West Texas Intermediate crude rose to a one-month high as Cyprus agreed with creditors on a bailout, reducing concern that Europe’s debt crisis will deepen. WTI narrowed its discount to Brent oil to the least since July.
Futures climbed 1.2 percent after Cyprus accepted the outlines of an aid package from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. Prices retreated from the day’s highs after a report that a European official said the bank-restructuring plan should be viewed as a template for the rest of the region. The difference between WTI and Brent futures slipped over the past week as U.S. refinery demand and North Sea output increased.
“The European outlook has improved a great deal with adoption of this plan,” said Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics LLC, an Austin, Texas-based energy consultant. “Fears about a default by Cyprus weighed on the market last week. This resolution is a huge relief.”
Crude oil for May delivery rose $1.10 to $94.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest settlement since Feb. 19. The volume of all futures traded was 30 percent above the 100-day average at 3:40 p.m. Prices have advanced 3.3 percent this year.
Brent oil for May settlement increased 51 cents, or 0.5 percent, to end the session at $108.17 a barrel. The volume of all futures traded was little changed from the 100-day average. The European benchmark crude’s premium to WTI narrowed to $13.36, the least since July 3.
Euro-area finance ministers approved the agreement between Cyprus and the lenders in overnight talks in Brussels. The deal paves the way for 10 billion euros ($13 billion) of emergency loans and makes Cyprus the fifth country to tap a rescue since the European debt crisis started in Greece in 2009.
“Worries about a potential default had been preventing us from going higher,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
The European sovereign-debt crisis has reduced economic growth and fuel demand as it spread from Greece to Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Cyprus.
Stocks fell as Reuters reported that Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Cyprus’s bank-restructuring plan should be viewed as a template for the rest of the euro zone.
Markets regained strength after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said low interest rates in advanced nations benefit the global economy while not creating a disruptive diversion of trade through weaker currencies. Low rates support domestic demand, Bernanke said today in a speech at the London School of Economics.
“We’re not just up on the Cyprus news, there’s also a massive unwinding of the WTI-Brent spread,” said Stephen Schork, president of the Schork Group Inc. in Villanova, Pennsylvania. “Demand at refineries here is rising from its seasonal nadir and there’s plenty of supply in the North Sea.”
U.S. refineries operated at 83.5 percent of capacity in the seven days ended March 13, up 2.5 percentage points from the prior week, an Energy Information Administration report on March 20 showed. Units are often idled for maintenance in late winter as attention shifts away from heating oil and before gasoline consumption rises.
Exports of the 12 main North Sea crude grades will rise by 8 percent in April to 2.04 million barrels a day, the most since June, according to loading programs obtained by Bloomberg. Supplies have been boosted by the resumption of the Buzzard and Elgin-Franklin oilfields, and the restart of the Brent Pipeline system following a leak.
Iraq is unlikely to reach its output target of 4.5 million barrels a day in 2014 because of bureaucratic obstacles and the absence of a national energy law, Adnan al-Janabi, chairman of the parliament’s oil and energy committee, said today at a conference in Dubai.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries isn’t concerned about production of oil and natural gas from shale formations in the U.S. as this will stabilize global markets in the long term, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Hani Hussain said today. Prices will probably remain near current levels, he said.
Money managers raised bullish bets on WTI in the week ended March 19, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Net-long positions held by money managers, including hedge funds, commodity pools and commodity-trading advisers, rose by 5,324 futures and options combined, or 3.2 percent, to 172,268, the CFTC’s Commitments of Traders report showed last week.
In London, hedge funds and other money managers raised bullish bets on Brent crude, according to data from ICE Futures Europe. Speculative bets that prices will rise, in futures and options combined, outnumbered short positions by 126,414 lots in the week ended March 19, the exchange said today.
Implied volatility for at-the-money WTI crude options expiring in May was at 17.2 percent, an decrease from 17.5 percent March 22. The figures have slipped from 24.7 percent on Feb. 21.
Electronic trading volume on the Nymex was 596,502 contracts as of 3:39 p.m. It totaled 432,118 contracts March 22, 20 percent below the three-month average. Open interest was 1.65 million contracts.
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