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Futures Movers: U.S. oil futures finish higher, shake off losses from fears of a possible Strategic Petroleum Reserve release

Oil futures finish on a mixed note Monday, with global prices lower but the U.S. benchmark ending higher after shaking off losses earlier in the session tied to the possibility of a release of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Prices had sold off for much of the session before U.S. prices shifted higher not long before the settlement of the futures trading session, after a monthly report from the Energy Information Administration forecast a rise in U.S. shale oil output next month.

Crude-oil futures had sold off in anticipation that the Biden administration may consider a release from the SPR, along with a “possible ban of oil and/or gasoline exports,” Marshall Steeves, energy markets analyst at IHS Markit, told MarketWatch. “The SPR release was promoted by Senate Majority Leader [Chuck] Schumer over the weekend.”

Schumer, D-N.Y., on Sunday said the administration should tap the reserve to help bring down gasoline prices ahead of the holiday season. Thanksgiving in the U.S., a busy travel period, is next Thursday.

Read: Why tapping the SPR is one of many ‘bad’ options to ease gasoline prices

An SPR release is “probably the likeliest scenario,” said Steeves. However, “it is likely to have only a short-term impact as it would be a fraction of global production and consumption,” he said.

“Moreover, it would be a one-off event rather than a sustained rise in output,” Steeves said. “It is likely the political aim of those promoting it to provide some relief through the holidays, so it could have that effect of a temporary retreat in prices.”

West Texas Intermediate crude for December delivery


tacked on 9 cents, or 0.1%, to settle at $80.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices traded as low as $79.30, the lowest intraday level for front-month prices since Nov. 5, FactSet data show.

January Brent crude

the global benchmark, lost 12 cents, or nearly 0.2%, to $82.05 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. Both grades fell for a third straight week last week.

Among other options to help lower prices, traders have looked to U.S. production levels, with recent data pointing to higher output ahead.

In a monthly report from released Monday, the EIA forecast an increase of 85,000 barrels per day in oil production for seven major U.S. shale plays to 8.316 million barrels per day in December.

Baker Hughes

on Friday also reported a third-straight weekly increase in the number of active U.S. oil rigs, implying future output increases.

Meanwhile, speculation around a potential SPR release appears to have done little to shake up key members of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC. Energy ministers from Saudi Arabia and Oman over the weekend said they saw no need for OPEC and its allies — a group known as OPEC+ — to speed up production increases beyond the monthly increments of 400,000 barrels a day they have already penciled in.

There’s also been talk that the U.S. may consider a ban on oil exports as a way to help ease gasoline prices.

“The export ban is a thornier issue and could actually cause problems if there were to be reciprocation by others,” said Steeves. “A lot of the heavier crude oil produced in the U.S. is exported because Gulf Coast refiners don’t want it. That wouldn’t help raise output of lighter crude.”

A stronger U.S. dollar has also weighed on crude. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.3% Monday and has rallied 1% in November, hitting a nearly 16-month high.

A stronger dollar can be a negative for commodities priced in the unit, making them more expensive to users of other currencies.

In other Nymex dealings, December gasoline

settled at $2.329 a gallon, up nearly 0.8%, while December heating oil

fell 0.2% to $2.398 a gallon.

December natural gas

settled at $5.017 per million British thermal units, up 4.7% Monday to recoup some of the more than 13% it lost last week.

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