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Crude oil prices claw back losses on Friday, but record U.S. output weighs

By Roslan Khasawneh

Petroleumworld 06 01 2018

Crude oil futures erased earlier losses on Friday but the U.S. benchmark price was set to lose ground for the second week, squeezed by record U.S. production and expectations of OPEC boosting output.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 gained 11 cents to stand at $67.15 a barrel by 0702 GMT, bouncing off a session low of $66.81 a barrel having fallen almost 2 percent on Thursday.

The global benchmark, Brent crude LCOc1, little changed in the previous session, was up 16 cents, at $77.72 per barrel. Brent prices traded as low as $77.36 a barrel on Friday.

For the week, WTI was on track for a 1.5 percent fall, adding to last week's near 5 percent decline, while Brent was set to rise 1.3 percent, widening the spread between the two benchmarks.

U.S. crude production has been rising to record levels since late last year. In March it jumped 215,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 10.47 million bpd, a new monthly record, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Thursday.

“U.S. production is growing, the line is growing straight up when you look at U.S. production,” said Tony Nunan, oil risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo.

“The big thing is the increasing spread between Brent and WTI. Financially it makes sense for buyers to take WTI as it is so cheap.”

On Thursday, the premium for Brent over WTI surpassed $11 a barrel, the largest since early 2015. It has doubled in less than a month, as a lack of pipeline capacity in the United States has trapped a lot of output inland.

“A drop in inventories in the U.S. was overshadowed by U.S. output which jumped to a record-high level,” ANZ said in a note.

U.S. crude stockpiles fell 3.6 million barrels last week, the EIA said, exceeding expectations for a decline of 525,000 barrels. [EIA/S]

Brent hit a three-week low below $75 a barrel on Monday after OPEC and its allies, including Russia, indicated they could adjust their deal to curb supplies and increase production, but recovered later in the week.

“Investors will hold tight till June 22 as OPEC members meet in Vienna (to consider) cut policies for 2018 and beyond,” said Benjamin Lu, a commodities analyst at Singapore-based broker Phillip Futures.

OPEC and non-OPEC producers have committed to cut output by 1.8 million bpd until the end of 2018, but are ready to make gradual supply adjustments to deal with shortages, a Gulf source familiar with Saudi thinking told Reuters late on Wednesday.

Sources told Reuters last week that Saudi Arabia, the effective leader of OPEC, and Russia were discussing boosting output by about 1 million bpd to compensate for losses in supply from Venezuela and to address concerns about the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iranian output.

Russia would be able to raise its oil output back to pre-cut levels within months if there is a decision to unwind the price-protection deal with OPEC and other producers, a Russian energy ministry official said.

Concerns about U.S. bottlenecks are contributing to the decline in U.S. futures as well. Prices for physical barrels of U.S. light sweet crude delivered at Midland are at their largest discount to the benchmark U.S. futures price in almost four years.


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Story by Roslan Khasawneh ; Additional reporting by Naveen Thukral; Editing by Joseph Radford and Richard Pullin from Reuters.
06 01 2018 07:20 GMT

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