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Slow start for oil prices after U.S. GDP report
by Daniel J. Graeber
Washington (UPI) Jul 27, 2017

Optimism on market rebalancing drags oil prices lower
Washington (UPI) Jul 27, 2017 - Renewed optimism about the rebalancing of the crude oil market brought concerns about excitability and dragged the price for oil lower early Thursday.

A decision from Saudi Arabia this week to cut its output further, signs of strong demand growth in the United States, the world's leading economy, and security concerns in OPEC-member Nigeria helped push the price for Brent crude oil back above $50 per barrel, after lingering in the mid-$40 range for much of the second quarter.

An emailed research report from Goldman Sachs said declining levels of crude oil and gasoline in the United States, a downturn in exploration activity and strong demand suggested the pace of rebalancing was picking up.

"We remain, however, cautiously optimistic on prices from the current level with the recent improvements in fundamentals needing to be sustained for oil prices to rally meaningfully further," the report read.

That backs analyst sentiments that $55 per barrel, rather than $50 per barrel, may be indicative of a full market shift.

The price for Brent crude oil was down 0.27 percent at 9:10 EDT to $50.83 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was down 0.35 percent to $48.58 per barrel.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries aims to correct a lopsided market with managed production declines.

This week's rally above the $50 mark came as several energy companies reported earnings for the second quarter. Most of the major players reported gains for the quarter, but also reservations about the rest of the year.

Royal Dutch Shell reported exponential growth for the second quarter, after turning in financial reports last year that were the worst in about a decade. Net profit for the second quarter was $3.6 billion, up from the $1 billion reported for the second quarter 2016. CEO Ben van Beurden said, however, the company would remain "very disciplined" and was focused on surviving with oil in the $40 range.

Higher crude oil prices would in theory bring in capital to exploration and production, which shows up in weekly rig count figures. U.S. energy company Anadarko Petroleum, however, said the operating environment was still risky and, as a result, the investment level would move lower by $300 million for the year.

A mixed report on U.S. GDP and stable incomes reported in the European economy gave only modest support for rallying crude oil prices in early Friday trading.

With second quarter earnings season under way, crude oil prices moved in mixed territory for much of the session Thursday, before settling up. Exxon Mobil said Friday its second quarter earnings of $3.4 billion were nearly double the level from the same time last year. Oil-equivalent production, however, was down 3 percent from last year.

Oil prices Thursday faced pressure after Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said the industry needed to adapt to life with oil trading in the $40 range. Exxon's CEO Darren Woods said his priority was to create long-term value "regardless of market conditions."

Data this week indicated steady demand increases in the United States, the world's leading economy, as crude oil and gasoline inventories declined. A report Thursday from the American Petroleum Institute said June demand for petroleum was the highest since 2007.

The price for Brent crude oil was up 0.64 percent at 9:15 EDT to $51.82 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was up 0.3 percent to $49.20 per barrel.

On the economic front, the U.S. Commerce Department said in its first estimate for the second quarter that gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 2.6 percent, better than the first quarter, but slower than the same time last year. First quarter GDP growth was revised lower from 1.4 percent to 1.2 percent for its weakest in a year.

In Europe, household income per capita improved over the fourth quarter, but consumption was stable in the first quarter of the year.

A report this week from Societe Generale said most indicators were bullish this week as oil product demand "remained very strong." The summer travel season in the United States, which runs through September, usually results in strong demand for petroleum products, though SocGen said it was "cautious on crude" because of the expected decline in demand beyond September.

Crude oil prices may be influenced later in the day when drilling services company Baker Hughes releases its weekly report on exploration and production. Reported as rig counts, a loss could indicate pressure on crude oil prices from the supply side of the energy market is fading.

Philippines to consult ASEAN on joint China sea oil search
Manila (AFP) July 26, 2017
The Philippines tried Wednesday to reassure Southeast Asian neighbours about its proposal to partner with Beijing in oil exploration in the disputed South China Sea, promising to consult them on any plans. President Rodrigo Duterte has softened his predecessor's policy opposing China's claims - which expand to nearly the entire sea - causing alarm among neighbouring Southeast Asian countri ... read more

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