Oil Advances for a Second Day After Bullish Bets Increase

Iranian Oil Weighs on Crude Prices
  • Tanker chartered by Total being loaded in Iran as of Sunday
  • Wagers on higher WTI crude prices rose to highest since June

Oil advanced a second day, rising briefly above $30 a barrel in New York for the first time in almost a week.

West Texas Intermediate futures rose 1.1 percent in electronic trading in New York after surging 12 percent on Friday. Speculators’ long positions in WTI through Feb. 9 rose to the highest since June, according to data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Iran loaded its first cargo to Europe since international sanctions ended, while Chinese crude imports eased from a record.

Oil in New York is down about 20 percent this year. While the outlook for increased Iranian exports threatens to further boost record oil stockpiles, major companies including Chevron Corp. and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. are curbing spending on exploration and development of new resources. Crude surged the most in seven years on Feb. 12 after the United Arab Emirates repeated OPEC’s readiness to engage with other producers.

“The oversupply will decrease sharply over the course of the year,” Andy Sommer, an analyst at Axpo Trading AG in Dietikon, Switzerland, said by e-mail. “Developments in supply and demand mean the market will very closely avoid hitting tank-top levels.”

WTI for March delivery gained as much as 71 cents to $30.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $29.76 as electronic trading ended at 1 p.m. The New York Mercantile Exchange floor was closed Monday for the Presidents Day holiday, and trades will be booked Tuesday. The contract gained $3.23, or 12 percent, to close at $29.44 on Friday after dropping 19 percent the previous six sessions. WTI prices lost 4.7 percent last week.

Idle Rigs

Brent for April settlement rose 3 cents to settle at $33.39 a barrel after reaching $33.97 in intraday trading on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark was at a premium of $1.51 to April WTI at 1:42 p.m. in New York.

In the U.S., drillers idled rigs for an eighth week to the lowest level since January 2010, according to data from Baker Hughes Inc. The number of active rigs dropped by 28 to 439, the company said on its website Friday. A group of 44 North American exploration and production firms are planning to spend $78 billion on capital projects this year, down from $101 billion last year, according to IHS Inc.

Speculators’ long position in WTI rose by 1,152 contracts to 302,384 futures and options, according to CFTC data. Shorts, or bets that prices will decline, slipped 2.1 percent. Net-longs increased 5 percent to a three-month high. Funds took the opposite stance with Brent, pulling back net-long positions by 9.2 percent to 265,332 contracts in the week to Feb. 9, according to ICE data.

A tanker for France’s Total SA was being loaded Sunday at Kharg Island while vessels chartered for Chinese and Spanish companies were due to arrive later the same day, an Iranian oil ministry official said.

Iran, which was the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries before sanctions were intensified in 2012, is seeking to boost output by 1 million barrels a day and regain market share after penalties were lifted. Total, Spanish refiner Compania Espanola de Petroleos and Russia’s Lukoil PJSC all booked cargoes to sail from Kharg Island to European ports, according to shipping reports compiled by Bloomberg earlier this month.

China’s crude imports declined 20 percent in January from December to the lowest in three months as state refiners slowed operations amid swelling stockpiles of fuel. The world’s largest energy consumer in January cut imports by 4.6 percent from a year ago to 26.69 million metric tons, or about 6.3 million barrels a day, according to preliminary data released Monday from the General Administration of Customs in Beijing. Imports reached a record 33.2 million tons in December.

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