Oil climbs as Mideast tension back in focus


By Florence Tan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil futures rose on Monday as geopolitical tension in the Middle East returned to focus, spurring concerns about supply from the region, but uncertainty over OPEC+ voluntary output cuts and global fuel demand growth clouded the sector’s outlook.

Brent crude futures climbed 28 cents, or 0.4%, to $79.16 a barrel by 0018 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were at $74.36 a barrel, up 29 cents, or 0.4%.

“A re-emergence of geopolitical tension over the weekend has come to the aid of an ailing crude oil price on the reopen this morning,” IG markets analyst Tony Sycamore said.

“Simmering tensions appear to be rising to the surface again in the Middle East, in response to Israel’s renewed attacks in Gaza.”

Fighting has resumed in Gaza and three commercial vessels came under attack in international waters in the southern Red Sea, the U.S. military said on Sunday, as Yemen’s Houthi group claimed drone and missile attacks on two Israeli vessels in the area.

The resumption of the Israel-Hamas war fuelled the bullish momentum for oil prices, CMC Markets analyst Tina Teng said.

“However, oil prices may continue to be under pressure for the time being due to China’s disappointing economic recovery and the ramp-up of U.S. production,” Teng said.

U.S. oil rigs rose five to 505 this week, their highest since September, energy services firm Baker Hughes said in its closely followed report on Friday. [RIG/U]

Oil prices are recovering from a decline of more than 2% last week on investor skepticism about the depth of supply cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia, together called OPEC+, and concern about sluggish global manufacturing activity.

“Prices will likely remain volatile and potentially directionless until the market sees clear data points pertaining to the voluntary output cuts,” RBC Capital analysts including Mike Tran said in a note, adding that such data will be available only two months later.

On Russian oil, western countries have stepped up efforts to enforce the $60 a barrel price cap on seaborne shipments of Russian oil it imposed to punish Moscow for its war in Ukraine.

Washington on Friday imposed additional sanctions on three entities and three oil tankers.

Separately, the White House said on Friday it was prepared to “pause” sanctions relief for OPEC member Venezuela in coming days unless there is further progress on the release of Venezuelan political prisoners and “wrongfully detained” Americans. Meanwhile, India has resumed Venezuelan oil purchases.

(Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Sonali Paul)



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