Oil edges up on trade optimism, eyes on Middle East tensions

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Reuters
KEY POINTS
  • West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures edged up 5 cents to $61.77 a barrel by 0529 GMT. The U.S. benchmark is up about 36% so far this year.
  • Brent crude futures were at $68.36 a barrel, up 20 cents, or 0.3%.
GP: Iran Salman Oil Field 190422
Workers cross walkways between zones aboard an offshore oil platform in the Persian Gulf’s Salman Oil Field, near Lavan island, Iran, on Jan. 5. 2017.
Ali Mohammadi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Oil prices traded at three-month highs on Monday, underpinned by optimism over an expected U.S.China trade deal, while traders kept a close eye on the Middle East following a U.S. air strike.

Markets showed little initial reaction to news of the U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria against an Iran-backed militia group, even as U.S. officials warned “additional actions” may be taken.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures edged up 5 cents to $61.77 a barrel by 0529 GMT. The U.S. benchmark is up about 36% so far this year.

Brent crude futures were at $68.36 a barrel, up 20 cents, or 0.3%. The international benchmark has risen around 27% in 2019.

″(Trading) has been relatively flat due to lack of market participants in the holiday season,” said market analyst Margaret Yang of CMC Markets.

“Oil prices have reached their highest level since the Saudi oil field attack in Mid Sep, and thus traders are also cautious about profit-taking possibilities,” she added.

On Sunday, China’s Commerce Ministry said it is in close touch with the United States on the signing of a long-awaited trade deal.

The two countries on Dec. 13 announced a “Phase one” agreement that reduces some U.S. tariffs in exchange for what U.S. officials said would be a big jump in Chinese purchases of American farm products and other goods.

Oil prices were also supported by declining U.S. crude stocks which fell by 5.5 million barrels in the week to Dec. 20, far exceeding a 1.7-million-barrel drop forecast in a Reuters poll.

In the Middle East, the United States carried out air strikes on Sunday in Iraq and Syria against the Kataib Hezbollah militia group, while protesters in Iraq on Saturday forced the closure of its southern Nassiriya oilfield.

U.S. officials said the air strikes in response to the killing of a U.S. civilian contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base were successful, but warned that “additional actions” may still be taken.

Iraq’s oil ministry said the production halt at the Nassiriya oilfield will not affect the country’s exports as it will use additional output from southern oilfields in Basra.

Elsewhere, Libyan state oil firm NOC said it is considering the closure of its western Zawiya port and evacuating staff from the refinery located there due to clashes nearby.

However, the holiday season meant “oil will continue to struggle for meaningful moves,” said Edward Moya, analyst at brokerage OANDA.

Oil hits three month highs as strong US consumer spending underpins growth hopes

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Reuters
KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude futures were up 6 cents, or 0.1%, at $67.98 a barrel at 0612 GMT.
  • The West Texas Intermediate contract was up 11 cents, or 0.2%, at $61.79 a barrel.
Reusable: Oil tanker France sunset 151016
Jean-Paul Pelissier | Reuters

Oil prices rose on Friday, hitting three-month highs after data showed record online spending by U.S. consumers, stoking faith in the world’s no. 1 economy even before the hoped-for end to the trade war between Washington and Beijing.

Brent crude futures were up 6 cents, or 0.1%, at $67.98 a barrel at 0612 GMT, after rising to as high as $68.10, the highest since September. The West Texas Intermediate contract was up 11 cents, or 0.2%, at $61.79 a barrel.

A survey on Thursday showed that online holiday purchases by U.S. consumers reached a record, beating analysts’ expectations and sending U.S. stocks to fresh.

U.S. consumers are “showing few signs of tightening their purse strings, which is positive for oil also,” said Stephen Innes chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader.

Oil prices have also been buoyed by robust hopes that the New Year will usher in an end to the long-running U.S.-China trade tariff war, a dispute that has overshadowed global economic growth prospects and left question marks over future demand for crude.

The lingering ripple effect of the trade row showed up again in data from Japan, the world’s third-biggest economy, on Friday showing that industrial output shrank for a second month in November.

Still, the price Brent has jumped more than a quarter in 2019, while WTI is up around 35%, boosted by moves by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers, including Russia, to curb production. Earlier this month OPEC and its allies agreed to extend and deepen those cuts.

“The short-term momentum remains positive although I expect Asia to content itself with remaining on the sidelines today,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, at OANDA.

Oil steady amid optimism U.S.-China close to signing trade deal

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Reuters
KEY POINTS
  • Oil prices were mostly steady on Monday after three weeks of gains.
  • U.S. drillers may be anticipating higher prices as well and last week increased the number of their oil rigs by the most in a week since February 2018.
GP: Rosneft oil refinery Russia 190125
A general view of the Novokuibyshev Refinery owned by Rosneft oil company on March 15, 2012 in Novokuibyshevsk, Samara region, Russia.
Sasha Mordovets | Getty Images

Oil prices were mostly steady on Monday after three weeks of gains amid optimism the United States and China were close to signing a trade deal to end a tariff war, with President Donald Trump saying an agreement would be signed “very shortly.”

Brent crude was down 4 cents at $66.10 a barrel by 0100 GMT. West Texas Intermediate was also down 4 cents at $60.40 a barrel.

A so-called phase one deal was announced earlier in December as part of a bid to end the months-long tit-for-tat trade war between the world’s two largest economies, which has sent shockwaves through markets and roiled global growth.

The United States is to agree to reduce some tariffs in return for a big increase in purchases by Chinese importers of American farm products, according to the deal that is due to be signed in January.

“We just achieved a breakthrough on the trade deal and we will be signing it very shortly,” Trump said at a Turning Point USA event in Florida on Saturday.

The easing of tensions has improved business confidence and boosted the outlook for economic growth and energy demand.

“Oil prices will continue to benefit from the positive developments in the U.S.-China trade,” said Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader.

“With a more constructive global macro outlook than at any time in the last year, oil is well-supported by both fundamental factors and sentiment now,” he said.

U.S. drillers may be anticipating higher prices as well and last week increased the number of their oil rigs by the most in a week since February 2018.

Drillers added 18 oil rigs in the week to Dec. 20, bringing the total to 685, the most since November, Baker Hughes, an energy services company, said in its weekly report.

U.S. economic growth nudged up in the third quarter, latest data shows, and the economy appears to have maintained the moderate pace of expansion as the year ended, supported by a strong labor market.

Oil hovers near three-month highs on trade deal progress, set for third weekly rise

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Reuters
KEY POINTS
  • Brent futures were up 5 cents, or 0.08%, to 66.59 a barrel by 0242 GMT.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate was down 8 cents, or 0.13%, at $61.10 per barrel.
GP: Rosneft oil refinery Russia 190125
A general view of the Novokuibyshev Refinery owned by Rosneft oil company on March 15, 2012 in Novokuibyshevsk, Samara region, Russia.
Sasha Mordovets | Getty Images

Oil prices held steady near three-month highs on Friday, heading for a third consecutive weekly rise, on the back of easing China-U.S. trade tensions that have weighed on demand as well as the global economic growth outlook.

Brent futures were up 5 cents, or 0.08%, to 66.59 a barrel by 0242 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate was down 8 cents, or 0.13%, at $61.10 per barrel.

Progress in a long-running trade dispute between the United States and China, the world’s two biggest oil consumers, has boosted expectations for higher energy demand next year.

China on Thursday announced a list of import tariff exemptions for six oil and chemical products from the United States, days after the world’s two largest economies announced an interim trade deal set to be signed at the beginning of January.

“A world with less uncertainty (following last week’s proposed U.S.-China trade agreement) was the real driver of the market optimism on the 2020 outlook,” ANZ Research said in a note.

JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs raised its 2020 oil price outlook earlier this week amid OPEC-led output cuts and an improved global trade outlook.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies including Russia agreed in early December to make a further cut of 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Jan. 1 on top of previous reductions of 1.2 million bpd.

The trade deal progress aside, a drop in U.S. crude inventories also supported oil prices to hold near three-month highs.

“Crude prices continued their stellar performance into year-end, nudged along by the more benevolent inventory data published by the EIA,” said Stephen Innes, market strategist at AxiTrader.

“Product demand is up, and with a more constructive global growth outlook than at any time of this year, oil markets remain supported by the fundamental backdrop,” Innes added.

U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell by 1.1 million barrels to 446.8 million barrels in the week to Dec. 13, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.

ANZ Research also said “an expected fall in U.S. drilling activity should support oil prices.”

A U.S. weekly drilling report by energy services firm Baker Hughes is due to be released on Friday. U.S. drilling firms added 4 oil rigs in the week to Dec. 13, bringing the total count to 667.

Oil prices surf US-China trade thaw to three-month highs

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Reuters
KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude futures edged up 8 cents to $66.25 a barrel by 0645 GMT.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained 4 cents to $60.97.
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The oil tanker ‘Devon’ prepares to transfer crude oil from Kharg Island oil terminal to India in the Persian Gulf, Iran, on March 23, 2018.
Ali Mohammadi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Oil prices remained atop three-month peaks on Thursday, extending a robust streak that began a week ago, as thawing trade relations between the United States and China supported global markets.

Brent crude futures edged up 8 cents to $66.25 a barrel by 0645 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained 4 cents to $60.97.

Trading volume was thin, with not even news of President Donald Trump’s impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives stirring the oil market.

“We’re near the top of trading ranges for both Brent and WTI so it’s interesting to see them holding here,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

While there is a clear uptrend in place on the daily technical price chart for WTI to potentially move towards $61.50 a barrel, there are also near-term risks — touching that price level may encourage traders to sell, McCarthy said.

″(Trading) volumes are terrible. A lot of people have given up for the year with no scheduled events to push oil markets around,” he said. The trend leaves oil prices set to rise for a third consecutive week, surfing momentum from announcements this month about deeper output cuts by major producers as well as the ‘Phase One’ deal between the United States and China to resolve their long-running trade war.

The deal between the world’s two largest economies has improved the global economic outlook, lifted the prospect for higher energy demand next year and underpinned oil prices.

In a further sign of thawing relations, China’s finance ministry on Thursday published a new list of six U.S. products that will be exempt from tariffs starting Dec. 26.

Just the week before, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers such as Russia agreed to deepen production cuts by a further 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Jan. 1 on top of previous reductions of 1.2 million bpd.

According to weekly data released by the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday, U.S. crude inventories dropped 1.1 million barrels in the week to Dec. 13, while gasoline and distillates stockpiles rose.