Oil Reverses Gains as Nigeria Strike Is Called Off

By Christopher Alessi Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil prices rose Monday morning following an unexpected fall in the number of U.S. rigs drilling for crude.

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Brent crude, the global benchmark, was up 0.79%, at $63.76 a barrel on London's Intercontinental Exchange. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading down 0.66%, at $57.68 a barrel.

Baker Hughes Inc. reported late Friday the number of active oil drilling rigs in the U.S. was down by four, at 747 last week. The decline followed increases during the preceding three weeks.

"On a very healthy price, you have oil rigs coming down compared to a previous count--they should be adding rigs at this current [price] level, " said Georgi Slavov, head of research at brokerage Marex Spectron.

Mr. Slavov said that as a result of efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to limit supply through production curbs, the market is being perceived as fairly tight. "Therefore, any news on limiting supply further would make the market react to the upside," he explained.

OPEC and 10 producers outside the cartel, including Russia, agreed late last month to continue holding back nearly 2% of crude production from the global market through the end of next year. The deal was first agreed a year ago with the aim of alleviating a supply glut that has plagued oil markets since 2014.

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Oil prices have risen more than 20% since September, helped by the OPEC-led deal and renewed geopolitical risks to global supply.

Oil prices had been boosted last week by the closure of the Forties Pipeline System in the North Sea after operator Ineos discovered a crack in a pipe. The outage, would could last for a few weeks, stops the flow of around 450,000 barrels of North Sea oil a day.

Oil market observers this week are looking ahead to weekly U.S. data on petroleum inventories on Wednesday. But after that, "trading activity is going to start to slow" ahead of the Christmas holiday, said Olivier Jakob, head of energy consultancy Petromatrix.

Among refined products, Nymex reformulated gasoline blendstock--the benchmark gasoline contract--was down 0.95% at $1.65 a gallon. ICE gasoil, a benchmark for diesel fuel, changed hands at $566.25 a metric ton, up 0.40% from the previous settlement.

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

Oil prices settled lower Monday, reversing gains after a potential oil worker strike in Nigeria was called off, easing supply concerns.

Light, sweet crude for January delivery lost 14 cents, or 0.2%, to $57.16 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, gained 18 cents, or 0.3%, to $63.41 a barrel.

Prices traded as high as $57.69 a barrel throughout the day, boosted by concerns over a strike in Nigeria's oil industry. The strike was later suspended, Reuters reported. Prices still received some support from a continued outage of the Forties Pipeline System in the North Sea, analysts said.

The market has struggled for direction in recent weeks, as traders weigh signs of lower supply against rising production in the U.S.

Georgi Slavov, head of research at brokerage Marex Spectron, said that as a result of efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to limit supply through production curbs, the market is being perceived as fairly tight.

"Therefore, any news on limiting supply further would make the market react to the upside," Mr. Slavov said.

OPEC and 10 producers outside the cartel, including Russia, agreed late in November to continue holding back nearly 2% of crude production from the global market through the end of next year. The deal was first reached a year ago with the aim of alleviating a supply glut that has plagued oil markets since 2014.

Oil prices have risen more than 20% since September, helped by the OPEC-led deal and renewed geopolitical risks to global supply.

Those concerned about high production in the U.S. also recently found an unexpected reprieve as the number of U.S. drilling rigs fell.

Baker Hughes Inc. reported Friday the number of active oil drilling rigs in the U.S. was down by four, at 747 last week. The decline followed increases during the preceding three weeks.

"On a very healthy price, you have oil rigs coming down compared with a previous count -- they should be adding rigs at this current [price] level, " said Mr. Slavov.

Gasoline futures closed up 1.1% at $1.6725 a gallon and diesel futures gained 1.1% to $1.9252 a gallon.

Dan Molinski contributed to this article.

Write to Christopher Alessi at christopher.alessi@wsj.com and Stephanie Yang at stephanie.yang@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 18, 2017 17:37 ET (22:37 GMT)