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Crude Oil Higher; OPEC Meeting Dominates Next Week

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© Reuters.

By Peter Nurse   

Investing.com — Oil prices traded higher Friday, helped by continued tight supply, but the market is still heading for a second weekly fall on fears that tight monetary policy will push the global economy into recession.

By 08:45 AM ET (1245 GMT), U.S. crude futures traded 2.3% higher at $106.66 a barrel, but still on course for a weekly loss of around 3%, while the Brent contract rose 2.1% to $112.34 a barrel, set to lose 1% this week.

U.S. Gasoline RBOB Futures were up 1% at $3.8041 a gallon.

The crude market has been helped by comments from the Libyan oil minister, who said late Thursday that the National Oil Corporation chairman was withholding production data from him. 

He had said earlier in the week that Libya’s oil production has risen in the past week to around 700,000 to 800,000 barrels a day, but these figures must now be in doubt as an increase in political tension and protests at energy fields and ports has severely curtailed production in this country, home of Africa’s largest oil reserves.

That said, the crude market is on course for its second consecutive losing week amid concerns that interest rate hikes by a number of central banks, and the Federal Reserve in particular, will severely limit global economic activity.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Thursday the central bank’s focus on curbing inflation was “unconditional”, suggesting more interest rate hikes ahead, which he added raised the “possibility” of recession.

“The move lower in oil appears to be almost exclusively driven by macro influences, while oil fundamentals still remain supportive,” said analysts at ING, in a note. “We just have to look at the time spreads, which have not followed the flat price lower over the week…This suggests that there is tightness in the market right now and we would expect this to only grow as we lose more Russian supply.”

Next week sees the latest meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies to discuss the group’s production levels.

The cartel, known as OPEC+, is widely expected to stick to its plan to boost output by 648,000 barrels a day in July and by the same amount in August, despite the plans of U.S. President Joe Biden to visit Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the group, to plead the case for lower crude prices.

Also likely to emerge next week will be the delayed inventory data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, after the official body was unable to publish this week’s figures on Thursday due to technical problems. 

“This delay comes at a crucial time for the market when there are plenty of concerns over the tightness in refined product markets,” ING added.

Commodities

U.S. hostage envoy visits Venezuela for talks about jailed Americans-official

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (not pictured) after Iran delivered to Venezuela the second of four Aframax-sized oil tankers, with a capacity of 800,000 barrels, ordered from th

By Vivian Sequera and Matt Spetalnick

CARACAS/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. hostage affairs envoy Roger Carstens and U.S. Ambassador James Story traveled to Caracas on Monday for talks with Venezuelan officials about American citizens held there, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said.

A previous visit by Carstens in March as part of a high-level U.S. delegation led to the release of two detained Americans, but at least eight U.S. prisoners remain.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro disclosed Monday’s visit, saying U.S. officials met with the head of the government-controlled congress, Jorge Rodriguez, to continue talks that began in March. But he did not provide details.

Sources familiar with the matter said the agenda for Monday’s talks was limited to humanitarian issues and did not include the country’s oil, which has been under U.S. sanctions since 2019.

In March, a high-level delegation from the United States met with Maduro at the government palace, and easing U.S. sanctions was among the topics discussed, although no agreement was reached at the time.

That visit marked the highest-level U.S. talks with Caracas in years, and Venezuela soon freed a former Citgo executive and a Cuban American and also promised to resume election talks in Mexico with the opposition.

Maduro has yet to agree on a date to return to the negotiating table.

Five other Citgo executives are still held in Venezuela.

Also in custody is Matthew Heath, a Marine veteran charged with terrorism and arms trafficking. Heath, who has denied the charges, remains in a Venezuelan hospital after what his lawyer said was an attempted suicide by cutting his own arm last week.

U.S. officials said Heath was not sent by Washington and have accused Venezuelan authorities of holding him illegally.

Two other Americans still detained are former U.S. special forces members, Luke Denman and Airan Berry, who were arrested in 2020 in connection with a botched raid aimed at ousting Maduro.

The State Department spokesperson said the latest Caracas visit was “for discussions about the welfare and safety of U.S. nationals in Venezuela.” The official did not immediately respond to a query on whether any Americans were expected to be freed during the latest visit.

The U.S. delegation also met with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. Washington recognizes him as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president, having rejected Maduro’s 2018 re-election as a sham.

March’s delegation was led by U.S. President Joe Biden’s top Latin America adviser Juan Gonzalez, and also included Carstens and Story, U.S. ambassador to Venezuela who is based in Bogota in neighboring Colombia.

That meeting took place at a time when Washington was looking to fill the void that would soon be left by a U.S. ban on Russia’s energy imports over its invasion of Ukraine.

Republican lawmakers and some of Biden’s fellow Democrats who oppose any softening of U.S. policy toward Maduro blasted the U.S. approach to Venezuela as too one-sided.

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Commodities

Venezuelan officials meet US delegation, Maduro says

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (not pictured) after Iran delivered to Venezuela the second of four Aframax-sized oil tankers, with a capacity of 800,000 barrels, ordered from th

(Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Monday that the country’s head of congress met a United States delegation to continue talks that began in March without disclosing the topics.

The Venezuelan president did not give any details on the U.S. officials who arrived in Caracas, nor the issues they discussed with the head of parliament, Jorge Rodriguez.

In March, a high-level delegation from the United States met with Maduro at the government palace, and easing sanctions was among the topics discussed, although no agreement was reached then.

The March visit led to the release of two Americans held in Venezuela but others remain jailed there.

March’s delegation was led by the director of the U.S. National Security Council for the Western Hemisphere, Juan Gonzalez, and U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela James Story, according to people familiar with the visit. Story is based in Bogota in neighboring Colombia, according to the State Department.

The White House National Security Council and U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Commodities

Oil up 2% on Bets G7 Move Versus Russia Will Further Tighten Supply 

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© Reuters.

By Barani Krishnan

Investing.com — Crude markets rallied on Monday on speculation that the predominantly-Western Group of Seven (G7) nations might further tighten the flow of oil to their shores in a move to abandon Russian supplies.

Russia, meanwhile, staged its biggest attack in months on Ukrainian civilians, reportedly killing as many as 1,000 of them after firing rockets at a mall in Kremenchuk. 

The prospect of oil being further constricted into the West loomed as leaders of the G7 — made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — discussed at their meeting in Bavaria, Germany, ways to cut Russia’s ability to fund its war in Ukraine. US President Joe Biden is to meet Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, France’s President Emmanuel Macron and UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on June 28th on the margins of the G7 summit.

New York-traded West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark for U.S. crude, settled up $1.95, or 1.8%, at $109.57 per barrel.

London-traded Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil, settled up $1.97, or 1.7%, at $115.09.

“There are numerous geopolitical chess pieces being moved around the board that are supporting oil, though the play could shift the other way any moment,” said John Kilduff, partner at New York energy hedge fund Again Capital.

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies including Russia, known as OPEC+, will put out 50% more oil in July than in June. 

But the 23-nation alliance, led by Saudi Arabia and supported by Russia, also trimmed its projected 2022 oil market surplus to 1 million barrels per day from a previous estimate of 1.4 million, according to an internal report seen by Reuters.

Crude prices were down earlier in the day on reports that G7 was also discussing prospects of reviving stalled nuclear talks with Iran in an effort to find a workaround to the crisis caused by the sanctions on Russian oil.

Some investors in oil also appeared hesitant to put on major positions after the U.S. Energy Information Administration said its weekly inventory report will be delayed for a second straight week due to server issues.

The EIA’s globally-followed Weekly Petroleum Status Report missed publication on June 24 and will not be released again as slated on June 29. The agency, however, said all its data was intact and it will resume publication “as soon as possible.”

The EIA however reported separately that it released 6.9 million barrels of crude from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve last week as it relied on the emergency reserve to bridge the supply tightness that has sent domestic gasoline prices to all-time highs above $5 per gallon. 

The latest release pushed the SPR inventory level below the 500 million barrel mark for the first time since 1986, Bloomberg reported.

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