Oil futures closed above $106 a barrel Friday, paring their loss for the week, as a drop in July new U.S. home sales raised the possibility that the Federal Reserve may delay a slowdown in monetary stimulus.
Crude oil for October delivery rose $1.39, or 1.3%, to settle at $106.42 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after touching a high of $106.94.
Prices for the contract still fell 0.8% from a week ago. Compared with the close of the September contract last Friday, which was the front-month contract at the time, prices lost 1% for the week.
“The negative housing data eased concerns of Fed tapering,” said Jonathan Citrin, founder and executive chairman at CitrinGroup.
When economic data is negative, traders see that as reason for the Fed to wait on removing stimulus after their September meeting,” he said. “So, with stimulus more likely to remain, consumption is also likely to continue, making oil a hot commodity (both figuratively and literally),” he said.
The Federal Reserve was holding its annual gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Atlanta Fed Bank President Dennis Lockhart said he would back a September tapering of the central bank’s $85-billion-a-month asset purchases if data between now and the meeting show the economy on a steady growth path.
A reduction in asset purchases would tend to support the dollar, which in turn would weigh on commodities traded in the U.S currency. If the dollar rises, commodities such as oil would get more expensive for holders of other currencies.
But on Friday, the ICE dollar index traded at 81.347, down from 81.480 late in North America Thursday in the wake of disappointing new-homes sales data.
Oil supplies and refinery woes
Adding further support for oil were renewed worries about global supplies.
“After some hope about better oil movements out of Libya, the doubts are coming back and there might not be much stability in oil exports from Libya — some months better, some worse, and the long-term outlook is more negative than stable,” said Richard Hastings, a macro strategist at Global Hunter Securities.
“It’s really about global output and the future reliability of [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’] output estimates,” he said. “Instability is spreading, and the risk premiums are not going away.”
On Thursday, oil prices climbed 1.1% following encouraging manufacturing data from China, along with a 26-month-high for a key gauge of euro-zone business activity.
Elsewhere in the energy complex Friday, October Brent crude improved by $1.14, or 1%, to $111.04 a barrel on ICE Futures — about 0.6% higher for the week.
Back on Nymex, September natural gas fell 6 cents, or 1.7%, to end at $3.49 per million British thermal units, but still gained of 4.2% for the week. It shot 2.5% higher Thursday, thanks to data showing a smaller increase in weekly supplies than analysts had expected.
September gasoline tacked on 4 cents, or 1.4%, to $3.01 a gallon, up about 1.3% from a week ago, while September heating oil rose 2.5 cents, or 0.8%, to $3.10 a gallon, 0.4% higher for the week.
The Motiva Enterprises refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, will have to shut down its main unit for months next year as it replaces a faulty pipe, according to a recent Reuters report. A reported outage at an Irving Oil refinery in New Brunswick, Canada also contributed to gasoline’s price gains.
Oil-service firms traded higher Friday, with the Philadelphia Oil Service index tacking on 0.6%. Analysts said that oil-service firms are likely to benefit from Mexico’s recent proposals to open up its energy sector to foreign investment.