Futures Movers: U.S. oil prices climb as traders eye news tied to China, Iran and Hurricane Florence

Futures Movers: U.S. oil prices climb as traders eye news tied to China, Iran and Hurricane Florence


Markets/commodities reporter

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Oil futures climbed Friday, with the U.S. benchmark building on its gain for the week as reports said the U.S. still plans to impose more tariffs on China and has ratcheted up pressure on countries to comply with upcoming sanctions on Iranian oil.

Traders also continued to watch for any impact on the energy market from Hurricane Florence.

October futures on West Texas Intermediate crude CLV8, +0.25% the U.S. benchmark, rose by 49 cents, or 0.7%, to $69.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract remains below the $70.37 mark hit earlier this week, the highest settlement since July 20, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The contract was on track to log a 2% weekly gain.

November Brent LCOX8, -0.15% was up 15 cents, or 0.2%, to $78.33 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, with gains held back by a report Thursday showing that global crude inventories reached a record in August. Global benchmark prices hit the highest point since May earlier this week, and was headed for a roughly 1.9% weekly gain.

Manisha Singh, assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, told lawmakers at a hearing Thursday that the country is prepared to take the “strongest action” against countries not complying with Iran sanctions, including cutting purchases of Iranian oil to zero, according to an article in the Economic Times Friday.

Separate reports Friday, meanwhile, said President Donald Trump still wants to impose tariffs on China despite recent attempts to restart talks between the U.S. and China, which is the world’s second-largest oil consumer.

Trump is pushing for more China tariffs because he believes that would push China over the edge, said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group. There’s also more talk surrounding Iran sanctions and the oil market is more concerned about the Trump administration’s target of zero Iranian oil exports, he said.

And as “far as Florence is concerned, we know that there will be demand destruction in the short term, but a surge in demand in a few weeks when [the region] starts to rebuild,” he said.

The Gulf of Mexico has to be watched as Isaac, currently a tropical depression, could be an issue next week for energy operations in the Gulf, Flynn said. Isaac is expected to move over the eastern and central Caribbean Sea over the next few days.

Hurricane Florence was downgraded to Category 1 storm as it hit the Carolinas Friday. Even with the downgrade, Florence was expected to cause catastrophic flooding over portions of North Carolina and South Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm has the potential to cause disruptions to the flow of fuel through key pipelines in the region.

“The Northeast is heavily dependent on the Colonial Pipeline and Plantation Pipeline for refined products supplies, both of which run through the Carolinas,” according to a report from S&P Global Platts issued Friday morning.

Both pipelines were operating normally Thursday, it said. “No U.S. offshore or onshore oil production facilities or refineries are currently in the path of Florence,” they added.

Fuel-price tracker GasBuddy reported that more than half of the gas stations in Wilmington, N.C., were out of fuel.

Read: Hurricane Florence sparks some fuel shortages, but gas prices won’t see a big spike

On Nymex, October gasoline RBV8, -0.82% fell 0.5% to $1.983 a gallon, trading up 0.7% on the week, while October heating oil HOV8, -0.48% was down 0.1% at $2.22 a gallon, looking at a weekly rise of less than 0.1%.

October natural gas NGV18, -1.74% lost 1.7% to $2.768 per million British thermal units—down 0.3% for the week.

Demand for natural gas is “expected to fall across the storm path, largely because of lower power burn owing to outages and lower temperatures,” the S&P Global Platts report said.

On Thursday, WTI and Brent crude prices suffered their biggest one-day percentage losses in roughly a month as the International Energy Agency said daily crude-oil output in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries climbed and global supplies hit a record of 100 million barrels a day in August.

“Logistical constraints on U.S. output growth and persistent concerns about the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s exports mean that we have revised up slightly our price forecasts,” said Caroline Bain, chief commodities economist with Capital Economics. She pegged the price of Brent to decline to $70 per barrel by end-2018 and $60 at end-2019, up from previous forecasts of $65 and $55 respectively.

Weekly data from Baker Hughes BHGE, -2.09% revealed that the number of rigs drilling for oil in the U.S., a key metric of activity in the sector, climbed by 7 to 867 this week.

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