Oil prices flat on light trading and OPEC waiting

Oil prices were flat ahead of the start of U.S. trading on Monday as investors waited for word on output from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The symbols and prices for Brent Crude Oil and WTI Crude Oil are on a display board on the floor of the NYSE at the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in New York City on August 17, 2018. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
The symbols and prices for Brent Crude Oil and WTI Crude Oil are on a display board on the floor of the NYSE at the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in New York City on August 17, 2018. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

A joint committee monitoring compliance with OPEC’s effort to stabilize the market meets later on Monday to review the multilateral effort, now in its second year.
Collectively, member states, with support from Russia, are adhering to voluntary production restraints to keep the market at an even keel. An oversupply situation helped push the price of oil below $30 per barrel in early 2016.

Compliance with the deal has been well over 100 percent because some member states like Libya and Venezuela were below their target because of national security and political issues. Parties to the agreement earlier this year agreed to pull compliance back toward 100 percent, which tacitly means more production from some member states.

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Parties to the agreement may be forced to consider what happens to Iran, the third-largest oil producer in OPEC. U.S. sanctions in November could sideline about 1 million barrels of Iranian oil per day at a time when few producers have the ability to put more oil on the market in short order.

Trading was light ahead of the start of U.S. trading because of a banking holiday in the United Kingdom. The price for Brent crude oil was up 0.33 percent as of 9:21 a.m. EDT to $76.38 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was up 0.17 percent to $68.84 per barrel.

For Iran, European leaders last week offered their first tranche of a financial aid package to Iran in tacit support of the multilateral nuclear agreement. On Monday, the Iranian government petitioned for a ruling against the United States at the International Court of Justice for re-issuing sanctions.

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U.S. President Donald Trump erased the U.S. signature from the nuclear agreement in May, starting the clock ticking on unilateral sanctions. The loss of Iranian oil would likely drive crude oil prices higher.

In the economy, China reported Monday that industrial firms were firing on all cylinders during the first seven months of the year even amid a tense trade standoff with the United States. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, profits for major industrial firms were up 17.1 percent from last year. Total gross domestic product during the first half of the year increased 6.8 percent.

That could signal at least steady demand for the world’s second-largest economy.

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“Global oil demand continues to increase by more than most expectations, and unless the economy hits a major setback, we are on a path of the market being undersupplied,” Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst at The PRICE Futures Group in Chicago, said in his daily emailed newsletter.

ByDaniel J. Graeber