Crude Prices Nudge Higher

Crude Prices Nudge Higher Crude Prices Nudge Higher

Oil futures moved higher on Monday as upbeat sentiment about economic prospects in Asia and Europe outweighed concerns over higher US rig count, although a stronger dollar pressured prices.

International benchmark Brent futures rose 3 cents, or 0.1%, to $53.56 a barrel. The March contract closed the previous session down 13 cents at $52.83 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures climbed 10 cents, or 0.2%, to $50.7 a barrel after settling 25 cents higher in the previous session, Reuters reported.

Both contracts spent most of the Asia time zone in negative territory but reversed direction as trading in Europe opened.

That came as manufacturing data showed factories across much of Asia posted another month of solid growth in March, rounding off a strong quarter for the world's manufacturers.  

Brent and US crude posted their worst quarterly loss since late 2015 in the March quarter. US futures fell nearly 6% from the previous quarter, while Brent lost 7% as rising inventory levels outpaced output cuts by OPEC and non-OPEC members.

Crude prices staged a three-day rally last week amid expectations that members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-members such as Russia would extend production cuts beyond June.

But prices fell on Friday after energy services firm Baker Hughes said the US rig count increased by 10 to 662 last week, making the first quarter the strongest for oil rig additions since mid-2011.

"We could be getting close to the end of the rally. Today's pause may be significant in terms of market direction—we'll see what happens in Europe and the US later today," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at Sydney's CMC Markets.

"We have had a pretty significant rally in the past week, driven by Libya's production not doing as well due to disruptions, solid utilization rates by US refiners and talk of OPEC and non-OPEC members extending production cuts for another six months," Spooner said.


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