May 6 (Bloomberg) -- West Texas Intermediate reversed earlier gains amid speculation U.S. crude stockpiles increased again from a record high. Brent was little changed as foreign ministers from Europe and Russia gathered to discuss Ukraine.
Futures were steady in New York after earlier gaining as much as 0.4 percent. U.S. crude inventories probably rose by 1 million barrels to 400.4 million last week, according to a Bloomberg News survey before a government report tomorrow. That would be the highest level since the Energy Information Administration began reporting weekly data in 1982. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is set to meet with his European counterparts in Vienna today after fighting intensified in eastern Ukraine yesterday.
“There are no concerns about supply, which is keeping a lid on prices,” said Michael Hewson, market analyst at London-based CMC Markets Plc, who forecasts Brent to trade within $104 to $112 range this year. “Any further flare-up in Ukraine with Russia is likely to keep prices supported.”
WTI for June delivery was at $99.46 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 2 cents as of 1:06 p.m. London time. It earlier gained as much as 38 cents. The volume of all futures traded was 17 percent below the 100-day average for the time of day. Prices have advanced 1.1 percent this year.
Brent for June settlement was up 12 cents at $107.84 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark grade was at a premium of $8.41 to WTI on ICE. The spread narrowed for the first time in a week yesterday to close at $8.24.
U.S. crude stockpiles have climbed to the highest level since April 1931, monthly government data going back to 1920 show. Reports before 1976 were based on Bureau of Mines figures, said the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm. Alaskan crude in transit was included from 1981.
“We have good figures coming from the U.S. and prices still look a bit high for a seasonal demand that hasn’t picked up yet,” Thina Saltvedt, an analyst at Oslo-based Nordea Markets, said by phone.
Gasoline inventories probably increased by 500,000 barrels in the week ended May 2, according to the median estimate of seven analysts in the Bloomberg survey. Supplies previously rose for the first time in 10 weeks to 211.6 million. Distillates, including heating oil and diesel, are projected to have expanded by 1 million barrels for a third period of gains.
Surging casualties are threatening to undermine Ukraine’s campaign to regain ground from pro-Russian militants in its easternmost cities, where insurgents killed four government troops and downed a military helicopter yesterday.
“Russia seems to be intent on a course of preventing and disrupting” Ukraine’s elections on May 25, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters today in Vienna. “The diplomatic doors remain open,” to the revival of a peace deal reached in Geneva last month to end the Ukraine conflict, he said.
The Geneva accord hasn’t failed and Ukraine has a way out of the crisis if all sides in the conflict join talks about the country’s future, Russian Minister Secretary Lavrov said at a news conference in Vienna. It would be more logical for Ukraine to have its presidential election after it has completed constitutional reform, he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama have set the May 25 vote as a deadline for Russia to reject the separatists’ actions and withdraw support or possibly face deeper economic sanctions.
Libya’s crude production slid to 250,000 barrels a day as workers demanding more pay continued to protest at the Raguba and Zelten oilfields in the central region, Mohamed Elharari, a spokesman at state-run National Oil Corp., said yesterday. Libya, the holder of Africa’s largest reserves, ranks as the smallest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries as unrest disrupts output and exports.
WTI has technical support along its 100-day moving average, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Futures halted losses the past three days near this indicator, which is about $99.35 a barrel today. Buy orders tend to be clustered around chart-support levels.
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