OPEC logo. Picture: REUTERS / RAMZI BOUDINA
OPEC logo. Picture: REUTERS / RAMZI BOUDINA

London/Singapore — Crude oil prices rose on Monday following a weekend attack on a Saudi oil facility by Yemeni separatists and as traders looked for signs that Sino-US trade tensions could ease.

Price gains were capped to some degree by an unusually downbeat Opec report that stoked concerns about growth in oil demand.

Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil prices, was up 55 cents, or about 0.9%, at $59.19 a barrel in early-morning trading, and US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 57 cents, or 1%, at $55.44 a barrel.

A drone attack by Yemen’s Houthi group on an oilfield in eastern Saudi Arabia on Saturday caused a fire at a gas plant, adding to Middle East tensions, but state-run Saudi Aramco said oil production was not affected.

“The oil market seems to be pricing in again a geopolitical risk premium following the weekend drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, but the premium might not sustain if it does not result in any supply disruptions,” Giovanni Staunovo, oil analyst for UBS, said.

Concerns about a recession also limited crude price gains. Traders were furthermore looking for signs of progress in US-China trade talks.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said trade deputies from the US and China will speak within 10 days and could advance negotiations over ending a trade battle between the two countries if those talks pan out.

But US President Donald Trump appeared less optimistic than his aides on striking a trade deal with China, saying that while he believes Beijing is ready to come to an agreement, “I’m not ready to make a deal yet”.

Meanwhile China’s announcement of key interest rate reforms at the weekend has fuelled expectations of an imminent reduction in corporate borrowing costs in the struggling economy, boosting share prices on Monday.

US energy firms increased the number of oil rigs operating last week for the first time in seven weeks despite plans by most producers to cut spending on new drilling in 2019.

“WTI in recent weeks has performed relatively better than Brent… Pipeline startups in the United States have been supportive for WTI, while the ongoing trade war has had more of an impact on Brent,” said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at Dutch bank ING.

Opec cut its forecast for global oil demand growth in 2019 by 40,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.10-million bpd and indicated the market would be in slight surplus in 2020.

Reuters