OIL PRICES: $49.67
According to WSJ, oil prices rose Thursday from further signs Iran may talk cooperation with other oil exporters.
Light, sweet crude for October delivery settled up 56 cents, or 1.2%, to $47.33 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its ninth winning session in the past 11. Brent, the global benchmark, gained 62 cents, or 1.3%, to $49.67 a barrel.
Iran's oil minister, Bijan Zanganeh, confirmed through the oil-ministry news agency, Shana, that he will attend an informal gathering to discuss tightening oil output with fellow members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. News agencies, including The Wall Street Journal, had told OPEC officials in recent days that they would attend the September meeting in Algiers, helping push oil prices higher.
"All these things make it credible and believable. But does it mean it's going to happen?" said John Saucer, vice president of research and analysis at Mobius Risk Group in Houston. "I'm a harden skeptic."
Despite widespread skepticism, many have attributed oil's rally this month to signs of OPEC cooperation. There were so many new bearish, or short, trades opened since late May that just the mere possibility of an OPEC deal has been forcing those traders to close out by buying contracts, likely pushing prices up, brokers and analysts have said.
"It's hard to be short," said Kyle Cooper , a consultant for Ion Energy Group in Houston. "It's in [OPEC's] best interest to announce something, and then it will go up even more."
But the price gains have been relatively small and the market is still on pace for a losing week. There are concerns that stockpiles of oil and gasoline have peaked at a time of year when summer driving season should have sent them to seasonal lows, and that has kept many people bearish.
The Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that U.S. oil imports were up by almost 450,000 barrels a day to 8.6 million, which, coupled with weaker refinery activity, led to a stock build of 2.6 million barrels.
"The highlight of this report was the bearish and unexpected build in crude," Michael Wittner , the chief commodities analyst at Société Générale, said in a note.
Chinese net crude oil imports fell by just over 2% month-on-month in July, falling to 7.29 million barrels a day from 7.45 million in June, according to the final figures released by the country's National Bureau of Statistics. Oil demand also fell year-over-year by 61,000 barrels a day to 10.62 million.
London-based Energy Aspects said in a note the slowdown in imports was in line with expectations, after recent flooding hurt economic activity and because of higher refinery maintenance.
"We expect the slowdown in imports to persist in August, as maintenance remains elevated and industrial activity is curtailed ahead of the G-20 meeting in Hangzhou province, which will take place on [Sept. 4-5]," the think tank said.
With the oil markets already jittery, some market participants said they believe bearish data from the world's two largest oil-consuming countries could provide a serious headwind for prices moving into next week.
Gasoline futures settled up 0.18 cent, or 0.1%, at $1.5114 a gallon, its 10th winning session in the past 11. Diesel futures gained 1.31 cents, or 0.9%, to $1.5094 a gallon.
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