Sunday May 28, 2023

Oil prices edge higher as US closes in on debt deal

By News Desk
May 27, 2023

HOUSTON: Oil prices ticked up on Friday as U.S. officials appeared close to striking a debt ceiling deal, and as the market weighed conflicting messages on supply from Russia and Saudi Arabia ahead of the next OPEC+ policy meeting.

Brent crude was up 39 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $76.66 a barrel at 1736 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate rose 56 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $72.38 a barrel. Both prices were poised to post a second week of gains. A deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, which appears in sight, would likely boost oil prices.

However, gains were capped by worries about a Federal Reserve interest rate hike next month that would curb demand after U.S. consumer spending increased more than expected in April and inflation picked up.

Benchmarks had settled more than $2 per barrel lower on Thursday after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak played down the prospect of further OPEC+ production cuts at its meeting in Vienna on June 4.

Russia was leaning towards leaving oil production volumes unchanged because Moscow is content with current prices and output, three sources with knowledge of current Russian thinking told Reuters.

That contrasted with earlier hints of possible output cuts from Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, de-facto leader of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), who warned short sellers to "watch out".

Bets on falling oil prices have risen. "I think we all are on guard here ahead of next week's OPEC meeting," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital. While there is a sense that the White House and congressional Republicans would reach a deal to raise the U.S. government's $31.4 trillion debt ceiling, it could take another day or at least several more hours, Kilduff added.

Wall Street's main indexes also rose over progress in the debt ceiling negotiations. Demand for gasoline is expected to remain strong with motorist group AAA predicting the May 27-29 U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend will be the third-busiest for auto travel since 2000.

Meanwhile, U.S. oil rigs fell five to 570 this week, according to a report from energy services firm Baker Hughes Co (BKR.O). In May, the oil count fell by 21 rigs, which was the biggest monthly drop since June 2020.

Slowing economic growth and sticky inflation in Europe is another factor capping price gains, with the Dutch Central Bank chief Klaas Knot saying the European Central Bank needs at least two more 25-basis-point interest rate hikes.