Oil Wavers on Mixed Supply Signals

By Christopher Alessi Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil prices ended unchanged Friday, as investors grappled with mixed signals for global supply and demand.

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Light, sweet crude for October delivery settled flat at $49.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after fluctuating between gains and losses throughout the session. Brent, the global benchmark, rose 15 cents, or 0.3%, to $55.62 a barrel.

Oil prices were mainly neutral because of profit-taking and consolidation in the market following the strong gains of the past weeks, said Giovanni Staunovo, a commodity analyst at UBS Wealth Management.

But overall, "sentiment has completely changed" to the upside over the past month, Mr. Staunovo said. "Demand is now stronger than supply," he added.

Prices have been rising this week on the back of bullish data for demand and signs of shrinking global inventories, sending Brent to its highest level since mid-April.

The International Energy Agency on Wednesday said global oil supplies dropped for the first time in four months in August, by 720,000 barrels a day, while raising its oil demand growth forecast to 1.6 million barrels a day for the full year.

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That news followed a report from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that said the cartel's output had fallen in August for the first time since April.

"These upgraded projections have, coupled with the recent decline in OPEC output, shored up rebalancing expectations," according to Stephen Brennock, an analyst at brokerage PVM Oil Associates Ltd. He added that prices were also being supported by a weaker dollar and ongoing production outages in Libya.

However, analysts have widely said that expectations for oil markets in 2018 are still largely bearish as a result of an expected rise in supply.

Investors and analysts will be looking ahead to a coming OPEC meeting for signs from the cartel about potentially extending its oil output cut deal. OPEC and 10 producers outside the cartel first agreed late last year to cap production at around 1.8 million barrels a day lower than peak October 2016 levels, part of an effort to alleviate the global oil glut and boost prices. The deal was extended in May through March 2018.

Gasoline futures gained 0.9% to $1.6617 a gallon and diesel futures rose 1.9% to $1.7988 a gallon.

Stephanie Yang contributed to this article.

Write to Christopher Alessi at christopher.alessi@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 15, 2017 15:43 ET (19:43 GMT)