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Oil Falls from High’s of $80 as Saudi and Russian Ministers Signal Output Increase

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(Bloomberg) — Oil in New York headed for its longest run of losses in almost four months as Saudi Arabia and Russia said they are discussing raising output to ease consumer anxiety after prices jumped to levels last seen in 2014.

West Texas Intermediate dropped as much as 3.1 percent, while Brent crude futures, which traded above $80 a barrel last week, slumped near $75 in London on Monday. Saudi Arabia and Russia signaled they’ll restore some of the output they cut as part of a deal between OPEC and its allies that took effect in January last year. Potential opposition from several producers could complicate the group’s effort to reach a consensus when it meets next month in Vienna.

Oil rose earlier in May to a 3 1/2-year high after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to renew sanctions on Iran and as plunging Venezuelan output fueled concerns over disruptions. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners are said to have cleared a market surplus despite record American production, a possible step toward relaxing cuts that have exceeded the group’s targets.

“It was always going to be a tricky announcement of when to ease production cuts,” said Ole Sloth Hansen, head of commodities research at Saxo Bank A/S in Copenhagen. “Oil was already on the defensive.”

High Prices

West Texas Intermediate for July delivery fell as much as $2.08 to $65.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and traded at $66.78 at 4:39 p.m. in Dubai. It was heading for a fifth consecutive daily decline, the longest streak since Feb. 9. There is no settlement Monday because of the U.S. Memorial Day holiday. Trades will be booked Tuesday for settlement purposes. Prices dropped $2.83 to $67.88 on Friday, the biggest loss since July 5. Total volume traded was near the 100-day average.

Brent futures for July settlement dropped as much as $1.95 to $74.49 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange and traded at $75.30 a barrel. Prices on Friday lost $2.35 to $76.44. The global benchmark crude traded at a $8.50 premium to WTI for the same month, on course for the widest close since March 2015.

Futures for September delivery fell 3.4 percent to 464.3 yuan a barrel on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange.

Demand Worries

Higher crude prices are starting to affect demand, Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of consultant IHS Markit Ltd., said on Friday. He was echoing concerns voiced a week earlier by the International Energy Agency, which advises major oil-consuming nations. U.S. President Trump last month criticized OPEC for contributing to higher crude.

OPEC and its allies are likely to gradually raise oil output in the second half, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said last week at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia. He and his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak said earlier that while scaling back the supply caps was “on the table,” no decision had been made.

The group has to decide unanimously whether to adjust output, said Suhail Al Mazrouei, energy minister of the United Arab Emirates and holder of OPEC’s rotating presidency. “No decisions made by two countries or three countries are going to be taken,” he said Friday in an interview in St. Petersburg. “We respect all the member countries.”

Declining output from some producers gives countries like Russia “a very good opportunity to increase production without hurting the market too much,” Saxo Bank’s Hansen said. As long as producers don’t cut by more than they promised, the Saudi-Russian proposal should be “an easy sell both within and outside OPEC,” Saxo Bank’s Hansen said.

President Vladimir Putin said last week that oil prices at $60 fully suit Russia and the country doesn’t want them to spiral higher. Anything above that level “can lead to certain problems for consumers, which also isn’t good for producers,” he said. OPEC and his nation don’t plan to stick to existing output cuts, he said.

  • Saudi Arabia and Russia’s potential policy shift doesn’t materially change Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s bullish oil outlook, the bank’s analysts including Damien Courvalin said, reiterating the bank’s forecast of Brent at $82.50 per barrel in the third quarter.
  • Drilling rigs targeting oil in the U.S. rose by 15 to 859, the highest since March 2015, according to Baker Hughes data on Friday.
  • Hedge funds trimmed their net-long positions — the difference between bets on a price increase and wagers on a drop — in Brent crude by the most in almost a year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony DiPaola in Dubai at adipaola@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nayla Razzouk at nrazzouk2@bloomberg.net, Bruce Stanley, Dylan Griffiths

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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