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Futures Movers: Oil bounces as reports indicate Biden, OPEC+ near showdown over crude reserves

Oil futures ended higher Monday, lifted after a news report said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies could rethink plans to continue with modest output increases if the U.S. and other energy-consuming countries follow through on plans to release crude from strategic reserves.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden could announce a release from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve alongside other countries as early as Tuesday, Bloomberg reported.

West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery


rose 81 cents, or 1.1%, to close at $76.75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. January Brent crude

the global benchmark, settled 81 cents higher, up 1%, at $79.70 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. Both benchmarks fell sharply last week, logging a fourth straight week of declines to end at seven-week lows.

“In my opinion, a SPR release would likely suck maybe a dollar or two out of the market. It is possible a U.S. SPR draw is already in the market,” said Robert Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho Securities, in a note.

“If China, Japan, India, and South Korea are looped into the effort, the market will likely pull back to low $70s…as long as OPEC+ does not end the 400,000 bpd monthly increases,” he said. “If OPEC+ pulls the plug, crude oil will tick higher.”

Bloomberg, citing comments by OPEC+ delegates, reported that it wasn’t clear that even modest production increases planned by the group would go ahead. OPEC+ has been raising output quotas by 400,000 barrels a day in monthly increments. OPEC+ is slated to meet on Dec. 2.

Crude was initially pressured as worries mounted over a rise in COVID-19 cases in Europe, which have resulted in renewed restrictions on activity. A full lockdown took effect in Austria on Monday, while protests against tightened COVID restrictions in the Netherlands and Belgium turned violent over the weekend.

“While further lockdowns aren’t guaranteed, case numbers in some countries are worryingly high and governments may be tempted to follow in Austria’s footsteps,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a note.

“This is what OPEC+ has warned of for months when forced to defend not raising production as prices have spiked. Now we’re seeing prices correct and that could continue in the coming weeks if countries announce a tightening of restrictions,” he said.

Worries were underlined after German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday was reported to have told senior members of her Christian Democratic Union party that the COVID situation was “highly dramatic” and “worse than anything Germany has experienced so far.”

Meanwhile, Japanese officials were working on ways to get around restrictions on releasing crude from the country’s strategic reserve, according to a news report. Oil has seen pressure as the Biden administration has coordinated with China, Japan and other oil-consuming countries on a coordinated release of crude in the effort to tackle hire prices.

Crude can be released from Japan’s reserve only during periods of shortage or natural disaster, analysts said. Reuters reported that officials were considering a move that would see Japan release crude above the reserve’s minimum threshold as a potential workaround.

December natural gas

fell 27.60 cents, or 5.5%, to end at $4.789 per million British thermal units.

“The latest weather forecasts from NOAA lean bearish, as the 6- to 10-day outlook predicts colder-than-normal conditions east of the Mississippi, ultimately giving way to the warmer-than-normal conditions in the West set to spread across nearly the entire country in the 8- to 14-day outlook,” wrote Brian Steinkamp, commodity analyst at Schneider Electric, in a note. “Such conditions will likely lower heating demand relative to seasonal averages.”

December gasoline

rose 2.2% to end at $2.2602 a gallon, while December heating oil

gained 1.4%, settling at $2.3254 a gallon.

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