Oil market whipsawed as OPEC production discussed

Mon Mar 6, 2017 5:56pm EST
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By Jessica Resnick-Ault

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Benchmark Brent gained while U.S. crude eased slightly on Monday, after the market pushed higher early in the day on reports that Iraq would participate if OPEC extended oil production curbs into the second half of the year.

Output forecasts from oil ministers of crude-producing countries buffeted the market as industry leaders gathered at the annual CERAweek energy conference in Houston. Prices have been rangebound for more than 60 days on concerns U.S. production growth may undermine the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' agreement to cut output during the first half of the year.

"We're still searching for direction," said Carl Larry, director of business development at Frost and Sullivan. "We couldn't push it up too far too fast and get over $55," he said, noting that U.S. oil prices had edged upward but not broken out of the range.

"People are looking for reasons with CERAweek this week. Right now, we're still stuck in the middle."

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude settled down 13 cents at $53.20 a barrel. Brent crude settled up 11 cents at $56.01 a barrel.In a session driven by headlines, oil earlier strengthened slightly after Iraq's oil minister was quoted as saying that OPEC would likely need to extend production cuts into the second half of 2017.

But the oil minister, Jabbar Al-Luaibi, later told Reuters it is too early to discuss whether the policy should be continued. "It will depend on oil prices and market stability. If OPEC decides cuts, then Iraq will cut," he said.

Iraq agreed to reduce production by 210,000 barrels per day under the deal but OPEC's second-largest producer had originally sought to be exempt from any cuts, saying it needed the revenue to fight an Islamic State insurgency.

"I think that has stopped some of the selling pressure that we opened with," said Gene McGillian, head of market research at Tradition Energy.   Continued...

Workers look at a drilling rig of the Rosneft-owned Prirazlomnoye oil field outside Nefteyugansk, Russia, August 4, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo