Oil traders assess US hurricane impact

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A file photo show North Dakota's Andeavor Refinery. AFP

SEOUL (Reuters) – Oil prices edged down in early Asian trading yesterday, as traders weighed up the dampening effect on demand of Hurricane Irma versus refinery restarts following Hurricane Harvey that should lead to more crude oil processing.

International benchmark Brent crude was down $0.08, or 0.2 percent, at $53.76 per barrel by 01:08 GMT from the previous close.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down $0.03, or 0.1 percent, at $48.04 a barrel.

US refineries, including the largest US refinery Motiva Enterprises, have started to come back online. Motiva restarted production on Monday after being shut for about two weeks as Hurricane Harvey ripped through the US Gulf coast.

On Harvey’s heels, Hurricane Irma slammed into Florida on Sunday, leaving more than 7.4 million homes and businesses without power, but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.

US crude inventories likely rose last week, while refined product stockpiles were forecast to have declined, a preliminary Reuters poll showed.

Six analysts polled ahead of inventory reports from the industry group American Petroleum Institute (API) and the US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated, on average that crude stocks likely rose 2.3 million barrels in the week ended September 8.

Amid persistent glut concerns, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih had talks with his Venezuelan, Kazakh counterparts about the possibility of extending supply cuts beyond March 2018.

“Reports of an extension of the current production cut agreement continued to swirl around the market,” ANZ bank said in a note.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, of which Saudi Arabia is the de facto leader, and other producers including Russia, agreed to curb their output by around 1.8 million barrels per day until next March.

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