Oil on pace for monthly gain as OPEC+ expected to extend cuts, inflation rises as expected

The OPEC logo pictured ahead of an informal meeting between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Algiers, Algeria.
Ramzi Boudina | Reuters

Crude oil futures are headed for a second consecutive monthly gain as OPEC+ is expected to extend its production cuts and the latest inflation data was in line with expectations.

Crude futures largely held steady after a report from the Commerce Department showed inflation rose in line with expectations in January.

The West Texas Intermediate contract for April gained 7 cents, or 0.09%, to $78.61 a barrel. The April Brent contract, which expires Thursday, fell 5 cents or 0.06% to $83.64 a barrel.

The personal consumption expenditures price index rose 0.4% for the month and 2.8% from a year ago. The PCE index is the inflation gauge the Federal Reserve uses when deliberating on interest rates.

Traders’ bets on when the Fed will cut interest rates were little changed, with the market expecting the first cut to come in June.

U.S. and Brent have gained about 6% month to date with first month contracts trading at a premium to later months. A premium for immediate versus later delivery typically indicates a tightening oil market.

OPEC+ is considering extending its production cuts through at least the second quarter, three sources told Reuters Wednesday. The cartel could keep the cuts in place for the rest of the year, two of the sources said.

OPEC+ agreed in November to slash 2.2 million barrels per day in the first quarter of 2024 as the U.S., Canada, Guyana and Brazil pumped crude at a breakneck pace, putting pressure on oil prices late last year.

Prices have also risen this month as the conflict in the Middle East rages on, with tensions rising on the Israel-Lebanon border and Houthi militants continuing their attacks in shipping in the Red Sea.

The conflict has not disrupted crude production in the region so far, though analysts have warned there is a risk of a direct confrontation between Iran and the U.S. that would impact the oil market.

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