Oil flat on strong dollar, abundant supplies
Brent crude oil prices held steady while US crude dipped slightly in choppy trading on Thursday as abundant supply and a strong US dollar largely outweighed worries that conflict in the Middle East would disrupt output. Libya's oil output has climbed to 925,000 barrels per day (bpd), with the major El Sharara oilfield at 200,000 bpd, an official with the National Oil Corp said on Thursday, despite fighting between the factions that divide the country and a government driven from the capital.
Copyright Reuters, 2014
The dollar hit a four-year high as the yield difference between US and German bonds widened to the highest in nearly 15 years on Thursday, while global equity markets fell sharply as the stronger dollar pointed to potential earnings losses. "The weakening euro and yen is keeping the lid on crude oil prices for sure, as is the global picture in terms of production levels," said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.
Brent rose by 5 cents to settle at $97.00 a barrel after swinging by more than $1 between $96.22 and $97.56 throughout the session. It had hit its lowest since July 2012 at $95.60 on Wednesday. US crude, also known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI) settled 27 cents lower at $92.53.
Front-month US RBOB gasoline futures rose by nearly 5 cents as refinery glitches in the US pushed its premium to the second-month contract as high as 20 cents on Thursday. US air strikes targeted Syrian refineries controlled by Islamic State. Nineteen people were killed overnight, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "The prospect of more air strikes might be making people jittery," Christopher Bellew, senior vice president with Jefferies Bache, said.
The dollar's strength dampened demand for commodities priced in the US currency at a time when global economic growth is already lacklustre, particularly in the euro zone and China. The euro reached a 22-month low as speculation grew that the region would need another stimulus package to spur growth. US stocks were sharply lower moving into the latter stages of trading on Thursday, weighed down by a drop in Apple shares, as each of the major indexes fell more than one percent and the S&P broke below a key support level.
Scattered attacks by rival militias continued across Libya, but its overall national production has risen. Officials at Libya's eastern Hariga oil port said it had fully recovered from eight months of blockades by protesters and was exporting more than 120,000 bpd.