MARKET WATCH: Doubts about output freeze agreement weigh on crude prices

Increasing skepticism regarding an oil output freeze agreement among members and nonmembers of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries pushed down crude oil prices on the New York and London markets last week.

Prices ended Apr. 1 lower following an interview with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in which he stated the kingdom only will freeze its output if Iran and other major producers agree to do the same (OGJ Online, Apr. 1, 2016).

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, meanwhile, reaffirmed to Iran’s Mehr news agency his country’s intent to ramp up oil production and exports until they reach pre-sanctions levels.

Zanganeh also told the Iranian oil ministry’s Shana news service that the nation’s exports of oil and gas condensates rose 250,000 b/d in March to more than 2 million b/d.

Producers are slated to meet on Apr. 17 in Doha to discuss the possible freeze.

In the US, the Baker Hughes Inc. tally of active drilling rigs continued its plunge last week, falling 14 units to 450, down 1,470 units since the drilling dive commenced after the week ended Dec. 5, 2014 (OGJ Online, Apr. 1, 2016).

The count has now fallen in 11 of 13 weeks to begin the year, and in 30 of the past 32 weeks.

Energy prices

The May crude oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange dropped $1.55 to $36.79/bbl on Apr. 1. The June contract also fell $1.55, settling at $38.20/bbl.

The NYMEX natural gas contract for May was virtually unchanged at a rounded $1.96/MMbtu. The Henry Hub gas price fell 5¢ to $1.88/MMbtu.

Heating oil for May delivery was down 5.38¢ to a rounded $1.13/gal. The price for reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenates blending for May declined 4.51¢ to a rounded $1.40/gal.

The Brent crude contract for June on London’s ICE decreased $1.66 to $38.67/bbl. The July contract declined $1.68 to $39.09/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for April jumped $19.25 to $335.75/tonne.

The average price for OPEC’s basket of 12 benchmark crudes on Apr. 1 was $34.47/bbl, rising 14¢.

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