Oil rises ahead of OPEC, pressured by China tariffs

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices rose in volatile trade Monday as this week’s OPEC meeting raised the specter of production increases and as investors assessed the impact of a trade dispute between the United States and China.

U.S. crude oil edged up 20 cents a barrel to $65.26 a barrel by 10:45 a.m. EDT. The contract earlier traded at a two-month low of $63.59. Brent crude jumped $1.17 to $74.61 a barrel.

In May, Brent hit a 3-1/2-year high above $80 a barrel, but has slid since then on reports that top suppliers Saudi Arabia and Russia will increase production.

“Volatility is going to be pretty high this week,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. Indications from OPEC members and other large producers on the scale of potential production increases are likely to drive the market, he said.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allied oil producers including Russia meet on June 22 in Vienna. Russia and OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia are pushing for higher output.

Over the weekend, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak indicated the countries, which have cut production, would now consider increasing output 1.5 million per day in the third quarter only, the TASS news agency reported.

Yet any output increase agreement could be muted because other OPEC members including Iraq said last week that production cuts should be maintained because prices still need support.

Rising output from U.S. shale has stoked worries about potential oversupply. Five shale executives were set to speak at the OPEC seminar this week, but three, including Continental Resources Chief Executive Harold Hamm, have withdrawn.

“Oil prices are reversing this morning’s bout of weakness as bottom pickers enter the fray ahead of this week’s crucial OPEC/non-OPEC meeting,” said Stephen Brennock, analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil Associates.

Despite potential downward pressure from large producers increasing output, Goldman Sachs maintained its bullish outlook. The bank said “the oil market remains in deficit … requiring higher core OPEC and Russia production to avoid a stock-out by year-end”.

The bank said it expected OPEC and Russian output to rise 1 million barrels per day (bpd) by year-end and another 0.5 million bpd in the first half of 2019.

Societe Generale said it expects Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait to increase output by a combined 500,000 bpd beginning in July, and Russia to increase by 200,000 bpd within two to three months.

“The focus will be on replacing Venezuelan losses,” the bank said.

Adding extra pressure are global trade tensions. U.S. President Donald Trump last week pushed ahead with tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports, starting on July 6.

China retaliated by imposing import duties on U.S. products, and suggesting that crude oil tariffs were planned.

“It’s more of a threat than anything,” said Joe McMonigle, senior energy policy analyst at Hedgeye Potomac Research. “They’re trying to gain leverage in a soft spot for Trump to use for other concessions later.”

Benjamin Lu of brokerage Phillip Futures said Beijing’s retaliation had spooked oil investors: “These punitive measures on bilateral trade have unnerved investors as it hurts global economic growth.”

U.S. bank Morgan Stanley said in a note to clients that the trade spat meant that economic “downside risks have risen”.

U.S. oil exports have boomed in the last two years as shale oil production has surged, with China becoming one of the biggest buyers.

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