Oil Rebounds From One-Week Low on Outlook for U.S. Demand

Oil rose in New York, trimming this week’s decline as investors bet that fuel demand will increase with an economic recovery in the U.S., the world’s biggest crude consumer.

West Texas Intermediate futures advanced as much as 0.6 percent after data from the Labor Department showed the cost of living in the U.S. rose the most in 10 months in February. Data due later today may show U.S. consumer confidence reached a one- year high and industrial production increased. Oil also gained after the U.S. and U.K. said they haven’t reached an agreement to release emergency stockpiles to counter rising prices following Western sanctions against Iran. WTI has lost 1.6 percent this week.

“The U.S. recovery is coming along better than expected,” said Andrey Kryuchenkov, an analyst at VTB Capital in London. “But as far as U.S. demand is concerned, we are yet to see improvements ahead of the summer driving season.”

Crude for April delivery rose as much as 66 cents to $105.77 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was at $105.67 at 12:42 p.m. London time. The contract yesterday dropped 32 cents to $105.11, the lowest since March 6. Prices are 6.6 percent higher this year.

Brent oil for May settlement on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange gained 85 cents to $123.45 a barrel. The European benchmark contract was at a premium of $17.26 to New York futures for the same month. The April Brent contract fell 1.1 percent yesterday to expire at $123.55.

Strategic Reserves

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday in New York there is no agreement with U.S. President Barack Obama on using strategic reserves to reduce prices. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reiterated that no agreement was reached.

The U.S. has withdrawn oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve 18 times since 1985, most recently in July and August last year in an International Energy Agency effort to offset a supply disruption in Libya. Stockpiles were also drawn in 2008 after hurricanes struck the Gulf Coast.

“The U.S. and the U.K. are trying to talk the market down and avoid gasoline prices going toward $4” a gallon, Johannes Benigni, managing director of consultant JBC Energy GmbH, said today in a Bloomberg Television interview in Singapore.

The International Energy Agency hasn’t received any requests from its 28 members for a release of emergency oil stockpiles, the agency’s chief economist, Fatih Birol, said today in an interview in Istanbul.

The national average retail price of unleaded regular gasoline in the U.S. climbed to $3.821 a gallon yesterday, according to a daily survey by AAA, the country’s largest motoring organization.

Fibonacci Support

Oil in New York has technical support at $103.39 a barrel, data compiled by Bloomberg shows. On the weekly chart, that’s the 61.8 percent Fibonacci retracement of the drop to $32.40 in December 2008 from a record high of $147.27 in July that year. Buy orders tend to be clustered near chart-support levels.

Industrial output at factories, mines and utilities in the U.S. gained 0.4 percent in February after being little changed, according to the median estimate of 80 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before a report today. The consumer price index climbed 0.4 percent, the most since April, a separate Bloomberg survey showed.

U.S. applications for unemployment insurance payments fell by 14,000 to 351,000 last week, Labor Department data showed yesterday. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index increased to 20.2 this month, the highest since June 2010.

‘Economic Warfare’

Sanctions against Iran, which have helped lift oil prices this year, were strengthened yesterday. The leading worldwide financial messaging service for international money transfers said it will stop providing services to Iranian banks subject to EU sanctions. Iran’s central bank is included in the list. The Persian Gulf country is being targeted to discourage its nuclear program, which the U.S. and EU allege is producing weapons.

“This is really hardcore sanctions of an efficacy and magnitude we’ve never seen before,” Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics LLC, said in a Bloomberg Television interview yesterday. “It’s economic warfare taking the place of actual military engagement, and it’s very strong.”

A drop in bullish oil bets may signal the price rally driven by concern over Iran has peaked. The number of options held by traders to buy Brent crude was 1.63 times higher than those to sell it on March 14, down from a seven-month high of 1.86 on March 9, according to ICE Futures Europe data. Options on New York-traded West Texas Intermediate grade show traders are paying less for insurance against large swings in futures.

Mirae Forecast

Brent crude will probably decline to $110 a barrel in the coming month as warmer weather in the northern hemisphere reduces demand and the likelihood of monetary easing in the U.S. recedes, Gordon Kwan, head of energy research at Mirae Asset Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong, said in a report e-mailed today.

Mirae’s long-term forecast for Brent at $100 a barrel is “realistic and probably conservative,” according to Kwan, the most accurate forecaster of New York crude out of 26 analysts ranked by Bloomberg in the eight quarters ended June 2011.

Oil in New York will probably decrease next week on speculation that strategic reserves may be released and that talks may ease tension between Iran and the West, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Seventeen of 32 analysts and traders, or 53 percent, forecast crude will fall through March 23. Eleven respondents, or 34 percent, predicted futures will rise and four estimated there will be little change. Last week, 50 percent of those surveyed expected a decline.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Sharples in Melbourne at Grant Smith in London at gsmith52@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss on sev@bloomberg.net

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