Oil Rallies on Hopes of Production Cut

Markets Reuters

Oil prices rallied on Friday, rebounding from a 13-year low the previous day, on speculation of production cuts among some of the world's biggest suppliers. 

Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, rose 4.6% to $31.43 a barrel on London's ICE Futures exchange. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading up 4.3% at $27.33 a barrel. WTI fell to $26.21 a barrel on Thursday, the lowest settlement since May 6, 2003. 

Prices rose after the United Arab Emirates energy minister said late Thursday that members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries were ready to cooperate on possible production cuts. Venezuela, meanwhile, proposed that OPEC and non-OPEC producers should at least freeze output at the current level. 

"Although this wouldn't erase the oversupply immediately, it would at least do so in the medium term," analysts at Commerzbank said in a note to clients. 

Many market watchers, however, continue to be skeptical about the chances of such an agreement. 

"We view this as further jawboning, with the likelihood of a coordinated response on supply cuts very low," ANZ Bank said in a report. 

A supply glut has dragged prices down over the past two years. OPEC's policy, led by its most influential member, Saudi Arabia, has been to pump at full tilt in a bid to defend its market share against producers in the U.S. and Russia. 

There are few signs that the global glut of crude will start to shrink soon. U.S. oil inventories remain near levels not seen for this time of year in at least the last 80 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. With slower demand ahead due to refineries going into planned maintenance, crude stocks are expected to continue to increase. 

"There is some concern that inventory tank tops will be tested, particularly in the U.S.," said Michael Wittner, oil analyst at Société Générale. 

Still, analysts see some respite for oil prices in the second half of the year. 

"We do believe that Brent and [West Texas Intermediate] prices will rebound in the second half of 2016 as more aggressive cutbacks in production are forthcoming, particularly in the U.S.," said John Davies, head of commodities research at BMI Research. 

Nymex reformulated gasoline blendstock--the benchmark gasoline contract--rose 4.7% to $0.99 a gallon. ICE gasoil changed hands at $299.75 a metric ton, up $14.25 from the previous settlement. 

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