LONDON: Oil fell under $107 per barrel Friday as prices eased from an eight-week high the previous session spurred by supply worries linked to tension in the Middle East and hopes of an economic stimulus in the United States.
“I think after seven straight upward closes it’s not surprising to see a slight retracement, not really reading much more into it,” said Tony Machacek, an oil futures broker at Jefferies Bache.
Brent crude was down $1.07 at $106.73 a barrel at 1101 GMT, but still headed for its longest winning streak since the end of February, having gained about 18 percent over the four week period.
U.S. August crude was down $1.11 at $91.55 a barrel around the same time. It is on track for an almost 6 percent gain this week, its third weekly gain in four.
Concerns over supply from the Middle East has underpinned some of the gains made in oil prices as fighting in Syria has intensified and after the attack on tourists in Bulgaria which Israel blames on Iran.
Iran’s oil exports have halved in the four months from February to June as a result of the sanctions, but imports this month are expected to steady as Iran’s top oil buyer, China, has agreed to load full contracted volumes of Iranian oil in July.
A freight dispute had threatened to delay vessels loading crude destined for China, which would have been a further blow to Iran’s efforts to keep oil exports flowing.
Tension in the Middle East was only part of the story behind oil’s winning streak this month, analysts said.
“While the market’s reassessment of the geopolitical premium is a significant factor behind rising prices ... We see it rather as a correction to the excessive slump to just $89.23 [Brent] on June 21,” wrote Vienna-based consultancy JBC Energy in a daily note to clients.
Limited global spare capacity on the supply side combined with seasonal upticks in oil consumption could support further price increases, JBC Energy added.
“Middle East tensions now mean that supply concerns are entering the crude oil equation, which is creating an upward price pressure,” Tim Waterer, senior trader at CMC Market, stated in a report.
“With the added element of potential QE3 [quantitative easing] keeping a lid on the dollar, it would appear that the recent rally in oil still has room to move on the upside with a return to $100 per barrel now a realistic proposition.”
Recent weak U.S data showing a surge in new claims for jobless aid and weaker factory activity in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region has raised hopes the Federal Reserve will take action to stimulate the economy.
More stimulus measures set to boost growth may weaken the dollar, boosting oil and other dollar-denominated commodities.