Crude oil futures extended recent losses on Thursday despite early gains on reports that the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries may curtail production if US crude inventories continue to rise.
Opec meets on June 15 to discuss oil production policy. Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah, the Opec president said: “If the stockbuild is above the agreed-upon levels, which is the five-year average, then this may be the start of reducing the overproduction.”
He said the 10 Opec members subject to quotas, which excludes Iraq, are producing about 1m barrels a day above the official ceiling of 27.5m b/d. Including Iraq, Opec output is close to 30.3m b/d.
IPE Brent for July delivery slipped 27 cents to $47.88 a barrel, extending the $1.19 decline from the previous session and wiping out early gains of up to 68 cents. Wednesday’s loss was triggered by a bigger-than-expected rise in US crude inventories.
June Nymex West Texas Intermediate futures slipped 33 cents to $46.92 a barrel in New York trade, extending the $1.72 loss on Wednesday. With the expiry of the June contract at the close of trade on Friday, the focus was on July WTI, which was trading 23 cents lower at $48.90 a barrel.
One New York oil trader said he expected the price difference between July and the August contract to widen from its current $1 price spread to the current June-July price gap. He said this would occur once the July contract becomes the front month contract next Monday.
Kevin Norrish, head of commodities research at Barclays Capital, said Opec comments about trimming output comes at a time when the organisation’s basket of crude export prices is around $45 a barrel.
“That appears to be the level at which Opec wants the oil price,” said Mr Norrish.
A bearish signal to the US market was a drop in oil tanker rates for the Persian Gulf to the US to 18-month lows on slow second quarter oil demand and a growing tanker fleet.
Gold eased to $420.00/$420.70 a troy ounce in late London trade, down from the late quote of $421.30/$422.00 in New York on Wednesday.
Refined sugar futures were higher in London following a revised plan by the European Union to cut the support price for sugar. August white sugar futures were $3 higher at $245.5 a tonne in London.
Traders said the new proposals could lead to a fall in European white sugar production and in turn tighten market conditions. The sugar market is forecast to experience a rare deficit this year, a factor behind the 40 per cent rise in sugar prices since the start of last year.
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