March 18 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices were nearly flat early Monday as traders weighed uncertainties and were particularly alert to potential industry news coming from producer nations.
West Texas Intermediate curde future prices rose 0.3 percent to $58.72 per barrel as of 9:06 a.m. EST, with Brent futures rising 0.4 percent to $67.42 per barrel as of the same time.
WTI prices closed at $58.52 per barrel on Friday, down from its highest closing this year at $58.61 per barrel on Thursday. WTI is recovering from lows under $43 per barrel in late December, but remains well under the $76 per barrel level it reached in Oct. 3.
"So far this Monday the oil market has been dancing to the tune being played at the Opec+ meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan. Khalid Al-Falih, the Saudi oil minister comment about potentially scrapping a planned meeting in April helped trigger some selling," Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, told UPI.
"Such a delay, however makes perfect sense given the uncertainty related to developments in Venezuela and not least what the U.S. intends to do with when the current Iran waivers expire," Hansen said.
Part of the explanation behind increases so far this year in crude oil prices relates to increased concern about an oil disruption in Venezuela amid political uncertainty, with severe sanctions in place against Venezuelan oil announced since late January by the United States.
Another reason has been the decision by OPEC plus on Dec. 7 to reduce production by 1.2 million barrels per day starting in January.
"Overall the market remains distinctively bullish due the voluntary and not least involuntary production cuts," Hansen said.
Concerns about a potential slowdown of the global economy have prevented stronger gains, traders have said.
"WTI crude oil is trending higher as it moves inside an ascending channel," Katrina Ang, analyst at FxDailyReport separately wrote.
"Price is currently testing the resistance and might be due for a pullback to support," she added.
"Weaker economic figures from China, coupled with persistent geopolitical risks, might dampen global sentiment and business demand but it looks like the reduction in supply is taking effect," she said.