​WTI at $57 as Saudi tumult roils market

Saudi oil minister Khalid Al-Falih. Image: World Economic Forum

Oil is heading for a fifth weekly advance as political upheaval in the world’s biggest crude exporter countered an expansion of U.S. output to the highest level in more than three decades.

Futures were little changed in New York on Friday morning, up 2.7 percent for the week. Arrests on the weekend of senior Saudi Arabian officials in an anti-corruption probe is seen as consolidating power for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who supports extending OPEC-led output cuts. While prices eased during the week, record weekly U.S. oil production and a surprise increase in crude stockpiles weren’t enough to peg back Monday’s 3.1 percent surge.

Oil is heading for the longest run of weekly gains since October 2016 as global supplies tighten and on signs the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will extend output curbs past the end of March. Saudi Arabia on Thursday advised its nationals to leave Lebanon, fueling fears of a confrontation with Iran in a country long known for being a battleground for proxy wars in the Middle East.

“Geopolitical risks have taken center stage in the oil market again,” said Jens Naervig Pedersen, senior analyst at Danske Bank A/S in Copenhagen. “The rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have raised concerns in the oil market of an imminent supply disruption.”

West Texas Intermediate for December delivery was little changed at $57.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 12:01 p.m. in London. Total volume traded was about 39 percent below the 100-day average. Prices added 36 cents to $57.17 on Thursday.

Brent for January settlement gained 5 cents to $63.98 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Prices are up 3.1 percent this week, set for a fifth weekly gain. The global benchmark crude was at a premium of $6.60 to January WTI.

Saudi Arabia said it plans to cut crude exports to all the regions it ships to next month. Shipments will fall by 120,000 barrels a day in December from November, a spokesman for the Energy Ministry said, without specifying what those levels would be. Bloomberg calculations from vessel-tracking data estimated flows in October at 6.989 million a day.

© 2017 Bloomberg L.P