Oil Prices Waver on Supply Concerns

By Stephanie Yang and Sarah McFarlane Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil prices swung between gains and losses on Thursday as investors weighed declining crude stockpiles in the U.S. against signs of a broader oversupplied market.

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Light, sweet crude for June delivery was recently up 19 cents, or 0.4%, to $49.27 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, reversing losses that led prices as low as $48.05 earlier in the session. Brent, the global benchmark, was recently up 24 cents, or 0.5%, at $52.45 a barrel.

Wednesday data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed that the amount of crude, gasoline and diesel fuel in storage declined in the week ended Friday. However, the 1.75 million barrel decline in crude stockpiles fell short of analyst estimates for a 2.2 million barrel draw.

U.S. production has been steadily rising since the start of the year, reaching its highest level since August 2015 at 9.31 million barrels a day earlier this month. Wednesday's data showed the first fall in U.S. production in 13 weeks, lending some support to prices, said Tamas Varga at brokerage PVM.

"Although U.S. commercial stocks are some 34 million barrels below the highest level seen last August, more hard work is needed to bring them down to the five-year average of 1.2 billion barrels," said Mr. Varga.

Increasing activity from U.S. shale producers has undermined the attempt by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to lessen the global supply glut by cutting its own output this year.

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"I think it's still all about these ample U.S. supplies and the slug of oil that seems to be waiting in the wings from the shale fields," said John Kilduff, founding partner of Again Capital.

Participants in the agreement between OPEC and other major oil producers to cut output, such as Algeria, Russia and Saudi Arabia, have voiced support for extending the deal at their meeting this month. But the market remains unconvinced that it will have the desired impact on oil inventories, especially as prices have fallen this year amid ongoing production cuts.

"A lot will hinge on next week's meeting," said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates. "[But] I have trouble building a scenario that would take us much above $50."

Gasoline futures rose 0.4% to $1.6090 a gallon, and diesel futures rose 0.7% to $1.5446 a gallon.

--Biman Mukherji contributed to this article.

Write to Stephanie Yang at stephanie.yang@wsj.com and Sarah McFarlane at sarah.mcfarlane@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 18, 2017 11:40 ET (15:40 GMT)