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Oil prices blog worst week Friday since February as concerns over Middle East supply risks fade

OPEC+ may extend production cuts: report (AFP)
OPEC+ may extend production cuts: report (AFP)

Mayra P. Saefond and William Watts, MarketWatch

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK
EnergiesNet.com 05 03 2024

Oil futures finished lower Friday — with easing concerns over potential supply disruptions in the Middle East, strong U.S. production and signs of slowing demand prompting prices to register their largest weekly percentage loss since early February.

Traders tied an early Friday rise in oil prices to a news report that some OPEC+ members would be willing to extend production cuts beyond the end of the second quarter.

Price moves

  • West Texas Intermediate crude for June delivery CL00, -1.22% CL.1, -1.22% CLM24, -1.22% fell 84 cents, or 1.1%, to settle at $78.11 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, for a weekly fall of nearly 6.9%.

  • July Brent crude BRN00, -0.22% BRNN24, -0.22%, the global benchmark, declined by 71 cents, or nearly 0.9%, at $82.96 a barrel, leaving it down 6% for the week. Brent and WTI prices both marked their largest weekly percentage losses since the week ended Feb. 2, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

  • June gasoline RBM24, -1.79% lost 1.6% to $2.56 a gallon, ending down 6.9% for the week.

  • June heating oil HOM24, -0.04% ended nearly flat at $2.44 a gallon, falling 4.6% for the week.

  • Natural gas for June delivery NGM24, +5.65% settled at at $2.14 per million British thermal units, up 5.3% Friday for a weekly rise 11.4%.

Read: Natural-gas prices post their first monthly gain since October. Here’s why.

Market drivers

The decline in oil prices “reflects in part the removal of [a] war-risk premium that was slowly priced in as the tensions in the Middle East intensified with Iran and Israel attacking each other directly,” said Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at City Index and FOREX.com.

But tensions have since eased, and hopes for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas have grown amid international pressure on Jerusalem, so oil prices have “basically given back all the gains made since early March,” he said in market commentary.

A large jump in U.S. crude inventories reported earlier this week also helped put pressure on crude.

There’s “concern about demand in the U.S. where commercial crude inventories have been building more than expected,” with the rate at which refiners process crude into crude products having dropped noticeably, said Razaqzada.

Matthew Parry, head of long-term analysis at Energy Aspects, told MarketWatch that expectations of future Chinese refinery runs have been dampened — with Energy Aspects lowering its estimates for the second and third quarters of this year on reports of higher maintenance and compressed margins because of lackluster Chinese diesel demand.

He also said that U.S. oil production, as reported by the Energy Information Administration, has “surprised to the upside.” February’s month-on-month increase of about 600,000 barrels per day marked a “sharp bounce back from January’s weather-induced slump.”

U.S. field production of crude oil climbed in February from January. U.S. Energy Information Administration

News of a hefty weekly drop in the number of U.S. oil rigs failed to provide much, if any, support for oil prices Friday, even as the decline implied a potential slowdown in future production.

Baker Hughes BKR, +0.63% reported Friday that the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil was down by seven to 499 this week. The total active U.S. rig count, which includes those drilling for natural gas, fell by eight to stand at 605.

Meanwhile, OPEC+ — made up of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies — hasn’t started formal talks, but Reuters reported Thursday that it would be willing to consider extending production cuts currently slated to end in June if demand doesn’t pick up, citing three sources from OPEC+ producers.

OPEC+ members are due to meet on June 1. Voluntary production cuts of 2.2 million barrels a day are due to expire at the end of the quarter.

Also see: A U.S. ban on Russian uranium could shape nuclear fuel markets for ‘years to come’

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