North American rebound pulls oil prices lower

Early estimates show a gain of U.S. oil production of a quarter million barrels.
By Daniel J. Graeber   |   Feb. 7, 2017 at 9:19 AM
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Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The continued rise in energy sector activity in North America pushed crude oil prices toward their second straight day of losses early Tuesday.

Crude oil prices are holding steady above $50 per barrel in response to an effort from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to balance the market through managed declines. The recovery has brought idled oil and gas companies back to the North American market after last year's downturn pushed many players toward the sidelines.

Oilfield services company Baker Hughes reported gains in exploration and production activity in North America. For the United States, activity increased just over 4 percent year-on-year, against a worldwide gain of 1.4 percent.

Total U.S. oil production has yet to reveal any major impacts from shale, though the steady increase in rig activity could be a sign of an emerging trend.

The price for Brent crude oil was 0.52 percent below the previous close about an hour before the start of trading in New York to $55.43 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, was down 0.53 percent to $52.73 per barrel.

Olivier Jakob, managing director of Switzerland-based consultant Petromatrix, said in an emailed report that U.S. oil production was poised for growth and Canada is back to where it was before Alberta wildfires in May idled about 1 million barrels per day in production.

"We expect U.S. crude oil production to be about 250,000 barrels per day higher than a year ago in the second quarter," he said.

A short-term estimate of the U.S. energy market is expected later Tuesday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and its publication is likely to play a role in influencing the direction of crude oil prices for Tuesday.

Elsewhere, British energy company BP reported that higher spending meant it was increasing the price at which it breaks even from around $55 per barrel to $60 per barrel for oil. In a sign of emerging confidence, CEO Bob Dudley said six new projects were launched last year "and we see exciting opportunities ahead."

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