Oil prices slip as persistent fuel glut returns to focus

A pump jack operates at a well site leased by Devon Energy Production Co. near Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Nick Oxford | Reuters
A pump jack operates at a well site leased by Devon Energy Production Co. near Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Oil prices slipped on Friday as the market refocused on a persistent fuel supply overhang that is not expected to abate unless OPEC and other producers cut their output significantly.

International Brent crude futures traded at $44.58 per barrel at 10:50 a.m. ET (1550 GMT), down $1.26 from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were trading $1.30 lower at $43.36 per barrel.

Benchmark crude futures contracts have in the past week wiped out the gains made since the end of September when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said it would agree to cut oil production to shore up persistently low prices.

While investors were always sceptical that a deal to cut or freeze oil output could be reached and implemented at an OPEC meeting on Nov. 30, an increasing amount of data has underscored a global skew towards oversupply.

OPEC reported on Friday an increase in its output to another record high, pointing to an even larger surplus on the market next year. It said it pumped 33.64 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, up 240,000 bpd from September.

That means the cartel, beset by geopolitical squabbles amongst some of its 14 member states, would have to cut up to a million bpd if it makes good on its promise to reduce its output to between 32.50 million bpd and 33.0 million bpd.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said the supply overhang could run into a third year in 2017, should OPEC fail to act.

“Oil markets are increasingly reflecting growing consensus that the persistent oversupply seen throughout 2016 will carry on into 2017,” analysts at JBC Energy wrote.

“We would actually go a step further, as while 2016 has seen a significant improvement from 2015 with easing oversupplies, 2017 will be worse again barring massive outages or OPEC action.”

In its monthly oil market report, the IEA said global supply rose by 800,000 bpd in October to 97.8 million bpd, led by record OPEC output and rising production from non-OPEC members such as Russia, Brazil, Canada and Kazakhstan.

Nigeria is working out new oil and gas policies to attract more private investors and boost crude production by 500,000 bpd by 2020, state firm NNPC said on Thursday.

The IEA kept its demand growth forecast for 2016 at 1.2 million bpd and expects consumption to increase at the same pace next year, having slowed from a five-year peak of 1.8 million bpd in 2015. OPEC had a similar global demand growth forecast for next year of 1.15 million bpd.

Beyond oversupply, a surging dollar following the initial shock ofDonald Trump‘s U.S. presidential election win also put pressure on prices, traders said. The dollar was on course on Friday for its strongest week in a year.

Because oil and refined products are traded in dollars, their import costs rise for countries using other currencies, potentially crimping demand.

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