Oil prices search for momentum on competing trends

Crude oil prices have erased gains so far this year and are settling toward the mid-$60 range for Brent.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Feb. 8, 2018 at 9:54 AM
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Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices moved moderately lower in early Thursday trading, though strong U.S. oil output was offset somewhat by good economic news.

Crude oil prices have moved lower for much of February, erasing most of the gains since the end of 2017. January started off in clear rally mode on the back of geopolitical risk factors and the start of the second year of an effort by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to balance an oversupplied market with coordinated production cuts.

OPEC's effort helped pull crude oil prices above $50 per barrel, but that price point has incentivized shale oil producers and dampened the impact. U.S. oil production is now above 10 million barrels per day and more of that oil is entering the global market as exports.

Crude oil prices followed broader stock indices lower this week to break consistently in the mid $60 range. Ole Hanson, the head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, told UPI the market was looking for footing.

"Oil is in a correction mode driven by weakening short-term fundamentals," he said. "Seasonal slowdown in refinery activity across the world, U.S. production growth beating expectations and the well known risk of funds hitting the sell button are the current drivers."

The price for Brent crude oil was down 0.29 percent to $65.32 per barrel as of 9:20 a.m. EST. The U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, West Texas Intermediate, was up 0.06 percent to $61.84 per barrel.

Hanson said he was targeting a range in the low $60s for Brent and sub-$60 for WTI.

An official at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago this week said the slump in stock indices was a correction there, but downplayed concerns about the health of the global economy. On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department reported first-time claims for unemployment for the week ending Feb. 3 declined 9,000 from the previous week. The four-week moving average, a less-volatile metric, declined 10,000 from the previous week's unrevised average to 234,500.

"This is the lowest level for this average since March 10, 1973 when it was 222,000," the Labor Department's statement read.

Wage growth, however, spooked investors last week who took it as a sign of mounting inflationary pressures, sending stock indices reeling.

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