Oil Prices Fall in Thin Trading

By Christopher Alessi Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil prices fell Friday, as many traders packed up early and others cashed in ahead of the holiday weekend.

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Brent crude, the global benchmark, was down 0.42%, at $64.16 a barrel on London's Intercontinental Exchange. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading down 0.57%, at $58.03 a barrel.

"It's a thin trading environment--and the market is not going to be very active today," said Olivier Jakob, head of energy consultancy Petromatrix.

There could also be a "squaring of the books, and that can include some profit taking," Mr. Jakob said of prices trending lower.

While analysts expect a quiet week following Christmas, many said they would be looking to see whether the Forties Pipeline System in the North Sea resumes full operations at the start of the New Year.

The pipeline was shut down last week after operator Ineos discovered a hairline crack in a pipe, stopping the flow of 450,000 barrels of North Sea oil a day. That tightening of supply had buoyed prices over the past week.

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But Ineos said Thursday it expects to bring pipeline flows "progressively back to normal rates" early in the New Year.

"A full restart is now expected in early January and sets the countdown for the removal of what has been an important source of price support," said Stephen Brennock, an analyst at brokerage PVM Oil Associates Ltd.

However, crude prices have risen more than 20% since September, as a result of renewed geopolitical risk to supply in the Middle East, declining global inventories and OPEC's ongoing efforts to curb production.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and 10 members outside the cartel, including Russia, agreed late last month to extend a deal to cut crude output by nearly 2% through the end of next year. The original accord was first struck a year ago as part of strategy to rein in the global supply glut and boost prices.

"Underpinning the solid price recovery of the last 12 months is OPEC, which succeeded in reasserting its pricing influence over the oil market, " Mr. Brennock noted.

Among refined products, Nymex reformulated gasoline blendstock--the benchmark gasoline contract--was up 0.71%, at $1.75 a gallon. ICE gas oil, a benchmark for diesel fuel, changed hands at $574.75 a metric ton, down 0.26% from the previous settlement.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 22, 2017 05:53 ET (10:53 GMT)