Oil inches higher as Gaza war puts floor under prices

Houston/Singapore — Oil prices rose slightly on Tuesday after sliding in the previous session, as markets weighed Middle East tensions against demand worries and rising oil cartel Opec supply.

Brent crude futures rose 18c, or 0.2%, to $76.30 a barrel at 4.45am GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures inched up 0.1%, or 6c, to $70.83 a barrel. The benchmarks had fallen over 3% and 4% respectively on Monday on sharp price cuts by top exporter Saudi Arabia and a rise in Opec output.

“Saudi Arabia’s sharp price cuts and Opec’s increased production have offset supply concerns caused by escalating geopolitical tensions in the Middle East,” said CMC Markets analyst Leon Li.

On the Gaza war, the Israeli military has said its fight against Hamas will rage through 2024, worrying markets that the conflict could grow into a regional crisis that could disrupt Middle Eastern oil supplies. US secretary of state Antony Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv late on Monday to brief Israeli officials on his two days of talks with Arab leaders on ending the war.

Holding back price gains however, a Reuters survey on Friday found that Opec oil output rose in December as increases in Angola, Iraq and Nigeria offset continuing cuts by Saudi Arabia and other members of the wider Opec+ alliance.

Higher supply had prompted Saudi Arabia to cut the February official selling price of its flagship Arab Light crude to Asia to the lowest level in 27 months.

Oil prices are likely to trade in a range between $75 and $80 per barrel in the near term, said Suvro Sarkar, energy sector team lead at DBS Bank, “barring an unforeseen flare up in the Middle East situation”.

“On the supply side, there are some bullish factors from the closure of Libya’s largest oilfield, which has affected around 0.3-million barrels per day of oil production,” Sarkar said.

Supporting prices, the dollar paused its rally on Tuesday, as traders reaffirmed their bets for a slew of US Federal Reserve rate cuts this year. A weaker dollar boosts oil prices as crude becomes cheaper for holders of other currencies.

Federal Reserve governor Michelle Bowman on Monday said she now sees US monetary policy as “sufficiently restrictive” and signalled her willingness to support eventual interest-rate cuts as inflation eases.

The market is awaiting US inventory data from the American Petroleum Institute industry group later in the day.


Source: businesslive.co.za