Oil Trades Near $48 as Investors Await Upcoming Producer Talks

Akos Stiller/Bloomberg News

Oil was little changed before a meeting between OPEC and its allies that may signal the outlook for extending their output curbs.

Futures pared early losses as U.S. equities pushed higher. American crude output continued to rise along with inventories last week, according to an Energy Information Administration report March 22. While OPEC won’t formally decide until May whether to prolong production curbs, officials will meet this weekend in Kuwait to discuss their deal’s progress.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crudes dipped below $50 a barrel this month for the first time in 2017 as rising U.S. inventories weighed on output cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih has said the group would extend the deal if oil stockpiles remain high. The Russian cuts are “slower than what I’d like,” Al-Falih said in an interview with CNBC March 7.

"There’s a lot weighing on the market, and I believe it’s a matter of time before we move lower," John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital, a New York-based hedge fund that focuses on energy, said by telephone. "Saudi patience is being tried by Russia and others that aren’t abiding by the agreement."

WTI for May delivery dropped 21 cents, or 0.4%, to $47.83 a barrel at 12:38 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices slipped as much as 1% to $47.58 earlier. Total volume traded was about 11% below the 100-day average.

Brent for May settlement fell 3 cents to $50.61 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Prices on March 22 traded below $50 for the first time since Nov. 30. The global benchmark was at a $2.85 premium to WTI.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose as much as 0.5% as investors watched developments in Washington for clues on the prospects for the Trump administration’s pro-growth policies. Bloomberg’s dollar measure swung between gains and losses as the fate of the Republican health-care bill is in doubt.

Crude supplies rose by 4.95 million to 533.1 million barrels last week, the EIA report showed on March 22. Prices tumbled upon the release of the data before erasing most of the loss as attention shifted to fuel stockpile gains. Gasoline inventories fell to 243.5 million barrels, while supplies of distillate fuel, which includes diesel and heating oil, slipped to 155.4 million barrels.

Oil-market news:

• Libya’s crude production has rebounded to the level before clashes disrupted output three weeks ago and forced the OPEC nation’s two biggest oil ports to halt shipments.

• Algeria’s state-run energy producer plans to boost crude-oil output by 14% in the four years to 2019 and invest billions of dollars in exploration projects.

• OPEC’s supply cuts are providing a windfall for producers of heavy crude from Western Canada and the Gulf of Mexico.