Energy Voice | Oil slips on signs Russia boosted crude output before OPEC meets

Oil extended declines as Russia was said to increase output before it meets with OPEC, adding to signs that a global coalition of producers is unwinding a pact to restrain supply.

Futures dropped 0.9 percent in New York after a third weekly loss. Russia, which along with Saudi Arabia is trying to garner support for lifting output limits, was said to have boosted production earlier this month to above the level envisioned by OPEC. Meanwhile, the number of rigs drilling for crude in the U.S. inched higher, signaling output may extend a record.

Oil is trading near a two-month low after Saudi Arabia and Russia indicated they’re ready to restore production in the second half of this year to offset potential supply disruptions in Iran and Venezuela. Russia’s apparent willingness to ease caps is in contrast with those two nations, which have little to gain from such a move since they have limited ability to raise output themselves. Iraq has also expressed opposition.

“OPEC-led cuts have acted as an important pillar of price support in recent months and any relaxation in supply curbs will inevitably weigh on prices,” said Stephen Brennock, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd. in London.

WTI for July delivery fell 60 cents to $65.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 8:49 a.m. local time. Total volume traded was about 25 percent below the 100-day average.

Brent futures for August settlement slid 58 cents to $75.88 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, and traded at a $10.79 premium to WTI for the same month.

Futures on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange dropped 0.2 percent to 467.5 yuan a barrel.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies will meet in Vienna on June 22-23. Ahead of the summit, the U.S. government has quietly asked Saudi Arabia and some other producers to increase oil production by about 1 million barrels a day, according to people familiar with the matter.

Saudi Arabia and Russia, among the countries with spare capacity to raise production, signaled last month they may restore output even though they hadn’t yet consulted most other producers. Oil prices have fallen more than 7 percent since the two nations made their proposal public.

Russia increased oil output to 11.1 million barrels a day during the first week of June, Interfax reported, citing a person it didn’t name. That’s above the 10.95 million-barrel level anticipated in the country’s agreement with OPEC and allies.

“OPEC will not bow and obey” to U.S. pressure to increase oil production, said one of Iran’s representatives to the organization. The Islamic Republic — and Venezuela — have written to OPEC members urging them to unite against American sanctions, while Iran also complained that “fellow ministers” had tried to speak on behalf of the entire group, which is required to operate by consensus.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi said prices are still below the desired level and urged OPEC and its partners to resist calls to pump more crude.

Other oil-market news:

In the U.S., drilling rigs targeting oil rose by one to 862 last week, the highest since March 2015, according to Baker Hughes data. Hedge funds reduced their WTI net-long positions by 3.3 percent to 313,450 futures and options during the week ended June 5, the lowest level since last October, according to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

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