Oil Prices Mixed Amid Tensions in Iraq

By Neanda Salvaterra Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil prices were mixed Monday amid concerns about possible supply disruptions arising from tensions in the oil-rich Kurdish region of Iraq.

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Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, fell 0.21% to $57.62 a barrel on London's ICE Futures exchange. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading up 0.04% at $51.87 a barrel.

Investors were evaluating the aftermath of the Kurdish vote for independence, which triggered an aggressive response from Iraq.

Baghdad sent troops to take back control of the region, which exports as much as 500,000 barrels a day of Kurdish oil through a Turkish port.

Iraq, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, also reported that oil exports in the south have been increased by 200,000 barrels a day to make up for the shortfall from Kirkuk.

"There is spare capacity in the U.S. and in OPEC nations that makes it difficult for Brent to go above $60, so it is stuck in a relatively small range," said Olivier Jakob, managing director at oil consultancy Petromatrix. "Over the weekend, Iraq announced that it would increase output from the south to offset losses from the north. That's an illustration of what the market can do when it has spare capacity."

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Earlier, oil prices rose slightly from Friday, boosted by data from Baker Hughes Inc. showing a third-straight decline in the number of active oil rigs, a proxy for drilling activity.

Still, analysts point to data showing that U.S. shale oil producers are poised to bring more oil online, which will weigh on oil prices.

"The oil market still remains deaf in one ear and is responding primarily to price-supportive news," said Commerzbank in a recent note. "The prices of both oil types, and especially of Brent, are overheated and [we] expect them to correct in the short term."

Since OPEC and 10 other non-OPEC countries struck an agreement to cut global production by 1.8 million a barrels a day last year, U.S. producers drilled a total of 7,270 uncompleted wells up until September.

"There has been a veritable shale oil drilling party," Mr. Jakob of Petromatrix said. "Thus if 2017 was a U.S. shale oil drilling party then 2018 may be a shale oil completion party. U.S. shale oil completions have been rising every month since January," he said.

Nymex reformulated gasoline blendstock--the benchmark gasoline contract--rose 0.18% to $1.68 a gallon. ICE gasoil changed hands at $533.50 a metric ton, up $0.50 from the previous settlement.

Write to Neanda Salvaterra at neanda.salvaterra@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 23, 2017 07:14 ET (11:14 GMT)