Oil prices fall further as threat of Middle East war recedes

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Reuters
KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude fell 20 cents, or 0.3%, at $65.17 by 0240 GMT, and is heading for its first decline in six weeks, down 5%.
  • WTI was down 20 cents, or 0.3%, at $59.36 and also on track for a first weekly drop in six, nearly 6% from last Friday’s close based on the latest prices.
  • Oil is now below where it was before a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian general on Jan. 3.
Syria Oil Field 191027 EC
Oil pump jacks pump oil in Al-Jbessa oil field in Al-Shaddadeh town of Al-Hasakah governorate April 2, 2010.
Stringer | Reuters

Oil prices dropped on Friday extending days of losses as the threat of war in the Middle East receded and investors  switched attention to economic growth prospects and the rise in U.S. crude oil and product inventories.

Brent crude fell 20 cents, or 0.3%, at $65.17 by 0240 GMT, and is heading for its first decline in six weeks, down 5%. WTI was down 20 cents, or 0.3%, at $59.36 and also on track for a first weekly drop in six, nearly 6% from last Friday’s close based on the latest prices.

Oil is now below where it was before a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian general on Jan. 3, with Iran responding with a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi air bases hosting U.S. forces this week that left no casualties.

“Although markets are rightly pricing in a lower risk of … supply-side disruptions in the Middle East, we still think there remains some ongoing risk to output from geopolitical issues in the region,” J.P.Morgan said in a commodities note.

A Ukrainian airliner that crashed in Iran in the early hours of Wednesday after Iran launched the attacks on the bases in Iraq, was likely brought down by an Iranian missile, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.

All the nearly 180 passengers on board the Ukraine International Airlines flight to Kiev from Tehran died in the crash. Iran denied it was hit by a missile.

For now though oil investors are focusing on areas away from the conflict.

Crude stocks in the world’s biggest producer rose against forecast last week and gasoline inventories were up by the most in a week in four years, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

“There’s too much supply out there,” a Japan-based based oil executive told Reuters.

Oil prices jump 2% in early trading as tensions in the Middle East mount, Brent crude tops $70

Oil prices jumped more than 2% during Sunday night trading — building on Friday’s gains — as tensions in the Middle East escalated over the weekend.

Following Thursday’s death of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, on Sunday an Iranian state-run television broadcast said that the nation would no longer respect uranium enrichment restrictions set forth in 2015′s nuclear deal.

International benchmark Brent crude gained 2.3% to trade at $70.18 per barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate climbed 2.1% to $64.38 per barrel.

On Friday Brent hit a more than three month high of $69.50, before settling at $68.60. Meantime WTI rose to a session high of $64.09 — its highest level since April — before pulling back to settle at $63.05, for a gain of 3.06%.

Iran has vowed to retaliate against the U.S., and the form that this retaliation takes will determine oil’s next move, according to Wall Street analysts. For instance, if the nation targets production in Saudi Arabia or Iraq — OPEC’s two largest producers — prices could move higher for longer.

On Friday, Citi global head of commodity research Ed Morse said that Brent prices will top $70 in short order, while Again Capital’s John Kilduff said that if Iraq production takes a hit “oil prices will spike higher.”

Iraq is OPEC’s second largest oil producer, pumping around 4.6 million barrels per day in December. On Sunday the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution calling for an expulsion of foreign troops, which raises question about the future of the allied mission that has successfully fought the “Islamic State,” or ISIS, in recent years.

VIDEO03:02
Oil prices jump after US airstrike killed Iran top commander—Four experts on how it affects energy

Helima Croft, RBC’s global head of commodity research, noted that in the past a geopolitical event of this nature would have caused a larger spike in oil, which demonstrates how resilient prices have become to geopolitical tensions.

This resiliency was on display in September after drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais took an estimated 5.7 million barrels of oil offline. While oil initially spiked 8% and climbed higher, prices ultimately drifted back down and a few weeks later were back at pre-attack levels after Saudi Aramco quickly restored production.

But this time around prices could stay elevated for longer, given tight supply and a historically weak part of the year for oil.

On Friday Eurasia Group raised its 2020 high-end base case oil target to $75 per barrel, based on “rising risk to oil infrastructure in the region.” If conflict breaks out, which the firm’s Middle East and North Africa head of research Ayham Kamel places at 30% likelihood, prices could climb as high as $95.

Citi said that other possible retaliations could be “attacks on pipeline oil flows or shipping through either the Strait of Hormuz or the Red Sea,” through which more than a fifth of the world’s oil supply flows.

Thursday’s airstrike comes following an especially strong fourth quarter for oil, which saw OPEC+ announce deeper-than-expected production cuts in December, and as easing trade tensions led to upbeat outlooks for demand.

WTI gained 10.68% in December — its best month since January 2019 — and 12.93% for the quarter. It’s 34.46% gain for the year was its best since 2016. Brent gained 5.7% in December and 8.59% for the quarter. It also had its best year since 2016, gaining 22.68%.

Carter Braxton Worth from Cornerstone Macro said WTI looks set to reach $72 per barrel, and that investors should “embrace” the pop. “It will be right to play energy stocks on the long side in the weeks/months again,” he said in a note to clients Sunday.

That said, analysts at Morgan Stanley said that “any further escalation could keep oil prices supported in the short term,” but that any gains could be short lived. The firm said it sees Brent closer to $60 rather than $70 for the year given “an oversupplied oil market in 2020 as a whole.”

– CNBC’s Michael BloomAmanda Macias and Spencer Kimball contributed to this report.

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 prices dip as markets eye potential supply increases 

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  • Oil prices fell on Monday as concerns about supply disruptions eased and Libyan ports resumed export activities.
  • Traders eyed potential supply increases by Russia and other oil producers.

Pump jacks and wells are seen in an oil field on the Monterey Shale formation, March 23, 2014, near McKittrick, Calif.

Getty Images
Pump jacks and wells are seen in an oil field on the Monterey Shale formation, March 23, 2014, near McKittrick, Calif.

Oil prices fell on Monday as concerns about supply disruptions eased and Libyan ports resumed export activities, while traders eyed potential supply increases by Russia and other oil producers.

Brent crude futures were down 26 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $75.07 a barrel at 0057 GMT.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 27 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $70.74 a barrel.

Supply outages in Libya and strike action in Norway and Iraq pushed oil prices higher late last week, although prices still ended down for a second straight week.

“Crude oil prices fell as fears of supply disruptions eased. News that Libya’s state oil producer had restarted output from a major oil field ignited the selloff earlier in the week,” ANZ Bank said in a note.

The market focus shifted towards possible supply increases, even as a Norwegian union for workers on offshore oil and gas drilling rigs stepped up a six-day strike.

Russia and other major oil producers may increase output further should supply shortages hit the global oil market, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday.

Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage OANDA, said U.S.-China trade tensions “should subside this week and could be a possible plus for oil prices,” but a possible sale of U.S. oil reserves would weigh on prices.

“With the Trump administration actively considering tapping into the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, it could weigh negatively,” Innes said.

The United States holds a reserve of about 660 million barrels, and the Trump administration was considering drawing on the country’s oil reserve, which would increase supply, according to a Bloomberg report.

Meanwhile, the number of rigs drilling in the United States remained unchanged at 863 in the week to July 13 as the rate of the growth slowed amid a fall in crude prices.

OPEC ministers agree to raise oil production but don’t say by how much

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  • OPEC ministers announced a deal on Friday that will increase oil supplies from the producer group.
  • Producers agreed to start pumping more so that they are no longer overshooting the production limits they agreed to in November 2016.
  • Analysts say the agreement is likely to add around 600,000 to 800,000 barrels a day to the market, helping to tame oil prices that have soared to multi-year highs recently.

OPEC reaches deal to hike oil output

OPEC reaches deal to hike oil output  

OPEC ministers announced a deal on Friday that will increase oil supplies from the producer group, which has been capping output in order to balance the market and boost prices for the last 18 months.

The agreement came after a week of tense negotiation at OPEC’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Top OPEC producer Saudi Arabia faced the challenge of convincing a handful of reluctant producers including IranIraq and Venezuela to support an output hike.

While OPEC avoided the disastrous outcome of ending the week without a deal, it left the oil market somewhat disappointed by declining to announce a hard figure.

“With the looming threat of an Iran walkout, the best you could get was deliberate ambiguity,” said Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

On Friday, OPEC members agreed to start pumping more oil, though the agreement will not end the group’s 18-month-old deal to limit output. Instead the producers are seeking to cut no deeper than 1.2 million bpd, the target they set in November 2016.

OPEC reaches deal to hike output

OPEC reaches deal to hike output  

OPEC’s official statement said members agreed to return to 100 percent compliance with the 2016 deal beginning on July 1. The group said compliance reached 152 percent in May 2018, which means OPEC was cutting about 600,000 bpd more than it intended.

Ahead of the official decision, sources said the group was aiming to restore about 1 million bpd to the market. However, industry sources familiar with the oil cartel’s deliberations said the actual increase is likely to total around two-thirds of Saudi Arabia’s target.

That’s because some OPEC members would be unable to sufficiently ramp up crude production. Analysts say supply increases are more likely to fall in a range between 600,000 to 800,000 bpd.

OPEC’s agreement with Russia and other producers to limit oil output has helped to clear a global supply overhang that weighed on prices for years.

However, OPEC faced pressure to increase output from President Donald Trump and big consumers like India after the cost of crude soared to multi-year highs, boosted by strong demand, dwindling output from Venezuela and renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Oil prices shot up on Friday as details of the deal leaked ahead of the statement. John Kilduff, founding partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital, said the lack of clarity in the official statement around a production target was boosting crude futures.

What is OPEC?

What is OPEC?  

“They definitely came up short, relative to expectations,” he told CNBC. “A headline touting … 1 million barrels of additional output would have made a difference.”

The group also did not explain how it would allocate the production increases across its 14 members. That has been a sticking point all week because only a handful of members like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have the ability to increase output.

“How is it allocated? I think that is not yet decided due to the fact that there are differences between certain countries,” UAE’s Energy and Industry Minister Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei said at a press conference following the meeting.

Mazrouei, who currently serves as chairman and president of OPEC, added that it “would not make sense if we allocated production to a country that cannot produce it, so we avoided, I think, having allocations from that perspective.”

The holdout through the week was Iran, OPEC’s third biggest oil producer. The country sought to avoid a large production increase, which would weigh on prices at a time when Iran’s exports are expected to drop sharply as U.S. sanctions take effect in the coming months.

Iran’s oil minister, Bijan Zanganeh, pushed OPEC to include a statement in the communique criticizing U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, but the group rebuffed the demand.

“OPEC isn’t a political organization. Everybody pushed back on that ” Nigerian petroleum minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu told CNBC.

President Donald Trump participates in a roundtable discussion about trade in Duluth, Minnesota, June 20, 2018.

Trump urges OPEC to increase output  

The members’ vastly differing relations with the United States loomed over the meeting following reports that Washington asked its Saudi allies to hike output prior to restoring sanctions on Iran.

Trump also directly blamed OPEC’s production cuts for boosting oil prices in a pair of recent tweets. On Friday, the president again urged the group to “keep prices down” at its meeting, even though his decision to sanction Iran was a major factor in boosting the cost of crude.

OPEC is scheduled to meet with Russia and several other producers on Saturday to discuss their role in easing production limits.

The wider producer alliance has sought to keep 1.8 million bpd off the market. But output among the 24 nations has actually fallen by about 2.8 million bpd, due largely to cratering production in Venezuela and supply disruptions elsewhere.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said Friday morning that no-one should expect to see an “immediate flood” of oil coming back onto the market following the meeting.

He also warned the world could face a supply deficit of 1.8 million bpd in the second half of 2018 and that it was OPEC’s responsibility to alleviate consumers’ concerns.

Read OPEC’s full press release here.