Oil Rises Most in Two Months on U.S. Output Drop, Freeze Talks

  • Production declines 10th time in 11 weeks through April 1: EIA
  • Suppliers including Saudi Arabia to meet this month in Doha

Morning Meeting: Oil and the Doha Meeting

Oil rose the most in two months as U.S. crude production continued to slide before talks between suppliers to discuss freezing output.

Futures climbed 6.6 percent in New York. U.S. output slid for the 10th time in 11 weeks through April 1 and crude stockpiles fell, according to data from the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday. The number of active oil rigs in the U.S. dropped to the lowest level since 2009 this week, Baker Hughes Inc. data show. Major producers from Saudi Arabia to Russia will meet in Doha on April 17 to discuss freezing output in a bid to stabilize prices.

"There’s a lot of nervousness about the April 17 meeting and what it will mean for the market," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York hedge fund focused on energy. "We’re still hemmed in a range below $40. Breaking through would be very bullish for the market."

Crude slid to the lowest level in almost 13 years in February before rebounding on signs a global glut will ease. Prices have whipsawed this week amid speculation over whether an accord to cap output can be reached. Saudi Arabia said it will only agree to a freeze if it’s joined by other suppliers including Iran, while Kuwait said a deal can be done without Tehran’s support.

West Texas Intermediate for May delivery advanced $2.46 to close at $39.72 a barrel at on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It’s the biggest gain since Feb. 12. Prices climbed 8 percent this week. Total volume traded was 58 percent above the 100-day average at 2:53 p.m.

Doha Meeting

Brent for June settlement rose $2.51, or 6.4 percent, to $41.94 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The front-month contract closed at an 8-cent discount to the second-month. The global benchmark oil closed at a 95-cent premium to June WTI.

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell to the lowest since June, bolstering investor demand for commodities priced in the currency. The Bloomberg Commodity Index, a gauge of 22 raw materials, increased 2 percent.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Oil & Gas Exploration and Production Index climbed to the highest level since December. The 10 biggest gainers on the S&P 500 were commodity companies.

Volatile Market

"Prices just flop back and forth," said Kyle Cooper, director of research with IAF Advisors and Cypress Energy Capital Management in Houston. "The market is extremely psychotic, subject to sharp reversals on inconsequential information."

Russia is seeking a successful result from the Doha meeting, Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters in Moscow Friday, adding that countries are discussing a freeze of oil production at January levels. Russian oil and condensate production will rise through 2017, even as the nation prepares for the talks, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Global oil producers won’t discuss output cuts at the Doha meeting, Ecuadorean Oil Minister Carlos Pareja said at a meeting of Latin American ministers in Quito, Ecuador.

"I’m not buying this rally," said Stewart Glickman, an equity analyst at S&P Capital IQ in New York. "We went from $26 to $41 on optimism that something will happen to curb supply. The risks of a sharp downturn remain greater than those for a rally."

Iranian Policy

Recent moves signal Iran is seeking to win market share, not curb output. State-run National Iranian Oil Co. will sell the Forozan Blend oil for May to Asia below the level offered by rival Saudi Aramco for Arab Medium, the third month the grade is being offered at a discount after being at a premium for almost seven years through February, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

"The news doesn’t justify this move," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts. "We should be moving lower on the Iranian comments. Hope about the U.S. economy and the drop in shale production must be giving the market support."

U.S. crude production slid by 14,000 barrels a day to 9.01 million a day, according to EIA data. Refinery utilization rates rose ahead of the summer driving season by 1 percentage point for a second weekly gain, to 91.4 percent of total capacity.

That number of active U.S. oil rigs has dropped steadily, slipping to 354 this week from 1,609 rigs in October 2014.

Refinery Flames

Fuel prices rose after a fire broke out at the LyondellBasell Industries NV’s refinery along the Houston Ship Channel. The facility has curbed operating rates by as much as 30 percent, a person familiar with operations said. The plant has a capacity of about 264,000 barrels a day, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Gasoline for May delivery climbed 6 percent to $1.4637 a gallon, the highest settlement since March 28. Diesel for May delivery increased 6.6 percent to close at $1.2004.

Oil-market news:

  • Front-month Brent traded in backwardation on Thursday for the first time since January as scheduled maintenance at North Sea fields was seen curbing European supply.
  • Wall Street’s biggest banks need to set aside more cash to cover losses as low oil prices take their toll, according to Moody’s Investors Service.
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