A pick-up in American oil activity kept oil prices in check Monday, despite reports that OPEC producers are mostly sticking to their pledged cuts.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which formed a pact to slow down its production of crude beginning in January, released its own data to show 93% compliance with production cuts. The Paris-based International Energy Agency also found high compliance among OPEC nations. According to the IEAâ€™s report, OPECâ€™s January production achieved 90% of the planned cuts of 1.8 million barrels per day.
The numbers were better than analysts anticipated, and U.S. oil futures responded in kind Friday with a strong rally. However, another bump in the U.S. rig count reminded investors that OPECâ€™s cuts, while designed to reduce global supplies and lift prices, are encouraging American producers to get back to drilling.
â€œWeekly data suggest that U.S. production is rebounding more strongly than anticipated,â€ J.P. Morgan (NYSE:JPM) wrote in a research note to clients Friday.
Analysts at the bank also believe domestic production is running at 9.2 million barrels per day, faster than the U.S. Energy Information Administrationâ€™s weekly figure of 8.9 million.
The cuts by OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, are a driving force behind the U.S. oil industryâ€™s reawakening. The number of rigs operating in the U.S. totaled 741 last week, according to Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI). Thatâ€™s an increase of 12 versus the prior week and 200 year-over-year. Canadaâ€™s rig count is also on the rise, climbing by 130 rigs since the same week in 2016.
J.P. Morgan said U.S. oil inventories, as well as Canadian output, will keep downward pressure on prices for the time being. Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been fast-tracked for approval under the Trump administration, would further improve the economics of oil drilling in Canada.
The EIA believes U.S. oil prices will average $54 per barrel in 2017, according to the agencyâ€™s latest short-term energy outlook. Recent trading suggests that the market expects West Texas Intermediate (WTI) prices to trade between $45 and $65 in April.
WTI crude slipped 1.9% to $52.86 a barrel Monday. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was down 2.1% at $55.52 a barrel.