Oil advanced for the first time in three days in New York, trimming a weekly decline as investors bet that fuel demand will increase with an economic recovery in the U.S., the world’s biggest crude consumer.
Futures climbed as much as 0.5 percent, rebounding from the lowest settlement in more than a week, before data that may show U.S. consumer confidence rose to a one-year high and industrial production increased. Claims for jobless benefits fell last week to a four-year low, the Labor Department reported yesterday. Oil also gained after the U.S. and U.K. said they haven’t reached an agreement to release emergency stockpiles to counter rising prices following Western sanctions against Iran.
“The U.S. appears to have established a pretty good base for growth,” said Ric Spooner, a chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. “The economic news is good. We’re headed in the right direction and that’s certainly a positive for oil.”
Crude for April delivery rose as much as 53 cents to $105.64 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was at $105.54 at 12:38 p.m. Singapore time. The contract yesterday dropped 32 cents to $105.11, the lowest since March 6. Prices are down 1.7 percent this week and 6.8 percent higher this year.
Brent oil for May settlement on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange climbed 61 cents to $123.21 a barrel. The April contract lost 1.1 percent to $123.55 at expiration yesterday. The European benchmark contract was at a premium of $17.08 to New York futures. The gap was $18.44 yesterday, narrowing for the first time in four days.
While releasing oil from strategic stockpiles should be considered, there is no agreement with U.S. President Barack Obama on using reserves to reduce prices, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday in New York. Jay Carney, White House press secretary, reiterated that no agreement was reached.
The U.S. has withdrawn oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve 18 times since 1985, most recently in July and August last year in an International Energy Agency effort to offset a supply disruption in Libya. Stockpiles were also drawn in 2008 after hurricanes struck the Gulf Coast.
“The U.S. and the U.K. are trying to talk the market down and avoid gasoline prices going toward $4” a gallon, Johannes Benigni, managing director of consultant JBC Energy GmbH, said today in a Bloomberg Television interview in Singapore.
The national average retail price of unleaded regular gasoline in the U.S. climbed to $3.821 a gallon yesterday, according to a daily survey by the American Automobile Association.
Oil in New York has technical support at $103.39 a barrel, data compiled by Bloomberg shows. On the weekly chart, that’s the 61.8 percent Fibonacci retracement of the drop to $32.40 in December 2008 from a record high of $147.27 in July that year. Buy orders tend to be clustered near chart-support levels.
Industrial output at factories, mines and utilities in the U.S. gained 0.4 percent in February after being little changed, according to the median estimate of 80 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before a report today. The consumer price index climbed 0.4 percent, the most since April, a separate Bloomberg survey showed.
U.S. applications for unemployment insurance payments fell by 14,000 to 351,000 last week, Labor Department data showed yesterday. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index increased to 20.2 this month, the highest since June 2010.
Sanctions against Iran, which have helped lift oil prices this year, were strengthened yesterday. The leading worldwide financial messaging service for international money transfers said it will stop providing services to Iranian banks subject to EU sanctions. Iran’s central bank is included in the list. The Persian Gulf nation is being targeted to discourage its nuclear program, which the U.S. and EU allege is producing weapons.
“This is really hardcore sanctions of an efficacy and magnitude we’ve never seen before,” Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics LLC, said in a Bloomberg Television interview yesterday. “It’s economic warfare taking the place of actual military engagement, and it’s very strong.”
A drop in bullish oil bets may signal the price rally driven by concern over Iran has peaked. The number of options held by traders to buy Brent crude was 1.63 times higher than those to sell it on March 14, down from a seven-month high of 1.86 on March 9, according to data from ICE Futures Europe. Options on New York-traded West Texas Intermediate grade, the most liquid oil contracts, show traders are paying less for insurance against large swings in futures.
Oil in New York will probably decrease next week on speculation that strategic reserves may be released and that talks may ease tension between Iran and the West, a Bloomberg News survey showed.
Seventeen of 32 analysts and traders, or 53 percent, forecast crude will fall through March 23. Eleven respondents, or 34 percent, predicted futures will rise and four estimated there will be little change. Last week, 50 percent of those surveyed expected a decline.