Oil rises for 4th straight session, sees best week in 5

A worker watches as a pice of drill pipe is lifted onto a drilling rig near Midland, Texas February 12, 2019.
Nick Oxford | Reuters

Oil rose on Friday and posted the biggest weekly gain in more than a month as support from falling U.S. crude inventories, optimism over a U.S.-China trade deal and possible action from OPEC and its allies to extend output cuts outweighed broader economic concerns.

Brent crude gained 24 cents to settle at $61.91 per barrel. The global benchmark was set for a weekly gain of almost 4%. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) gained 43 cents to settle at $56.66.

The strong weekly performance was underpinned by the surprise drop in U.S. inventories, with crude stocks dropping by about 1.7 million barrels last week.

"We're holding our ground after a pretty good up week with the surprise draw in inventories this week," said Phil Flynn, senior energy analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

Oil also got a boost this week from signs of progress in talks on resolving the U.S.-China trade dispute that has weighed on crude demand. CNBC reported on Friday that the United States and China were close to finalizing the first part of a trade deal after months of a tariff war.

"That's given us optimism in the crude market that there's going to be some pretty strong demand," Flynn said.

Yet concerns over weakening economic growth continued to drag on prices.

"Slowing global activity will see demand drop, so the reality is that oil rallies will be limited," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.

"It won't take much too pull the rug out from under oil's feet."

Economists in a Reuters poll said a steeper decline in global economic growth remains more likely than a synchronized recovery, even as multiple central banks dole out rounds of monetary easing.

Another Reuters poll of economists found the recent truce in the U.S.-China trade war is not an economic turning point and has done nothing to reduce the risk that the United States could slip into recession in the next two years.

Also providing further price support this week, officials at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said extended supply curbs are an option to offset the weaker demand outlook in 2020.

Saudi Arabia, OPEC's de facto leader, wants to focus first on boosting adherence to the group's production-reduction pact with Russia and other non-members, an alliance known as OPEC+, before committing to more cuts, sources told Reuters. The alliance in July renewed the pact to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day since Jan. 1, until March 2020.

A shutdown since Oct. 16 of Britain's 150,000 bpd Buzzard oilfield and a brief shutdown in the North Sea's Forties Pipeline System also lent support. Sources told Reuters that Buzzard would restart over the weekend.