Monday, November 29, 1999

Oil pares Spain-inspired gains, products rally

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Brent crude oil pared gains and prompt U.S. futures fell on Thursday after disappointing U.S. economic data undermined earlier optimism tied to a Spanish bond auction.U.S. gasoline and heating oil prices rallied, however, aided by signs of improving underlying demand and refinery glitches, lifting product crack spreads by more than $1 a barrel to their highest in about a month.Crude prices weakened after U.S. stocks fell on two separate reports showing higher weekly initial unemployment claims and plummeting mid-Atlantic factory activity growth, stoking fears that growth could be slowing.After initially trading as much as $1 higher, London ICE Brent crude for August rose 3 cents to $78.17 by 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT).U.S. futures, being whipsawed by July options expiry and still high inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub, fell $1.37, or 1.76 percent, to $76.30 a barrel, although longer-dated crude prices for 2011 were only mildly negative."A strong bond auction by Spain is a strong sign that the market is more relaxed about European financial problems, and as European financial fears relax, Brent crude oil gains in strength," JP Morgan analysts said in a research note.Spain sold just under its target amount of 3.5 billion euros ($4.29 billion) of 10-year and 30-year government bonds on Thursday. Analysts said the sale went well after the bonds cheapened considerably ahead of the sale.It followed a report, denied by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, that they and the U.S. Treasury were drawing up a safety net for Spain.The euro rose to a three-week high against the U.S. dollar.JP Morgan noted Brent's price rise was "additionally positive" as it came despite a strike by Norwegian oil workers being averted after they landed a wage deal to maintain output at three North Sea oil and gas fields.Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 472,000 in the week ended June 12, the Labor Department said on Thursday.Factory activity growth plummeted in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region in June, raising concerns that an anaemic U.S. economic recovery is faltering. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said its business activity index dropped to 8.0 in June from May's 21.4.MIXED DAYAmid a very mixed performance across the oil complex, refined fuel prices led gains on refinery glitches, lower capacity utilization and recent signs of improved demand.Valero Energy Corp said on Thursday a gasoline-making unit at its McKee, Texas, refinery, a key recipient of Cushing crude, may be down until mid-July after the unit shut Wednesday for unplanned repairs.The front end of the U.S. crude curve fell sharply, causing the Brent/WTI spread to widen and product cracks to rally, despite a report showing that record Cushing stockpiles that have pressured prompt prices may finally be easing."The front WTI switch has stretched out toward $1.50 a barrel and could expand a bit further given near record crude supply at Cushing," said Jim Ritterbusch, president at Ritterbusch & Associates in Galena, Illinois.Cushing stocks rose 200,000 barrels to 37.6 million barrels in the week to June 11, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's report on Wednesday, helping keep front-month July crude at a deficit to August.But industry data provider Genscape on Thursday said Cushing stocks fell 709,048 barrels to 39.3 million barrels in the week to June 15, dropping from a record high.(Additional reporting by Alejandro Barbajosa in Singapore and Ikuko Kurahone in London; Editing by Jonathan Leff and Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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