U.S. News

U.S. Oil Eases, London Brent Rises Above $76


U.S. crude oil futures fell on Monday, slipping in choppy trading after meeting resistance at a 10-month high of $73 per barrel as Midwest refinery snags were expected to limit crude oil demand and swell storage at the NYMEX delivery point in Cushing, Oklahoma.

"Crude just got overbought and the Coffeyville and BP Whiting outages will reduce demand for crude in the Midwest," said Tom Bentz, analyst at BNP Paribas Commodity Futures Inc.

The refinery snags helped boost RBOB gasoline futures.

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On the New York Mercantile Exchange, August crude fell Monday, trading from $71.81 to $73.00, the highest since front-month crude reached $73.75 on Aug. 25, 2006. Friday's $72.81 was the highest settlement price since the Aug. 15, 2006, level of $73.05.

U.S. crude futures' weakness was limited by London Brent crude futures that jumped to an 11-month high above $76 a  barrel on expectations that North Sea field maintenance will add to supply concerns. The all-time record high for Brent is $78.65, reached on Aug. 8, 2006.

The International Energy Agency, adviser to 26 industrialized countries, said world oil demand would rise faster than expected to 2012 while supply lags.

"Despite four years of high oil prices, this report sees increasing market tightness beyond 2010," the IEA said in its medium-term oil market report.

But OPEC ministers disagree, saying refinery bottlenecks and geopolitical tensions are to blame for high oil prices this year, not supply shortages.

Algeria's Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil told Reuters there was "not much" OPEC could do to bring down prices as global crude oil stocks were already sufficient.

"There is plenty of stocks. It's a problem with capacity and refining," Khelil said ahead of a gas pipeline conference in Brussels.

"Even if it (OPEC) increases production, it's just going to increase stocks and not have any effect because prices are drawn by petroleum product prices."

Expectations that summer maintenance will reduce supplies of crude from North Sea oilfields have also helped boost prices, widening Brent crude's premium to the U.S. grade and putting second-month September Brent at a premium to other contracts.

Two North Sea oil platforms linked to the key Forties crude stream will undergo scheduled maintenance in August, prompting the shutdown of 320,000 barrels per day, energy producer Apache said.