West Texas Intermediate crude headed for the first weekly advance in almost two months as applications for unemployment benefits in the U.S. fell and negotiators made little progress in talks with Iran in Geneva.
Futures were stable in New York after the January contract rallied 1.7 percent yesterday. Jobless claims fell last week to the fewest since Sept. 28, according to Labor Department data. Iran reached no agreement on the first step of a global accord to resolve a decade-long dispute over its nuclear program. WTI may drop next week as U.S. crude stockpiles increase, a Bloomberg News survey showed.
“Talks with Iran will continue today and potentially into the weekend, but it could take longer or another meeting before we see any agreement,” said Andrey Kryuchenkov, an analyst at VTB Capital in London. “WTI rebounded last night amid decent demand for refined products, today there’s some tiny profit taking from the rally in the past two sessions.”
WTI for January delivery was at $95.36 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 8 cents as of 12:49 p.m. London time. It rose $1.59 to $95.44 yesterday, the highest close since Oct. 31. Prices are up about 1.6 percent this week. The volume of all futures traded was 47 percent less than the 100-day average.
Brent for January settlement rose 55 cents to $110.63 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. It was at a premium of $15.30 to WTI, widening for a third day.
The U.S. will account for about 21 percent of global oil demand this year, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris. Jobless claims decreased by 21,000 to 323,000 in the week ended Nov. 15, Labor Department data released yesterday show. The median forecast of 47 economists in a Bloomberg survey was for 335,000.
“We have a scenario of an improving economic and demand outlook,” said Ric Spooner, a chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. “A significant amount of the Middle East risk premium in oil has been wound back in recent weeks, so the downside might be limited if there is an agreement.”
WTI has declined the past six weeks, the longest losing streak in 15 years, as U.S. crude inventories expanded amid a surge in production. Stockpiles climbed by 375,000 barrels to 388.5 million in the seven days to Nov. 15, said the Energy Information Administration.
Fourteen of 29 analysts and traders in a separate Bloomberg survey, or 48 percent, projected WTI will fall through Nov. 29 as supplies gain. Nine respondents, or 31 percent, predicted a price increase and six said there will be no change. Last week, 39 percent estimated futures will rise.
Brent, the benchmark crude for half the world’s crude, advanced the most in almost two weeks on Nov. 8 after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry downplayed the chances of a nuclear accord.
Iranian envoys and their counterparts from China, Russia, the U.K., the U.S. and Germany are in Geneva for their third round of negotiations in six weeks. Talks between Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, will resume today after more than six hours of consultations yesterday, the EU said in a statement.
“We have made no progress” toward resolving certain disagreements in the text, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told reporters in Geneva. He said foreign ministers won’t come unless there’s “success in negotiations.”
Iran says its atomic development is for civilian energy and medical use and that it has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. The U.S. and its allies say it’s covertly seeking nuclear-weapons capability.