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Oil prices little changed but set for sixth week of gains

Reuters  |  NEW YORK 

By Stephanie Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Brent prices were little changed on Friday but were on track for a sixth straight week of gains, boosted by strong demand, looming U.S. sanctions on and plummeting Venezuelan production.

futures for July delivery fell 6 cents to $79.24 a barrel, a 0.1 percent loss, by 10:58 a.m. EDT (1458 GMT). The benchmark on Thursday broke through $80 for the first time since November 2014.

U.S. Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for June delivery fell 19 cents to $71.30 a barrel, a 0.3 percent loss. The contract was still set for its third straight week of gains.

"Today is a bit of a pause and a retrenchment heading into the weekend with speculators trying to decide how close are we to the seasonal shift and do I take profits here," said Rob Haworth, at Wealth Management in

British said it expected average prices of $70 per barrel for Brent this year and $65 a barrel for 2019, up from estimates of $63 and $60 previously.

"Since last month, Venezuela's production decline, (U.S. Donald) Trump's sanctions decision, a new disruption in Nigeria, and anecdotal evidence from a new round of earnings require a price forecast revision," the said.

Rising prices have already raised the alarm among big

OPEC kingpin said on Thursday it would make sure the world is adequately supplied with just as consumer expressed frustration with rising prices.

Saudi Minister called India's Minister to assure him that supporting global economic growth was "one of the kingdom's key goals," the Ministry said.

However, it will take time to assess whether prices remain volatile or not, Russia's minister, Alexander Novak, said.

Crude prices have received broad support from voluntary supply cuts led by the Organization of the Exporting Countries.

Beyond OPEC's cuts, strong demand, falling output from and the U.S. announcement this month that it would renew sanctions against OPEC member have helped push up Brent by 20 percent since the start of the year.

U.S. Jefferies said sanctions against Iran could remove more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) from the market.

said output from could fall below 1 million bpd. The country, also an OPEC member, produced around 1.5 million bpd in April.

In the United States, crude production has continued to grow to record highs, rising 20,000 bpd to 10.72 million bpd last week, the said. The in February produced 10.3 million bpd, a record.

Market participants awaited U.S. rig count data that was due later on Friday at 1 p.m. EDT.

, however, expects the rally to cool off. The oil major's chief executive, Bob Dudley, told he saw the falling to between $50 and $65 a barrel due to surging shale output and OPEC's capacity to boost production.

(Additional reporting by in London and Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by and Jon Boyle)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, May 18 2018. 20:40 IST