Oil prices wavered between gains and losses Monday as tensions in the Middle East ratcheted up, while Saudi Arabia posted its highest level of monthly exports in nearly 10 years.
The U.S. benchmark crude contract was up 31 cents, or 0.5%, at $60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The global Brent oil contract was down 22 cents, or 0.3%, at $66.59 a barrel. Both contracts were up more strongly in overnight trading but gave back those gains in the morning.
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The contracts rose after Islamist rebels captured the Iraqi city of Ramadi and Iran sent an aid ship to Yemen, risking conflict with Saudi Arabia. But the gains eroded after Saudi data showed exports edged up to 7.898 million barrels of crude a day in March, increasing from February and January levels to their highest point since November 2005.
The data were a reminder that global crude surpluses are large and are continuing to expand, with U.S. Energy Information Administration data last week showing that total supply growth is expected to outpace demand by about 1.3 million barrels a day through the end of this year.
Oil prices have surged about 40% since late March on the expectation that production curtailments and a recovering global economy would eventually bring supply and demand back into balance, driving a recovery in the market.
But "I don't think the supply glut's been taken away," said Gene McGillian, a senior analyst at futures brokerage Tradition Energy in Stamford, Conn. "We've priced in expectations of a change, but we haven't really seen any sign that's occurred yet."
In refined products, gasoline futures fell 1.88 cents, or 0.9%, to $2.0380 a gallon on the Nymex. Diesel futures were down 1.7 cents, or 0.9%, at $1.9878 a gallon.
(By Christian Berthelsen)