Oil prices stage weak recovery in early Friday trading

Muddled situation on geopolitical and market fronts leaves oil market at a stand-still.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  April 21, 2017 at 9:40 AM
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April 21 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices were slightly higher in early trading Friday as investors waited out the next batch of sector data following renewed tensions about terrorism.

French markets turned slightly lower in Friday trading after a police officer was left dead after a militant attack Thursday night in Paris. That adds to growing geopolitical concerns that emerged in the wake of U.S. missile strikes on Syria earlier this month and comes just days before France heads to the polls to pick their next president.

Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst for the PRICE Futures Group in Chicago, said in a daily newsletter that oil is struggling to find direction in early trading after a week of steep losses.

"Crude oil is on track to have its worst week since March even as reports that petroleum demand in the U.S. is at its best level since the financial crisis in 2008 and the likely extension of the OPEC/non-OPEC production cuts," he said. "The perception that U.S. shale oil producers will replace OPEC cuts and concerns about the direction of the global economy after a terror attack in France ahead of Sunday's French election, is causing many traders to keep their powder dry."

The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, was up 0.3 percent about a half hour before the start of trading in New York to $53.14 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate was up 0.14 percent to $50.78 per barrel.

Markets have started in muted fashion for much of the week, only to be followed by declines once investors digest the latest metrics gauging supply and demand.

A decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to limit output to balance an over-supplied market was offset by gains in North America as commercial conditions improve for energy companies. Crude oil prices could be influenced later in the trading day when oilfield services company Baker Hughes releases its weekly report on exploration and production activity, reported as rig counts.

Paal Kibsgaard, the chairman and CEO of rival Schlumberger, said conditions in the market were improving, but even more investments are needed to ensure there's not an emerging supply deficit.

"While our view of the fundamentals of supply and demand in the oil markets remains constructive, the continuing underinvestment in new supply is increasing the likelihood of a medium-term supply deficit as reservoirs are produced but reserves are not replaced in sufficient volume," he said.

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