Oil Steadies; Biggest 2019 Weekly Loss Looms

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© Reuters.  © Reuters.

By Barani Krishnan

Investing.com – While all eyes will be on next week’s Memorial Day travel numbers, some bottom-fishers are back in oil, helping the market steady after yesterday’s bloodbath.

But trading remained volatile, with benchmark contracts moving a wide range of about $1.50 on the day. The biggest weekly loss for the year also loomed.

, the benchmark for U.S. crude, were up 7 cents, or 0.1%, at $57.98 per barrel by 11:50 ET (15:50 GMT). It had risen $1.07 at the session high and traded as much 41 cents down.

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, the global benchmark for oil, rose 15 cents, or 0.2%, to trade at $67.91.

fell 5.7% on Thursday, crashing below its $60-per-barrel support of the past month, while Brent slumped 4.6%, settling below $70-per-barrel perch for the first time in 12 trading sessions. It was the worst trading day for crude since the beginning of the year and after the start of OPEC production cuts in December, as the escalating U.S.-China trade war and huge crude pileups from weak refiner demand combined to roil the market.

Despite Friday’s rebound, WTI was set for a weekly drop of nearly 8% and Brent a slide of 7.4%. Year to date, oil is still up substantially, with U.S. crude up 28% and its U.K. peer rising more than 24%.

“While we may see more downside, next week the bulls will start to come back, especially if weekend travel lives up to expectations,” Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Group Futures in Chicago, said. Monday’s Memorial Day kicks off the peak summer road travel period in the U.S.

“Stocks at some point will stabilize, despite the China trade war threats, because, despite the fear of a fallout from a trade war, the U.S. economy is strong, and it will adjust,” Flynn added.

One reason for oil’s selloff this week was the weak demand for crude from refiners that would typically be ramping up production of at this time of year to cater to the increased motoring activity.

Data from the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday showed a surprise of nearly 5 million barrels last week, similar to the prior week, versus expectations for a drawdown of 600,000 barrels.

Aside from the surge in crude inventories, the said total motor also increased by 3.7 million barrels during the week ended May 17, against forecasts for a drop of nearly 816,000.

rose by 800,000 barrels last week versus expectations for a drop of 48,000 barrels.

While the trade war this week trumped the geopolitical tensions that had boosted oil prices initially, some forecasters remained optimistic about crude’s comeback. UBS on Friday said it expected Brent to reach $75 this month for a 2019 high.

“Compliance of OPEC and its allies to the production cut deal remains high, while production from Iran and Venezuela is likely to again trend lower this month,” the Swiss-bank’s closely-followed oil analyst Giovanni Staunovo said, Reuters reported.

Traders will be on the lookout for the weekly oil rig count from industry firm Baker Hughes after 1:00 PM ET.

The rig count, an indicator of future production, has belied the recent highs in U.S. crude production, often coming in lower when expectations are for it to rise.

Over the past three weeks, the reading for oil rigs has moved back and forth by just a few rigs. It is currently at its lowest since March 29, 2018, with just 802 actively operating rigs. U.S. crude production is, meanwhile, near record highs at 12.2 million barrels per day.

Source: Investing.com