Oil prices end higher but notch fourth straight weekly loss

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Oil futures finished higher on Friday, reversing most of a decline in the previous session that brought them to their lowest levels since July and pulled U.S. benchmark prices into bear-market territory.

Prices got a boost following a report from the Financial Times that said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, together known as OPEC+, may decide on additional production cuts when they meet on Nov. 26.

Price action

  • West Texas Intermediate crude 

    for December delivery rose $2.99, or 4.1%, to settle at $75.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, with front-month prices 1.7% lower for the week. On Thursday, WTI was down 22.2% from its 52-week high of $93.68 on Sept. 27, placing it in bear-market territory, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

  • January Brent crude

    the global benchmark, added $3.19, or 4.1%, to $80.61 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, ending 1% lower for the week. On Thursday, Brent was off 19.81% from its 52-week high of $96.55 hit on Sept. 27 — just shy of bear-market territory.

  • December gasoline
    gained 4% to $2.18 a gallon, posting a weekly loss of 0.2%, while December heating oil
    rose by 0.8% to $2.77 a gallon, rising 1.1% for the week.

  • Natural gas for December delivery 
    fell by 3.3% to $2.96 per million British thermal units. It settled at its lowest since Oct. 23, down 2.4% for the week.

Market drivers

“Less-bearish headlines” Friday contributed to the bounce in oil prices, said Tyler Richey, co-editor at Sevens Report Research.

Read: OPEC will set an $80 floor for oil next year, say Goldman strategists

Saudi Arabia is planning to prolong its oil-production cuts into next year, the Financial Times reported Friday, citing four people familiar with the Saudi government’s thinking. That comes as OPEC+ mulls further output reductions ahead of a meeting set for Nov. 26.

With the recent break below $80 in Brent prices, “the so-called Saudi Arabia ‘put’ zone comes into play, so there will be considerable speculation that OPEC will intervene somehow,” Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management, told MarketWatch.

Saudi Arabia’s voluntary output cut of 1 million barrels per day, which began in July, expires at the end of the year.

The Financial Times also reported that an additional OPEC+ cut of up to 1 million barrels per day could be on the table, citing comments from one informed person, who described the oil-producer ground as being “galvanized” by the Israel-Hamas war. Some members of OPEC+ are angry over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and may look to send a message to the U.S. by cutting oil output by even more, the report said.

Read: Oil futures are slipping into a condition known as contango. What that means for prices.

“Anyone who has been trading oil for 10 years or more will remember the Thanksgiving shock OPEC delivered markets in 2014 as they abandoned production quotas and effectively ‘opened the spigots,’” which crushed prices from near $80 to the mid-$40s in a matter of weeks, Richey told MarketWatch.

“This time around, the risk seems to be tilted in favor of the bulls as a deeper cut to the total output target for OPEC+ could send futures back towards $100,” he said.

Thursday’s sharp oil-price decline, meanwhile, was spurred by soft economic data out of the U.S. and China and by rising supply.

Still, the data “doesn’t indicate weaker global demand, so there is a good chance that the non-OPEC surge in supply could be a one-off,” Innes said. “I’m keeping an eye on Venezuela, Iraq, Russia and, of course, U.S. shale production to validate that suspicion among a number of analysts.” 

WTI’s December futures contract expires at the end of Monday’s session.

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