Oil prices start October with a flop

Crude oil prices post heavy losses in early Monday trading after signs of post-hurricane recovery in the United States.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Oct. 2, 2017 at 10:15 AM
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Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices fell Monday after September market gains finally caught up with U.S. producers, while concerns surfaced over supply-side strains next year.

Crude oil prices are diving deep into negative territory in early Monday trading. The trend follows last week's report from drilling services company Baker Hughes, which counted five new rigs in the U.S. energy sector. Gains in rig counts, which measure exploration and production activity, usually indicate drillers are returning to work on improved market metrics. Friday's gains followed a downturn that lasted almost two months, but came at the end of a month-long rally for oil prices.

The market was supported in September by the impact of hurricanes in the United States, which delayed seasonal patterns that would normally send oil prices lower.

A morning emailed market report from London oil broker PVM said the rebound in U.S. rig counts is a concern for traders looking at supply and demand metrics. Higher rig counts could indicate future production gains at a time when crude oil inventory levels are moving closer to the five-year average.

"Further upside can be expected as U.S. shale players take advantage of the healthy price environment," analyst Stephen Brennock wrote. "As much as the recent bull run has impressed, there are several headwinds looming on the horizon."

The price for Brent crude oil was down 1.8 percent at 9:24 a.m. EDT to $55.75 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was down 2.4 percent to $50.43 per barrel.

Brent crude oil prices shot up more than 10 percent last month. Markets, meanwhile, are brushing off reports that production is down at the largest oil field in Libya, which is exempt from an effort led by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to balance the market because of national security concerns.

The referendum in the Kurdish north of Iraq last week added a risk premium to the price of oil. A report emailed Monday from RBC Capital Markets said political trouble brewing in Venezuela, the fallout from the Kurdish referendum, and questions over the status of the Iranian nuclear deal could all point to trouble on the oil market horizon.

"With these three key oil producing countries reaching possible inflection points next month against a backdrop of tightening balances, geopolitics may be set to stage something of a comeback in the oil markets," the report read.

Nevertheless, PVM said that, while balance may be in play for 2017, the International Energy Agency is expecting supply gains for next year.

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