Oil steadies on dim OPEC demand forecast after early jump on Gulf of Mexico storm

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices eased off early gains on Thursday as OPEC forecast slower demand for its crude next year, but crude futures hovered at near the highest in more than a month as oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were evacuated ahead of a storm.

FILE PHOTO: An oil pump is seen at sunset outside Vaudoy-en-Brie, near Paris, France April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Brent crude futures fell 3 cents to $66.98 a barrel by 11:24 a.m. EDT (1524 GMT). During the session, they hit their highest since May 30 at $67.65 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 25 cents to $60.68 a barrel, after hitting their highest since May 23 at $60.94.

Ahead of what could be one of the first major storms of the Atlantic hurricane season, U.S. oil producers have cut nearly a third of their output in the Gulf of Mexico

Phillips 66 said it expected to complete the closing of its 253,600-barrel-per-day (bpd) Alliance, Louisiana, refinery because of the storm threat.

Tropical Storm Barry formed with heavy rains expected across the north-central U.S. Gulf Coast, the National Hurricane Center said.

“Every storm is different,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. “There are still a lot of questions to be answered, whether it’s going to do damage to the supply side or going to do more damage to the demand side.”

Tensions in the Middle East also kept investors on edge. A day after Iran warned Britain would face “consequences” over the seizure of

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