OIL PRICES: ABOVE $52
According to REUTERS, Brent crude futures fell on Friday after briefly nearing their 2016 high, as financial market confidence in the rally came up against a physical excess of crude.
Brent LCOc1 traded at $52.11 at 1000 GMT, 40 cents down, after touching $52.84 earlier, two cents below the 2016 high.
U.S. oil futures traded as high as $50.74 a barrel, a three and a half month high, before falling by 30 cents to $50.14 a barrel. On Thursday they settled at $50.44 per barrel - the first settlement above $50 since June 23.
The rally had come despite a strengthening dollar, which makes oil more expensive for holders of other currencies, and increases to physical oil supply coming from Libya, Nigeria and Russia.
Some of the support came from Hurricane Matthew in the U.S. Gulf, which could disrupt U.S. oil imports and lead to fuel shortages.
But the overall strength came from speculation that a deal struck last week by Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members to curtail production would finally stem a two-year overhang. OPEC leaders were also expected to meet with officials from oil producing behemoth Russia next week.
But analysts said the agreement's support was fragile, given the overhang of physical crude oil.
"This isn't really sustainable," Hamza Khan, head of commodities strategy with ING, said of the rally, adding that fears the hurricane could impact U.S. oil stocks were one of the only fundamental factors supporting the market. "It all could be over by next week."
Both front-month contracts above $50 per barrel and each forward curve in contango, in which contracts for future delivery are more expensive than those for immediate sale, the entire crude futures complex has moved back over $50 per barrel.
Some warned this could ultimately hurt OPEC member nations by giving a boost to other producers.
"Many U.S. shale oil producers have now hedged their production, which is likely to put the brakes on the price rise," anaylsts at Commerzbank said in a note. "In other words, OPEC is shooting itself in the foot in the medium to long term."
Top exporter Saudi Arabia cut its benchmark crude prices to Asia this week, while Libya exported the first oil tanker from the port of Zuetina since 2015, adding to global supplies.
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