Oil ticks slightly higher, though Japan clouds momentum

West Texas Intermediate still holding below $30 per barrel despite last week's rally.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Feb. 15, 2016 at 9:59 AM
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NEW YORK, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Japanese economic data Monday showing lingering weakness provided a throttle on momentum sparked last week by OPEC production cut rumors.

The Japanese government reported gross domestic product shrank by an annualized 1.4 percent for the three-month period ending Dec. 31. Tokyo reported its economy shrank 0.8 percent for the two-month period ending in September and a second quarter contraction of about 0.7 percent formally pushed Japan, the world's third-largest economy, into recession for the second time in two years.

Concerns about the pace of economic growth in Asia have put downward pressure on crude oil prices during the early stages of the second half of 2014. Talks of potential oil production cuts from some members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries last week, however, sparked a near-double digit rally in crude oil prices.

Brent crude oil prices moved only moderately higher in the opening salvos of trading in New York, edging up 0.4 percent to $33.50. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, was up 0.8 percent to $29.69 per barrel, staying below $30 per barrel despite last week's rally.

Crude oil prices are still about 10 percent lower than at the start of 2016 as supplies continue to build. Iran during the weekend shipped some of its first oil cargoes to European consumers.

Sadad al-Husseini, a former vice president at the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., wrote in an op-ed for Energy Intelligence that OPEC members should adopt a production policy that will put oil priced at between $50 and $60 per barrel by the fourth quarter.

"OPEC now has the opportunity to lead a new initiative toward the rebalancing of global oil markets," he said.

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