OIL PRICES: ABOVE $50
According to REUTERS, oil prices rose in early Asian trading on Wednesday, with U.S. crude joining Brent above $50 a barrel after data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed a larger than expected draw on stocks.
U.S. crude futures' August contract, the new front month from Wednesday, had climbed 9 cents to $49.94 a barrel by 0223 GMT. Earlier it rose to as high as $50.54, marking the first time it had risen above $50 since June 10.
Brent crude futures were up 4 cents at $50.66 a barrel, after settling down 3 cents at $50.62 on Tuesday.
U.S. crude inventories fell by 5.2 million barrels for the week ended June 17, the API said. The trade group's figures were triple the draw of 1.7 million barrels forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll.
The U.S. government's Energy Information Administration will issue official stockpile data on Wednesday.
Markets remain jumpy over the possibility the United Kingdom will vote to leave the European Union on Thursday in a referendum, with polls showing little difference between the "remain" and "leave" camps.
The dollar clung to modest gains early on Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen held the line of "gradual increases" in U.S. rates, while sterling's short-covering rally lost momentum a day ahead of the referendum.
Japan's Nikkei was down nearly 0.7 percent in early trading, while gold prices edged lower.
"Strengthening in the dollar and weakness in other currencies would ... be directionally short-term bearish for crude oil" in the event of a British exit, Societe Generale said in a research note.
A stronger dollar makes oil more expensive because it raises the cost for imports for most of the world's countries.
Still, fundamentals could come into play once the dust settles from the vote.
"Global demand growth is quite robust, driven by the U.S., China, India and other emerging markets," Societe Generale said. "On the supply side, declining U.S. crude production is expected to underpin a trend of lower non-OPEC production."
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BP and its partners in Azerbaijan's giant ACG oil production complex agreed Thursday to extend the production sharing contract by 25 years to 2049 and to increase the stake of state-owned SOCAR, reducing the size of their own shares.
The U.S. current-account deficit increased to $123.1 billion (preliminary) in the second quarter of 2017 from $113.5 billion (revised) in the first quarter of 2017, according to statistics released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The deficit increased to 2.6 percent of current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) from 2.4 percent in the first quarter.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were trading up 41 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $50.30 by 0852 GMT, near the three-month high of $50.50 it reached last Thursday. Brent crude futures LCOc1, the benchmark for oil prices outside the United States, were at $55.91 a barrel, up 29 cents, and also not far from the near five-month high of $55.99 touched on Thursday.
“The principal risk regarding Russian and Chinese activities in Venezuela in the near term is that they will exploit the unfolding crisis, including the effect of US sanctions, to deepen their control over Venezuela’s resources, and their [financial] leverage over the country as an anti-US political and military partner,” observed R. Evan Ellis, a senior associate in the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Americas Program.