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Oil prices climb Monday, but finish below session highs



Por Myra P. Saefong / MarketWatch

Petroleumworld 03 04 2019

Oil futures climbed on Monday, as OPEC and its allies continue to cut back on crude production, but prices for the commodity finished below the session's best levels, with traders taking on a more cautious approach toward riskier assets.

“The early strength we saw [in oil], related to expectations that the U.S.-China trade talks would be beneficial to global economic growth, gave way to the reversal in equity markets that created a risk off atmosphere,” said Marshall Steeves, energy markets analyst at Informa Economics.

April West Texas Intermediate crude CLJ9, -0.76% added 79 cents, or 1.4%, to settle at $56.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after trading as high as $57. On Friday , the contract booked a roughly 2.6% weekly decline, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Global benchmark May Brent LCOK9, -0.67% gained 60 cents, or 0.9%, to end at $65.67 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, down from a high at $66.34. Prices based on the front-month contract saw a weekly loss of 3.2% on Friday.

Traders have been eyeing prospects for a U.S. and China trade deal, which could be reached as early as this month, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal . Beijing has offered to lower tariffs and other restrictions on American farm, chemical, auto and other products, while Washington is considering removing most, if not all, sanctions levied against Chinese products since last year.

Progress in talks are significant in oil trading because China is one of the biggest importers of crude and the Sino-American tariff spat was seen as a potential threat to the uptake of supplies. Moreover, the tariff tiff was also seen as hurting expansion of the two largest economies in the world.

Crude has been mostly supported in recent weeks by continued signs that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies were delivering on promised production curbs.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters that Russia will bring its oil production cut to 228,000 barrels a day from the October level, Reuters reported Monday . OPEC and its allies, including Russia, had pledged to reduce their total production by 1.2 million barrels a day from October output levels for the first six months of this year.

Meanwhile, three sources told Reuters that OPEC and its partners are unlikely to decide on output policy at the cartel's next meeting in April because it would be too early to get a clear picture of the impact of their supply cuts.

Data on Friday that reflected OPEC's continued efforts to curb output failed to support crude gains, with traders citing technical factors and repositioning for declines in the session. OPEC members pumped 30.68 million barrels a day in February, down 300,000 barrels a day from a month earlier and the lowest since 2015, according to a survey from Reuters released Friday.

The result would “leave the oil market balanced or even marginally undersupplied” this year, according to analysts at Commerzbank. “Compliance with the production cuts exceeded 100%,” they noted.

Still, Mihir Kapadia, CEO of Sun Global Investments, said he believed that an increase in drilling for oil among U.S. shale producers may place prices under pressure in coming months.

“A recent report by World Oil has forecast a drilling growth this year, largely along last year's lines - with the US once again expected to continue with its surging shale production. Excluding the US, the world's drilling activity is estimated to increase by 2.5% (or by 46,209 wells) this year, in comparison to a modest 1.6% growth last year,” Kapadia wrote in an emailed update.

Back on Nymex, with April gasoline RBJ9, -0.47%  up 1.1% at $1.749 a gallon and April heating oil HOJ9, -0.92%  climbing by 0.7% to $2.014 a gallon. April natural gas NGJ19, +0.42% fell less than 0.1% to $2.857 per million British thermal units.

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