Oil Trades Near Four-Month Low on Greece Concern, U.S. Elections

Oil traded near the lowest level in almost four months in New York amid concern that Greece will struggle to secure another bailout and uncertainty over who will win tomorrow’s U.S. presidential elections.

West Texas Intermediate futures were little changed after falling 2.6 percent on Nov. 2 to cap a third weekly decline. Brent crude fell below $105 a barrel in London for the first time since Aug. 2. Voters decide tomorrow between giving President Barack Obama another four years in office or changing course with Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

“Some clarity for the medium-term would be good for the markets,” said Eugen Weinberg, head of commodities research at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt, who predicts Brent crude will rebound toward $110 a barrel this month. “Obama is considered by the oil markets as being more favorable.”

Crude for December delivery was at $85.21 a barrel, up 35 cents, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 1:41 p.m. London time. It rose as high as $85.38. The contract slid 1.7 percent last week to $84.86, the lowest close since July 10. Prices have lost 14 percent this year.

Brent for December settlement on the ICE Futures Europe exchange fell as much as 92 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $104.76 a barrel. The North Sea crude dropped after Nexen Inc. was said to have restarted the Buzzard oil field, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The European benchmark crude was at a premium of $20.28 to New York-traded WTI grade.

Greek Test

European leaders’ determination to keep Greece in the euro area will be tested this week as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras battles to win political support for measures needed to obtain financial aid.

Brent will remain in a range of $105 to $110 a barrel as higher refinery runs offsets risks in the global economy, Morgan Stanley said in a report today.

Hess Corp.’s Port Reading and Phillips 66’s Bayway refineries in New Jersey remained shut after Hurricane Sandy, curbing demand for crude a week after the storm struck the U.S. East Coast.

Power was partially restored at Hess’s 70,000 barrel-a-day plant, Lorrie Hecker, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. Power has been restored to Phillips’s 238,000 barrel-a-day Bayway site, which is closed as the company makes repairs, Rich Johnson, a Houston-based spokesman, said in a phone interview. Both facilities shut before Sandy hit and lost power after the storm made landfall Oct. 29 in southern New Jersey.

Plenty of Crude

“The impact of Sandy may be quite a regional matter, but all over the world we still have plenty of crude, so the oil market remains in a downtrend,” said Ken Hasegawa, an energy trading manager at Newedge Group in Tokyo who predicts WTI will drop to $80 by the end of November. “There’s also a lot of uncertainty over the economy, so we may not be so optimistic.”

A final index of manufacturing and services in the euro area probably fell to 45.8 in October, the lowest in more than three years and matching the preliminary reading, according to a Bloomberg News survey before a report tomorrow by Markit Economics. A measure below 50 signals contraction.

The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index, which covers almost 90 percent of the U.S. economy, was at 54.5 last month, from 55.1 in September, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed before the data today.

Oil in New York has technical support along its lower Bollinger Band, around $84 a barrel today, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Futures last week halted their decline after reaching this indicator, signaling buy orders may be clustered close to it.

Hedge Funds

Hedge-fund managers and other large speculators reduced their net-long positions in crude to the lowest in almost five months in the week ended Oct. 30, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Managed-money bets that prices will increase outnumbered so-called short positions by 122,863 futures and options combined, the Washington-based regulator said in its weekly Commitments of Traders report Nov. 2. Net-long positions fell by 15,477 contracts, or 11 percent, from a week earlier. Hedge funds and other money managers reduced bullish bets on Brent crude in the week ended Oct. 30 to the lowest level in almost three months, according to data from ICE Futures Europe.

Speculative bets that prices will rise, in futures and options combined, outnumbered short positions by 91,462 lots, the London-based exchange said today in its weekly Commitment of Traders report. That’s down by 2,545 lots, or 2.7 percent, from 94,007 last week, to the lowest level since Aug. 7.

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