US crude ticks up 9 cents, settling at $68.38, as market shakes off Trump's attack on OPEC

  • President Trump jawbones OPEC on Twitter, accusing it of keeping oil prices artificially high.
  • Oil prices turned sharply lower falling the tweet, in which Trump said he would not accept alleged price manipulation.
  • OPEC's production-cutting deal has helped to boost oil prices following a prolonged rout that began in 2014.

Crude futures came under pressure on Friday but recovered from a sharp drop after President Donald Trump suggested in a tweet that OPEC is keeping oil prices artificially high.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices were up 9 cents at $68.38 a barrel, after dropping as low as $67.50 after Trump's tweet.

International benchmark Brent crude was at $74.07, up 29 cents at 2:29 p.m. ET, off a session low of $72.83.

Both benchmarks hit more than three-year highs this week, as falling U.S. crude stockpiles, geopolitical tension and concerns about supply disruptions in key oil-producing nations supported the market.

It was not immediately clear what sparked Trump's OPEC tweet, but Reuters reported earlier this week that Saudi Arabia would like oil prices to rise above $80 a barrel in order to support the stock market debut of the kingdom's oil giant Saudi Aramco.

That has stirred speculation that the Saudis could lobby against altering a production-cutting deal among two dozen oil producers, even as it nears its goal of shrinking oil stockpiles in developed nations to their five-year average.

"There's not much" Trump can do about the oil policy "except for talking about it," Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and vice chair of IHS Markit, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Friday.

The agreement has helped boost prices from 12-year lows around $26 a barrel struck in 2016. The prolonged oil price rout heaped pressure on nations like Saudi Arabia that depend on oil revenues and sparked a wave of bankruptcies and layoffs across the American oil industry.

The market appears to be reacting to the possibility that Trump could influence oil policy, said John Kilduff, founding partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital.

"The Saudis value their relationship with him," he said. "I think it's more of a sense that the Saudis might ease up on their production-limiting scheme."

After initially refusing to take action, Saudi Arabia and OPEC reached a historic deal with Russia and other producers to take 1.8 million barrels a day off the market beginning in January 2017. The deal has been extended through the end of this year.

Several oil ministers met in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday to assess whether producers are sticking to the deal. The so-called Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee determined that compliance is at its highest ever.

OPEC will meet in June to determine whether the terms of the agreement should be adjusted based on market conditions.

When asked to comment on Trump's tweet Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told CNBC, "Markets should determine price." Earlier on Friday, Falih said rising oil prices are no reason to get complacent about managing the market, and he disputed that OPEC had accomplished its mission.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Friday he cannot say whether his country will support the deal through the end of the year. Russia is the world's largest oil producer.

A weekly count of oil rigs operating in U.S. fields ticked up by 5 to a total of 820, oilfield services firm Baker Hughes reported on Friday.