Oil Prices Rise on Supply Cuts, Tensions
Brent crude oil was up 59 cents or 0.9 percent to $64.08 a barrel by 11:30 a.m. (1630), still close to Tuesday's intra-day high of $64.65, which was the highest since June 2015.
U.S. light crude was up 46 cents or 0.8 percent at $57.27, just shy of this week's more than two-year high of $57.69 a barrel.
"The move is driven by developments in Saudi Arabia in recent days and anticipation that the consolidation of power by King Salman and the Crown Price will continue," said Abhishek Kumar, Senior Energy Analyst at Interfax Energy's Global Gas Analytics in London, "Meanwhile, Saudi comments on Lebanon have also highlighted rising tensions between the kingdom and Iran."
Saudi Arabia plans to cut its crude exports by 120,000 barrels per day in December compared with November, slashing allocations to all regions, a spokesman for the energy ministry told Reuters on Thursday.
Several traders said prices got a boost from unconfirmed rumors that Saudi King Salman would relinquish the throne to his son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Similar rumors hit the market in September and October but never materialized.
Prices got a boost earlier this week from a crackdown on corruption by the Saudi crown prince, who says he is determined to remodel his conservative country into a modern state no longer dependent on oil. Analysts said his arrival to the throne would add to tensions between Saudi Arabia and several countries including Iran, Lebanon and Yemen.
Still, traders expressed caution that the rally that has pushed up Brent by more than 40 percent since July may have run its course. The rally has largely been driven by crude output cuts from producing nations led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia.
"Prices may have reached a short-term peak," said Fawad Razaqzada, analyst at futures brokerage Forex.com.
"It doesn't matter how bullish the fundamentals are ... when an asset goes vertical there is always room for a pullback and consolidation of recent price moves," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at brokerage AxiTrader.
OPEC will discuss output at a meeting on Nov. 30, and is expected to extend the limits beyond their expiry in March 2018. If that happens, some said the rally could still have legs.
"With the OPEC/non-OPEC deal extension beyond March 2018 a certainty, prices may become stronger and temporarily reach the $65-$70 per barrel range in 2018," said energy consultancy FGE.
U.S. crude production <C-OUT-T-EIA> rose 67,000 barrels per day to 9.62 million bpd, the highest for decades.
Output looks set to rise further. Texas issued 997 oil and gas drilling permits last month, up nearly 17 percent versus the same month a year ago.
By Julia Simon, Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein in Singapore