Oil hits two-month high on hopes of longer OPEC cuts, continuing US-China talks

A man working in a filling station of Sinopec, China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, in Shanghai, China, on March 22, 2018.
Johannes EIsele | AFP | Getty Images

Oil prices rose more than 2% on Thursday following a Reuters report that OPEC and its allies are likely to extend output cuts until mid-2020, while fresh signs emerged that China had invited U.S. trade negotiators for a new round of talks.

Brent crude futures gained $1.57, or 2.5%, to settle at $63.97 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate crude futures surged to a two-month high, gaining 2.8% to settle at $58.58, according to Dow Jones.

To support oil prices, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies are likely to extend output cuts to June when they meet next month, according to OPEC sources.

OPEC meets on Dec. 5 at its headquarters in Vienna, followed by talks with a group of other oil producers, lead by Russia, known as OPEC+. The current supply cuts deal runs through to March 2020.

The sources told Reuters that formally announcing deeper cuts looked unlikely for now although a message about better compliance with existing curbs could be sent to the market.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Russia and OPEC had "a common goal" of keeping the oil market balanced and predictable, and Moscow would continue cooperation under a global deal cutting oil supply.

Also supportive for the markets, the Chinese commerce ministry said China will strive to reach an initial trade agreement with the United States as both sides keep communication channels open.

A Reuters report on Wednesday said completion of a "phase one" U.S.-China trade deal could slide into next year.

Amid the long-drawn trade war between the United States and China, U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign two bills passed by Congress intended to support protesters in Hong Kong, a move likely to anger China.

Hong Kong has seen increasingly violent protests against Chinese rule for several months and the passage of the bills could potentially undermine efforts to secure a trade deal.

"Positive speak from China is not offsetting expectations that President Trump will sign a bill supporting Hong Kong protesters," said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.

"The timing of phase one deal is unclear, but markets are starting to get nervous we could see a repeat of the collapse in talks that took place in May."

The Wall Street Journal also reported on Thursday that China had invited top U.S. trade negotiators for a new round of talks in Beijing, citing unnamed sources.

A report in the South China Morning Post said the United States could delay tariffs on Chinese imports even if a deal was not reached by Dec. 15.

Trade conflict, weak business investment and persistent political uncertainty are weighing on the world economy, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned, noting the global economy was growing at its slowest pace since the financial crisis.

"In the short term, oil demand is directly tied to global GDP growth and thus the ongoing uncertainty surrounding U.S.-China trade talks will hamper global growth," said Ehsan Khoman, head of MENA research and strategy at MUFG.

BNP Paribas raised its oil price forecasts for this year and 2020 from its previous estimates, citing increased refinery through puts due to upcoming new regulation on shipping fuels.