Oil futures climbed for a second straight session Friday, with U.S prices erasing their loss for the week just two days after dipping into a bear market.
Prices got a boost from news of a possible progress between the U.S. and Mexico over tariffs and some expectations that major oil producers will extend their production-cut agreement beyond this month’s expiration.
Data Friday showing the largest weekly decline in active U.S. oil drilling rigs in six weeks also provided support. Baker Hughes BHGE, +1.81% reported that the number of active U.S. oil rigs fell 11 to 789 this week, implying a potential slowdown in drilling activity. The decline was the biggest weekly since the week ended April 26.
West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery CLN19, +3.04% rose $1.40, or 2.7%, to settle at $53.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, clawing back up from the five-month lows hit earlier this week. WTI saw a 0.9% rise for the week, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
Worries about weak energy demand and burdensome U.S. supplies had combined push benchmark prices into bear market territory this week. On Wednesday, front-month futures finished at $51.68 — 22% below their most recent high of $66.30 from April 23, marking WTI’s entry into a bear market.
International benchmark August Brent BRNQ19, +0.28% added $1.62, or 2.6%, to end at $63.29 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. Before the late-week rebound, front-month contract prices logged their lowest finish since Jan. 28 at midweek, nearly dropping back below $60. A finish below $59.656 would mark Brent’s entry into a bear market. The contract rose 2.1% for the week.
“Prices are still reacting to news updates from Washington as investors remain nervous about ongoing Trump rhetoric with China and Mexico,” said Mihir Kapadia, chief executive officer of Sun Global Investments. “With indications of a slowing global economy, investors fear the tariffs would further downgrade manufacturing output and therefore oil demand.”
Oil, however, rose Friday on reports that Trump could postpone tariffs on Mexico, he said a daily note. Prices had turned higher by Thursday’s settlement based on those reports.
Meanwhile, inventories have been rising. The Energy Information Administration this week reported that U.S. crude supplies rose by 6.8 million barrels for the week ended May 31. That was the largest weekly increase in five weeks.
There’s been speculation surrounding “big upward adjustments” to U.S. crude supplies that give the market a false impression of oversupply, said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group.
Data from the EIA released Wednesday included a supply adjustment factor of more than 800,000 barrels a day, the difference between reported supplies and those implied by production, refinery demand, imports and exports, according to a report from Bloomberg. That’s added up to more than 24 million barrels over the past four weeks, the report said.
“There are always a lot of estimates in the Weekly Petroleum Report, so without the adjustment factor it would never balance,” said James Williams, energy economist at WTRG Economics. “But lately, the adjustments are consistently high. Something is not showing up but it will take several months before they can identify it for certain.”
For now, “the most reliable measure is still in the stocks or inventory and those numbers have the greatest impact on the market,” said Williams.
Traders are also watching updates on a production-cut agreement between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major oil producers ahead of the deal’s expiration at the end of this month. The next OPEC meeting, which had been scheduled for June 25-26, may be postponed to early July at the request of Russia, according to some news reports.
“Positive signs from OPEC and partners have been the strong buoyant support for the commodity over several months, but we await clarity on Russia’s production strategy for the coming months,” said Kapadia. “The country has indicated it wants to re-assess their production strategy, especially to address their declining revenue stream.”
On Nymex, prices for natural gas finished higher, with the July contract NGN19, +0.69% at $2.337 per million British thermal units, up 1.3 cents, or 0.6%. It saw a loss of 4.8% for the week, following U.S. government data Thursday that showed a larger-than-expected weekly rise in U.S. supplies of the fuel.
Also on Nymex, July gasoline RBN19, +1.90% rose 1.8% to $1.739 a gallon, settling down 1.8% for the week, and July heating HON19, +2.33% added 2% to $1.825 a gallon—down roughly 0.9% from the week-ago close.
“A solid U.S. job market underscores the potential strength in demand for gasoline during the upcoming U.S. summer driving season,” said Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics. “Even though job gains slowed in May, the economy is at full employment and wages are up. Miles driven will be up this summer as well.”
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