Oil drops as U.S. drilling growth threatens to counter OPEC cuts

By Heesu Lee and Rakteem Katakey on 3/20/2017

SEOUL (Bloomberg) -- Oil fell as U.S. drilling continued to rise, undermining the potential for even an extended OPEC output-reduction deal to rebalance the market.

Futures lost as much as 1.6% in New York after gaining 0.6% last week. Producers added more oil rigs to U.S. fields, extending a drilling surge into a 10th month, Baker Hughes Inc. said on Friday. Saudi Arabia is ready to extend cuts if supplies stay above the five-year average, Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said in an interview on Bloomberg television last week.

U.S. oil this month dropped below $50/bbl for the first time this year as the nation’s near- record crude stockpiles and increasing production weighed on the output reductions by OPEC and its allies. While OPEC won’t decide until May whether to prolong the curbs, energy ministers including Russia’s Alexander Novak will meet this weekend in Kuwait to discuss the deal’s progress.

“The solid weekly gain in U.S. oil rigs continues and the market sees that,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB AB in Oslo. “OPEC can easily shoot itself in the foot if the cuts lift the long-dated WTI price, which will drive U.S. shale yet higher and stronger.”

WTI for April delivery, which expires Tuesday, fell as much as $0.77 to $48.01/bbl on NTME and was at $48.20 in London. The more-actively traded May contract dropped as much as 1.1%. Total volume traded was about 10% below the 100-day average.

Brent for May settlement declined as much as $0.71, or 1.4%, to $51.05/bbl on the London exchange. Prices last week gained 0.8% to end at $51.76. Brent traded at a premium of $2.48 to May WTI.

U.S. Rigs

U.S. drillers boosted the rig count by 14 to 631 units drilling for oil last week, data from Baker Hughes showed. They have added 106 machines to fields this year. The nation’s crude output has climbed to 9.1 MMbpd, the most since February last year, according to the EIA.

Oil Market News

OPEC and its allies improved their collective compliance with cuts last month as deeper reductions from members offset weaker implementation from other producers, according to two delegates familiar with the conclusions of a meeting in Vienna on Friday. Libya’s crude shipments from Es Sider and Ras Lanuf ports will restart in one week to 10 days, Jadalla Alaokali, a board member at National Oil Corp., said by phone.

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