OIL PRICE: ABOVE $54
Brent crude gained 48 cents o $54.09 a barrel by 1043 GMT (6:43 a.m. ET), with U.S. light crude up 47 cents at $50.80.
Both benchmarks have climbed more than 10 percent from lows earlier this month.
Prices have risen on expectations that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers, including Russia, will extend for another six or nine months a deal to cut supplies by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd).
"The decision (to extend cuts) seems to be almost a done deal," said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB Markets. "There seems to be a very high harmony in the group."
The possibility of deepening the cuts was also being discussed ahead of a meeting of OPEC and other producers in Vienna on May 25, sources said.
But such talk could lead to disappointment if not approved, Commerzbank analysts said.
"If the cuts are merely to be extended, this is likely to be met at best with a neutral reception, if not even with disappointment," Commerzbank said in a note.
Some analysts argue that deeper cuts are required to balance the market, pointing to a slight rise in OPEC exports this year.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects OPEC net oil export revenues to rise in 2017, partly because of "slightly higher" OPEC output.
Deeper cuts might, however, serve to stimulate U.S. shale production, said Schieldrop at SEB Markets.
"If you cut production, it's no free lunch. You get something in the short term, but you get a backflip in the medium term, which is more production in 2018 and 2019," he said.
Goldman Sachs says that the U.S. rig count for new oil production has jumped by 404 since May last year, representing a rise of 128 percent.
U.S. oil production has already climbed by 10 percent, or almost 900,000 bpd, since mid-2016 to 9.3 million bpd.
Iraqi oil minister Jabar al-Luaibi said in a speech on Monday that OPEC's No.2 producer had met its share of production cuts, but added that the country remains ready to meet any global demand growth that may arise.
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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.