Are Crude Oil Prices Headed Lower?

Mar 05, 2017, 00:54

Crude oil prices steadied on Friday after slumping to a three-week low overnight, but pressure from increasing USA production and hefty global stocks are expected to constrain prices.

US crude stockpiles have risen for seven straight weeks.

So far, the market has somewhat reluctantly acknowledged OPEC's surprisingly high compliance rate, which reached 90 percent as of the end of January, but even so, prices have failed to move much higher than US$55 for Brent, the global benchmark, and US$54 for West Texas Intermediate.

The dollar slipped on Friday from its highest in seven weeks against a basket of currencies, although still holding close to a level that anchors Brent crude near $55 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) just under $53. The impact of the cuts was offset by gains of a combined 260,000 b/d from Nigeria and Libya, both of which are exempt from the deal, while Iranian production edged up by 30,000 b/d, which again is within the scope of the deal's terms.

Bloomberg calculates Iran's February output to be 3.83 million bpd, above its goal of 3.797 million bpd; as for Angola, the start of two oil projects in that country resulted in a ramp up of 20,000 barrels to 1.69 million bpd last month.

OPEC's compliance with its production cut agreement reached 94% in February, according to a survey from Reuters.

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"The OPEC decision could be the first disappointment even though at the moment members are showing a 90% compliance rate to the production cut deal", said Vivek Dhar, a commodities strategist with Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Most OPEC countries typically overshoot their pledged amounts by about 20 percent.

The oil markets extended losses from Wednesday when government data showed crude inventories in the United States, the world's biggest oil consumer, rose for an eighth straight week to a record 520.2 million barrels last week.

Away from the oil market, precious metals continued to register massive slides as the dollar remained strong, with gold sliding below $1,235 an ounce from $1,250-levels earlier in the week.

Natural-gas prices inched down to trade about flat for the week. It closed down $1.28, or 2.3 percent, in the previous session.

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