Oil prices near 18-month low ahead of New Year

London: Oil prices steadied on Friday after a week of volatile trading, shedding early gains on profit-taking ahead of the new year holiday as global crude benchmarks hovered near their lowest levels in more than a year.
Brent crude oil rose 15 cents to $52.31 a barrel, having earlier risen more than 3 percent. The futures contract had dropped 4.2 percent on Thursday.

US light crude was last up 44 cents at $45.05, after rising 3.6 percent in early trade.

Both benchmarks are set for their third straight week of losses.

Oil prices fell to their lowest in almost 18 months this week and are down more than 20 percent for the year, depressed by rising US supply and concern over global economic growth.

Traders appeared to be squaring their books ahead of expected light volumes on Monday and a market closure on Tuesday for the New Year’s Day holiday.

“Looks like some people in the US and UK got a nice opportunity to bail out of longs,” Sukrit Vijayakar, principal and trader at Trifecta Consultants in Mumbai, told the Reuters Global Oil Forum.

Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore, said that crude prices had been pressured by slowing economic growth “coupled with the expectation of strong US production in the new year.”

US crude inventories rose 6.9 million barrels to 448.2 million barrels in the week to Dec. 21, according to the American Petroleum Institute. 

The US has emerged as the world’s biggest crude producer this year, pumping 11.6 million barrels per day (bpd), more than both Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday that Russia would cut its crude output by between 3 million and 5 million tons in the first half of 2019 as part of a deal between producers.

Earlier this month, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russia, agreed to cut output by 1.2 million bpd, or more than 1 percent of global consumption, starting in January.

AlamulKhabar Business