Oil prices climb on tropical storm and geopolitical tensions

-A +A

LONDON (July 12): Oil prices hovered near six-week highs on Friday and was on track for a weekly gain as US oil producers in the Gulf of Mexico cut more than half their output because of a tropical storm and as tensions continued to simmer in the Middle East.

However, an International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast for a global oil surplus capped the gains. The agency on Friday predicted that surging US oil output will outpace sluggish global demand and lead to a large stocks build around the world in the next nine months.

OPEC also predicted on Thursday the return of a surplus next year despite an OPEC-led pact to restrain supplies.

Brent crude futures were up 64 cents, or almost 1%, at US$67.16 a barrel by 0850 GMT. The international benchmark settled 0.7% down on Thursday after hitting its highest since May 30 at US$67.65.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 46 cents, or 0.8%, at US$60.66. In the previous session the US benchmark touched US$60.94, its highest since May 23.

Brent prices have climbed 4.5% this week while WTI prices have gained 5.5%. Both registered declines last week.

US crude oil inventories have declined for four weeks and prices were also supported by oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico cutting production because of Tropical Storm Barry.

Companies cut more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of output — 53% of the region's production — as the storm headed for possible landfall on the Louisiana coast on Saturday.

The storm was forecast to become a category one hurricane with winds of at least 74 mph (119 kmh).

The market remained on edge as tensions intensified between Iran and the West. Tehran on Friday said that Britain was playing a "dangerous game" after last week's seizure of an Iranian tanker on suspicion it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria.

"As things stands, market players are clearly not envisaging a supply shock in the region. Only time will tell whether this turns out to be a case of wishful thinking but one thing is clear: geopolitical risks are here to stay," said Stephen Brennock, analyst at PVM Oil Associates.