Oil prices climb after Saudi oilfield attack, but recession worries drag

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Reuters
KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude was up 64 cents, or about 1.1%, at $59.28 a barrel at 0255 GMT,
  • U.S. crude was up 55 cents, or 1%, at $55.42 a barrel.
Reusable: Oil pump jack and pipes California
A pump jack and pipes at an oil field near Bakersfield, California.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Crude oil prices rose on Monday following a weekend attack on a Saudi oil facility by Yemeni separatists and as traders looked for any signs that Sino-U.S. trade tensions could ease.

But price gains were capped by an unusually downbeat OPEC report that stoked concerns about growth in oil demand.

Brent crude was up 64 cents, or about 1.1%, at $59.28 a barrel at 0255 GMT,

U.S. crude was up 55 cents, or 1%, at $55.42 a barrel.

“Oil is benefiting from an overall optimism that we won’t see the doomsday trade war scenario and after a drone attack on oil and gas facilities in Saudi Arabia reminded markets geopolitical tensions in the Middle East are going nowhere anytime soon, ” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.

A drone attack by Yemen’s Houthi group on an oilfield in eastern Saudi Arabia on Saturday caused a fire at a gas plant, adding to Middle East tensions, but state-run Saudi Aramco said oil production was not affected.

Meanwhile, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said trade deputies from the United States and China would speak within 10 days and could advance negotiations over ending a trade battle between the two countries if those talks pan out.

But U.S. President Donald Trump appeared less optimistic than his aides on striking a trade deal with China, saying that while he believed Beijing was ready to come to an agreement, “I’m not ready to make a deal yet.”

Concerns about an economic recession continued to weigh on crude prices even as Trump and top White House officials dismissed concerns that U.S. economic growth may be faltering.

Elsewhere, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cut its forecast for global oil demand growth in 2019 by 40,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.10 million bpd and indicated the market would be in slight surplus in 2020.

It is rare for OPEC to give a bearish forward view on the market.

Also weighing on prices, U.S. energy firms this week increased the number of oil rigs operating for the first time in seven weeks despite plans by most producers to cut spending on new drilling this year.

Traders will also be looking out for key manufacturing data due later this week from Europe and the United States, said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist, CMC Markets.

Oil slides on rising US crude stockpiles, Saudi vow to keep market balanced

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Reuters

KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude futures were down 38 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $71.80 at barrel by 0219 GMT, having risen 21 cents on Tuesday.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for July delivery were down 58 cents, or 0.9 percent, at $62.55. The June contract expired on Tuesday, settling at $62.99 a barrel, down 11 cents.
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Oil prices fell on Wednesday after industry data showed an increase in U.S.crude inventories and as Saudi Arabia pledged to keep markets balanced.

Brent crude futures were down 38 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $71.80 at barrel by 0219 GMT, having risen 21 cents on Tuesday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for July delivery were down 58 cents, or 0.9 percent, at $62.55. The June contract expired on Tuesday, settling at $62.99 a barrel, down 11 cents.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) said on Tuesday that U.S. crude stockpiles rose by 2.4 million barrels last week, to 480.2 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 599,000 barrels.

Official data from the U.S Energy Information Administration’s oil stockpiles report is due later on Wednesday.

Outside the United States, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday said it was committed to a balanced and sustainable oil market.

Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), of which the kingdom is the de-facto leader, which started in January and are aimed at reducing global oversupply that emerged in 2018.

Because of the cuts, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said crude output by OPEC and its allies fell by 2.3 million barrels per day (bpd) between November 2018 and April 2019. That has helped push up Brent crude prices by more than a third since the start of the year.

The bank said some of the cuts’ impact was offset by a slowdown in global oil demand growth due to trade tensions to just 0.7 million bpd in the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of this year, versus a five-year average of 1.5 million bpd.

Beyond market fundamentals, oil traders are eying the tensions between the United States and Iran.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday threatened Iran with “great force” if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East.

On Tuesday, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said threats from Iran remained high.

Tensions have risen since Trump re-imposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports to try to strangle the country’s economy and force Tehran to halt its nuclear program.

Oil weighed down by record Saudi output; markets await G20, OPEC meetings

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  • Record Saudi oil production pulled down crude prices on Tuesday amid cautious trading ahead of the G20 gathering that starts in Argentina on Friday and next week’s OPEC meeting in Austria.
  • International Brent crude oil futures briefly dipped below $60 per barrel before edging back to $60.10 per barrel at 0147 GMT, still down 38 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their last close.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $51.21 per barrel, down 42 cents, or 0.8 percent.

The Khurais oilfield operated by oil giant Saudi Aramco, about 160 km (99 miles) from Riyadh.

Ali Jarekji | Reuters
The Khurais oilfield operated by oil giant Saudi Aramco, about 160 km (99 miles) from Riyadh.

Record Saudi oil production pulled down crude prices on Tuesday amid cautious trading ahead of the G20 gathering that starts in Argentina on Friday and next week’s OPEC meeting in Austria.

International Brent crude oil futures briefly dipped below $60 per barrel before edging back to $60.10 per barrel at 0147 GMT, still down 38 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $51.21 per barrel, down 42 cents, or 0.8 percent.

Saudi Arabia raised oil production to an all-time high in November, an industry source said on Monday, pumping 11.1 million to 11.3 million barrels per day (bpd) during the month.

Since their most recent peaks in early October, oil prices have lost almost a third of their value, weighed down by an emerging supply overhang and by widespread weakness in financial markets.

“The recent weakness seems … to have been driven by a wider impending sense of doom amidst weak equities, geopolitics, subsequent softening demand and increasing supply,” said Jack Allardyce, oil analyst at financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald Europe.

Looking ahead, Allardyce said “a lot depends” on the outcome of the Group of 20 (G20) meeting in Buenos Aires where the United States and China are expected to address their trade disputes, and on a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The leaders of the G20 countries, which make up the world’s biggest economies, meet on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, with the trade war between Washington and Beijing top of the agenda.

OPEC will gather for its annual meeting at its headquarters in Vienna on Dec. 6, and the group will discuss its output policy together with some non-OPEC producers, including Russia.

In favour of low oil prices for consumers, U.S. President Donald Trump has put pressure on his political ally Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de-facto leader, not to cut production.

Despite this, most analysts expect OPEC to start withholding supply again soon.

“Our base case is for OPEC+ members to see through the pressure from President Trump and concentrate efforts on curbing the current oversupply in the market by conforming to a new production cut agreement next month in Vienna,” said Japan’s MUFG Bank.

“If OPEC plus Russia cannot send a very strong message to the market, prices are poised to fall further, perhaps to Brent $50 per barrel and WTI of $40 per barrel or less,” Fereidun Fesharaki, chairman of energy consultancy FGE, wrote in a note to clients.

“The message must be decisive, firm, and the front must look fully united, to have any chance of slowly reversing the trend,” it added.

Oil near late-2014 highs as Saudi pushes for higher prices, US crude stocks decline

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  • Oil prices remained close to highs touched the previous day that were last seen in late 2014.
  • The EIA said on Wednesday that commercial crude stocks fell by 1.1 million barrels last week.
  • Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia would be happy to see crude rise to $80 or even $100 a barrel.

An oil pumpjack operates near Williston, North Dakota.

Andrew Cullen | Reuters
An oil pumpjack operates near Williston, North Dakota.

Oil prices on Thursday remained close to late 2014-highs reached in the previous session as U.S. crude inventories declined and as top exporter Saudi Arabia pushes for prices of $80 to $100 per barrel by continuing to withhold supplies.

Brent crude oil futures were at $73.82 per barrel at 0325 GMT, up 34 cents, or 0.5 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 28 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $68.75 a barrel.

Brent on Wednesday marked its highest level since November, 2014 at $73.93 per barrel. WTI hit its strongest since December, 2014 at $68.91 a barrel.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that top oil exporter Saudi Arabia would be happy to see crude rise to $80 or even $100 a barrel, which was seen as a sign that Riyadh will seek no changes to an OPEC supply-cutting deal that was introduced in 2017 to boost prices.

“The Saudis and their colleagues in OPEC need higher oil for their fiscal positions and the Kingdom is on a bold – and costly – reform program. So they might continue to squeeze the lemon while they have the chance,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at futures brokerage AxiTrader.

Led by Saudi Arabia, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and a group of other producers that includes Russia started to withhold output in 2017 to rein in oversupply that had depressed prices since 2014.

“We are rapidly transitioning from a market drowning in oil (2014-2016) to a new reality of undersupply and low storage levels,” said Richard Robinson, manager of the Ashburton Global Energy Fund.

Since the start of the voluntary restraint, crude inventories have been gradually declining from record levels towards long-term average levels.

Further supporting oil prices is an expectation that the United States will re-introduce sanctions against OPEC-member Iran, which could result in further supply reductions from the Middle East.

In the United States, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday that commercial crude stocks fell by 1.1 million barrels in the week to April 13, to 427.57 million barrels, which is close to the five-year average level around 420 million barrels.

“Oil prices have the potential to rise another 15 percent over the remainder of 2018,” Robinson said.

With crude prices on the rise, those producers not participating in voluntary restraint are ramping up output.

U.S. crude production has jumped by a quarter since mid-2016,to a record 10.54 million barrels per day (bpd).

That’s more than Saudi Arabia produces. Only Russia churns out more oil, at almost 11 million bpd.