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Oil Prices Pause to Start the Week

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02/11/2019 | 06:20am EDT

By Christopher Alessi

-- Oil prices were mixed Monday morning, as investors weighed signs of tightening global supply against broader macroeconomic concerns that could weigh on the world's appetite for crude.

-- Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, was trading up 0.06% at $62.14 a barrel on London's Intercontinental Exchange.

-- West Texas Intermediate futures, the U.S. oil standard, were down 0.47% at $52.47 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.


Mixed Messages: Oil prices are "still trying to figure out what lead to follow. On the one hand, there is the OPEC+ cut story, now coupled with increasing issues around Venezuelan supply, and a global equity market that is still pretty close to the rebound highs set over the last two weeks," analysts at consulting firm JBC Energy wrote in a note Monday. "At the same time," they added, "it has to be argued that a lot of the economic data that has been released over the last few days has really not been too encouraging, and U.S.-Chinese trade talks are also seemingly not progressing very fast."

Oil prices have been bolstered since the start of the year by the implementation of fresh production cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies outside the cartel, led by Russia. More recently, prices have been supported by signs that further supply from OPEC member Venezuela could be at risk following U.S. sanctions imposed on the South American country's oil industry late last month. However, increasing signs that the global economy is sputtering have helped to keep a ceiling on prices.

Demand Doubts: Oil investors have been concerned that softer global economic growth could weigh on world oil demand this year. "Global growth concerns struck with a vengeance amid a deluge of disappointing economic data. No region was spared with China, the eurozone and the U.S. all displaying pockets of economic malaise," said Stephen Brennock, an analyst at brokerage PVM Oil Associates Ltd. "As a result, economic pessimism is increasingly pervasive with global fundamentals seemingly deteriorating by the day. Needless to say, stalling global economic growth has stoked fears of slowing oil demand," he added.

On the global economic front, investors were looking ahead to the latest round of trade talks between the U.S. and China on Monday. "Things haven't progressed that far forward," said David Madden, market analyst at brokerage CMC Markets. "No one wants to be overly long oil, as the trade situation is looking slightly worse," he added.


OPEC: The oil cartel's latest plan to curb output should help to rebalance the market within the first quarter of this year, United Arab Emirates oil minister Suhail al-Mazrouei reportedly told al-Arabiya television Monday. OPEC and 10 producers outside the cartel, including Russia, agreed late last year to collectively hold back crude output by 1.2 million barrels a day for the first half of this year, part of an effort to rein in a burgeoning supply glut and boost prices. As a result, OPEC has "reduced exports in January sharply, tightening the physical market," according to Martijn Rats, oil analyst at Morgan Stanley.

Still, "there are doubts about whether Russia will remain part of the production cut agreement beyond midyear if it is extended," analysts at Commerzbank argued in a note Monday.


-- The U.S. Energy Information Administration releases a monthly report on oil production on Tuesday.

-- OPEC releases its monthly oil market report on Tuesday, followed by that of the International Energy Agency on Wednesday.

Write to Christopher Alessi at christopher.alessi@wsj.com

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