGJ17, -0.32%  settled at $3.093 per million British thermal units, up 1.7%.

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