Oil settled on a mixed note Monday, with U.S. crude gaining for the session but global benchmark prices giving up an earlier rise to finish lower.
Traders weighed signs that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will decide to extend its production-cut agreement following a committee meeting over the weekend between members and nonmembers of the oil-producer group. Worries about a slowdown in energy demand, however, continued to weigh on the market.
West Texas Intermediate crude for June delivery
climbed 34 cents, or 0.5%, to settle at $63.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That was the highest finish for a front-month contract since May 1, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Prices closed up 1.8% last week. The June contract will expire at Tuesday’s settlement.
Global benchmark July Brent
meanwhile, edged down by 24 cents, or 0.3%, to end at $71.97 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. That was its second-consecutive session loss, though it had climbed 2.3% last week.
OPEC and non-OPEC members, such as Russia, met in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday to explore production options that will be decided at a June summit in Vienna. Last December, the group agreed to cut output by a collective 1.2 million barrels a day, a move that has driven gains for oil prices this year, though the agreement expires at the end of June.
Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih told reporters that there is support for rolling over those targets among ministers, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“This second half, our preference is to maintain production management to keep inventories on their way declining gradually, softly but certainly declining toward normal levels,” al-Falih told a news conference, according to CNBC.
Still, Russia’s support for extending cuts was unclear after energy minister Alexander Novak said oil producers were looking at “various options,” according to the WSJ.
“Oil has already rallied around 40% since the start of the year, thanks mainly to OPEC limiting supply. Investors had been growing nervous that OPEC could look to remove the production limits at its next meeting in June, in light of tightening global supply and elevated prices,” said Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group, in a note to clients.
Robbie Fraser, senior commodity analyst at Schneider Electric, said that the message from the Saudis appeared to be “at least somewhat contrary to earlier pledges to counter any lost production from Iran, with [the Saudis] likely wary of repeating last year’s efforts that helped to sink oil prices.”
He also pointed out that “lingering trade tensions between the U.S. and China continue to be a major limitation on an otherwise bullish market, with the threat of economic slowdown among the world’s two largest economies triggering concerns on the demand side of the market.”
Traders continued to keep an eye on tensions in the Middle East, which have been rising after the White House ordered warships and bombers to the Persian Gulf two weeks ago.
After a rocket hit near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted that “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” Media reports quoted an Iranian military commander as saying his country wasn’t looking for war.
A top diplomat from Saudi Arabia said his country wasn’t looking for war either but would defend itself against Iran if needed, a week after two of the country’s oil tankers were attacked near the United Arab Emirates.
Meanwhile, American diplomats also warned Saturday that commercial airliners flying over the region risked being targeted by “miscalculation or misidentification” from the Iranian military.
Back on Nymex, June gasoline
fell by 1.8% to $2.010 a gallon, while June heating oil
declined by 1.1% to $2.074 a gallon.
June natural gas
gained 4.2 cents, or 1.6%, to $2.673 per million British thermal units.
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