West Texas Intermediate crude rebounded from the lowest close in almost three weeks as the U.S. said it will toughen sanctions on Russia, the biggest energy exporter, over the Ukraine crisis. Brent was steady as Libya lifted force majeure at one of its ports.
Futures advanced as much as 0.9 percent in New York. The U.S. will impose new sanctions today on people and companies close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, President Barack Obama said. Among those that may be targeted are Igor Sechin, chief executive officer of OAO Rosneft, the country’s biggest oil producer, people familiar with developments said. Libya’s National Oil Corp. will lift a suspension of exports at the port of Zueitina, previously under rebel control, from today.
“The price is being supported by uncertainty as to the breadth and impact of sanctions taken against Russia,” Christopher Bellew, a senior broker at Jefferies Bache Ltd. in London, said by e-mail. “Another important consideration is how Russia might retaliate against sanctions.”
WTI for June delivery rose as much as 92 cents to $101.52 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and traded for $101.17 at 1:47 p.m. London time. Prices dropped 1.3 percent to $100.60 on April 25, the lowest settlement since April 7. The volume of all futures traded was about 8.5 percent below the 100-day average for the time of day.
Brent for June settlement pared gains of as much as 62 cents to $110.20 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, trading for $109.62 at 1:49 p.m. London time. The contract closed at $109.58 on April 25, down 0.7 percent, the biggest decline since April 7.
The U.S. benchmark crude was at a discount of $8.46 to Brent on ICE. It ended the April 25 session at $8.98, the widest based on closing prices in six weeks.
Representatives of the 28 European Union nations will meet today to widen a list of people subject to asset freezes and travel bans, an official from the bloc said over the weekend, asking not to identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“Later today, there will be an announcement made, and I can tell you that it builds on the sanctions that are already in place,” Obama said today in the Philippine capital Manila. “We are going to be moving forward with an expanded list of individuals and companies that will be affected by sanctions. They will remain targeted.”
Billionaire Gennady Timchenko, the co-founder of oil trader Gunvor Group Ltd., sold his stake in the company last month before he and 19 others were hit with U.S. sanctions in response to Russia annexing Crimea.
The seizure of international inspectors by pro-Russian separatists last week added pressure to a confrontation made urgent by Russian military exercises on Ukraine’s frontiers. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization says 40,000 Russian troops are near the border.
“Oil prices are going to be higher this week because of pressures linked to the situation around Russia and Ukraine,” said Robin Mills, the head of consulting at Manaar Energy Consulting and Project Management.
Libya will lift the force majeure imposed on Zueitina from noon today, Mohamed Elharari, spokesman of state-run National Oil Corp., said by text message. The terminal has a capacity to load about 70,000 barrels of oil a day.
Speculators boosted bullish bets on Brent crude to their highest level since Sept. 3 last week, according to the ICE exchange.
Bets that prices will rise, in futures and options combined, outnumbered short positions by 203,913 contracts in the week to April 22, an increase of 34,280 lots, or 20 percent, the data show.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaric Nightingale at email@example.com Rachel Graham, James Herron