Oil prices ease on profit-taking

Oil prices fell more than $1 a barrel on Monday as traders pocketed gains from the previous session’s record settlement.

The release of eight Turkish soldiers by Kurdish rebels on Sunday also contributed to the decline, easing some concerns about whether Turkey will launch attacks on guerrilla bases in northern Iraq. Escalating tensions in the Middle East could disrupt oil supplies out of the region.

Optimistic supply news also helped bring prices down. Vienna’s PVM Oil Associates reported that Iraqi crude exports were up by nearly 200 000 barrels a day in October at 1,84-million barrels a day.
And, said PVM, Russian oil output was reported up 0,6% last month compared with the previous month, marking “a new post-Soviet high” of 9,93-billion barrels a day.

But prices remained supported by a tight supply-demand balance heading into the northern-hemisphere winter, said Tetsu Emori, commodity-markets fund manager at Astmax Futures in Tokyo. “Profit-taking should be the main factor moving the market today,” he said.

Light, sweet crude for December delivery dropped by $1,52 to $94,41 a barrel by midday in Europe in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract had risen by $2,44 on Friday to settle at a record $95,93 a barrel after trading as high as $96,05—short of a trading record of $96,24 a barrel set on Thursday.

Crude prices are within the range of inflation-adjusted highs set in early 1980. Depending on the how the adjustment is calculated, $38 a barrel then would be worth $96 to $103 or more today.

In London, December Brent crude lost 73 cents to $91,35 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Refinery problems continue to support crude futures.

Operations at a 172 000-barrel-per-day Petroplus Holdings refinery in the United Kingdom are expected to be limited for a month due to a fire earlier last week. And Chevron said on Friday that a 330 000-barrel-per-day refinery in Mississippi will run at reduced rates until early next year due to an August fire.

Additionally, investors already concerned about falling oil supplies received word that Hurricane Noel may have disrupted some oil shipments last week. Also, analysts said Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries production increases that began on Thursday have been hampered by maintenance at some Middle Eastern oil fields.

The confluence of headlines fuelled fears that there will be fourth-quarter shortages of oil and other petroleum products.

But heating oil futures dropped 2,85 cents to $2,5452 a gallon (3,8 litres) on the Nymex, while gasoline prices lost 3,05 cents to $2,4090 a gallon. Natural-gas futures declined 16,5 cents to $8,253 per 1 000 cubic feet.—Sapa-AP

Associated Press writer Gillian Wong in Singapore contributed to this report

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