By Manolo Serapio Jr
SINGAPORE, Oct 2 (Reuters) – Brent crude futures hovered near $94 a barrel on Thursday and were close to their lowest levels in more than two years, reflecting sustained pressure from plentiful global supply and weak demand conditions in Europe and China.
Brent fell the most since 2012 in the past quarter and could struggle to recover amid an oversupplied market that has kept prices below $100 for more than three weeks now.
While a mending U.S. economy bodes well for a potential rebound in oil prices in the last quarter of the year, sluggish economic signals elsewhere may limit gains.
“Ultimately weak demand conditions in Europe and China mean that aggressive gains are going to be hard to come by,” said Ankit Pahuja, commodity strategist at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ).
Brent oil for November delivery LCOc1 was little changed at $94.19 a barrel by 0303 GMT. The contract fell as low as $93.78 on Wednesday, its weakest since June 2012.
U.S. November crude CLc1 edged up 10 cents to $90.83 per barrel, but still within striking distance of 16-month lows touched in early September.
U.S. oil got some boost from data on Wednesday showing that U.S. crude inventories unexpectedly fell last week, while a sharp reduction in refinery runs cut gasoline stocks to their lowest in nearly two years and pared distillate supplies ahead of winter. EIA/S
With oil prices largely continuing to slide, the pressure is building up on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce output during its meeting next month.
While analysts expect the OPEC to adjust the group’s output target of 30 million barrels per day (bpd) for early 2015, the cut may not be big enough to spur a sharp spike in oil prices.
OPEC Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri said last month he expected the group’s production to drop to around 29.5 million bpd in 2015. (Full Story)
“We think there will be some reduction from OPEC but whether it’s as aggressive as some have forecast in the market is still a bit of a question mark,” said ANZ’s Pahuja.
“The challenge is going to be whether Saudi Arabia wants to give up market share to returning supply from Iran and Libya.”
Saudi Arabia on Wednesday announced a bigger-than-expected cut in its official oil sales price to Asia in November, the clearest sign yet that the world’s top exporter is trying to compete for crude market share and keep oil markets well supplied. (Full Story)
National Australia Bank has cut its average Brent price forecast for 2015 to $103 from $105, saying weaker economic conditions in China, Japan and much of Europe have pushed demand expectations lower despite some optimism in the United States, the UK and India.
“Market expectations of oil prices have fallen sharply since June as ample supply and weak demand continue to outweigh concerns over geopolitical tensions in the Middle East,” NAB analysts said in a note.