Economy

Volatile oil prices are virtually impossible to predict, analysts say

Volatile oil prices are virtually impossible to predict, analysts say

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose by 46 cents or 0.4 per cent to settle at $63.84 a barrel.

Selling accelerated yesterday morning as USA crude dropped below $63.71 a barrel, a technically-significant level at which some funds had stops in place, triggering automatic sales, said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in NY.

Saudi Arabia has slashed its oil production by more than promised as part of a pact to boost oil prices, the International Energy Agency said on Thursday, while warning of mixed signals for global demand.

Brent and WTI crude futures have risen by approximately 30% and 40% respectively since the start of the year. Iranian supply could fall further after May if, as many expect, Washington tightens its sanctions against Tehran.

In the London market on Thursday, rising U.S. crude stocks dragged oil lower but prices continued to find support as OPEC-led cuts and freefalling Venezuelan output tightened global supplies.

However, President Vladimir Putin seemingly softened that stance.

OPEC, Russia and other producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, are reducing output by 1.2 million bpd from January 1 for six months. OPEC has been saying the curbs must remain, but that stance is now softening.

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Opec+ members will meet in June to discuss oil policy. Demand for OPEC crude in 2018 averaged 31.35 million bpd.

Oil prices also gained support from continued signs of supply cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies.

Oil markets have been lifted by more than 30 percent this year by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and USA sanctions on oil exporters Iran and Venezuela, plus escalating conflict in OPEC member Libya.

At the last OPEC meeting in Vienna, the group's members agreed to slash output by 812,000 bpd, with Russian Federation and nine other non-OPEC allies committing to a cut of 383,000 bpd for the first six months of 2019. Though OPEC's de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, is considered keen to keep cutting, sources within the group said it could raise output from July if disruptions continue elsewhere.

But Putin, who's Russia's ultimate dealmaker, said he wasn't decided yet on how Moscow's cooperation with OPEC should go.

Amrita Sen, co-founder of Energy Aspects, talks with Bloomberg's Alix Steel about OPEC and USA production, and Russia's role in the global oil market.


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