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Another volatile start for crude oil prices

Oil prices swing unpredictably in the opening rounds amid mixed market signals.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Another volatile start for crude oil prices
Crude oil prices moved in fits and starts Friday as investors weighed positive European data against questions on OPEC policy statements. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices started another trading day in volatile territory Friday as investors took stock of European economic data and OPEC policy questions.

Crude oil prices had drifted lower in overnight trading after a major rally Thursday sparked by statements attributed to Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih saying major producers during an extraordinary meeting in September would discuss action to stabilize oil prices.

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The media division of energy pricing group Argus reported the original statement was recalled. Oil prices moved up briefly before the start of trading in New York and pivoted between losses and gains for most of the morning.

Crude oil prices in early trading Friday were influenced by pessimism surrounding the latest rumors on policy decisions by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, pessimism that surfaced after early 2016 efforts were abandoned after multilateral differences. Additional influence came in the form of data from the European Union showing improvements in industrial productivity and gross domestic product.

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The price for Brent crude oil was more or less flat to start the day at $46.08 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for oil, was up 0.6 percent to open at $43.77 per barrel in New York.

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Oil prices were volatile early Thursday in the rounds before Riyadh's policy statement was first released on word from the International Energy Agency that OPEC crude oil production was at a record level at the same time that demand was trending lower.

John Lonski, a chief economist for Moody's Capital Markets Research, suggested in an emailed research note there may be clouds brewing on the economic horizon, particularly for the U.S. labor sector. For the second quarter, there was an "unsustainable imbalance" between year-on-year increases in U.S. payrolls and U.S. real gross domestic product.

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"The longer that payrolls grow more rapidly than output, the more likely there will be layoffs stemming from the perceived overstaffing of businesses," the note read.

Prices could be further influenced later in the day by exploration and production data from Baker Hughes, where gains in activity may be indicative of industry confidence in recovery.

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