By Barani Krishnan
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices settled mixed on Friday while posting their second straight monthly gain on OPEC’s planned output cuts, even as skepticism about the cartel’s pledge grew after data suggested another record high in its production.
Brent crude settled up 4 percent for September and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 8 percent, helped by Wednesday’s announcement by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Algeria that it aimed to remove some 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the market.
Analysts estimate the global oversupply in crude at 1.0-1.5 million bpd.
A Reuters survey on Friday found that OPEC output likely rose to 33.60 million barrels per day in September from a revised August record of 33.53 million bpd as Iraq boosted crude exports and Libya reopened some of its main oil terminals.
Brent for November delivery <LCOX6> settled down 18 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $49.06 a barrel, before expiring as the front-month contract. For both the week and month, it rose about 4 percent. For the quarter it fell around 1 percent.
WTI’s front-month, also November <CLc1>, closed up 41 cents, or nearly 1 percent, at $48.24 per barrel. It gained 8 percent on the week and month, and was almost flat on the quarter.
“Yes, it’s a second straight monthly gain for oil but the question is whether we can continue punching higher from here,” said David Thompson, executive vice-president at Powerhouse, a commodity-focused broker in Chicago.
“If we look at OPEC’s latest production figure, it gives them an even larger amount to cut. None of the actors involved are flushed with cash. They’re all petro states suffering from low oil prices. It’s very difficult to see them cut production in a meaningful way when they need the money.”
OPEC said on Wednesday it had achieved agreement in principle to cut output to between 32.5 million bpd and 33.0 million bpd from about 33.5 million bpd, estimated by Reuters to be August’s production level. Details will be finalized at OPEC’s policy meeting in November, group officials said.
The cuts were forced by a persistent glut that has more than halved prices from mid-2014 highs above $100.
Russia, not an OPEC member but a large producer pumping crude at record highs, said it would find a way to freeze production if it reaches a deal with OPEC.
The United States, also a non-OPEC member and now the biggest oil producer, said on Thursday it had little faith in the OPEC plan. U.S. energy envoy Amos Hochstein told Reuters that any price gains from the cuts would trigger higher U.S. production, which would ultimately defeat the deal.
A weekly reading on the U.S. oil rig count showed local drillers added 95 rigs for the third quarter, the most in any quarter since 2014. [RIG/U]
(Additional reporting by Keith Wallis in Singapore and Osamu Tsukimori in Tokyo; Editing by Paul Simao and Richard Chang)