Oil prices rebound as Irma weakens

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© Reuters.  Oil edges higher as Irma weakens© Reuters. Oil edges higher as Irma weakens

Investing.com – Oil prices started the week on an upbeat note on Monday, after Hurricane Irma struck the U.S. southeast with less force than once feared, easing worries that energy demand would be hit hard.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 40 cents, or around 0.9%, to $47.88 a barrel by 3:10AM ET (0710GMT).

The U.S. benchmark tumbled $1.61, or 3.3%, on Friday, reflecting concern over reduced demand as U.S. refineries saw a slow recovery from flooding due to storm system Harvey.

It was the biggest daily loss since July, but prices still ended the week up 19 cents, or 0.4%, to score their first weekly gain in six weeks.

Meanwhile, Brent crude futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the U.S., tacked on 27 cents, or roughly 0.5%, to $54.05 a barrel.

The global benchmark ended last week with a gain of $1.03, or around 1.9%, after rising to a more than four-month high of $54.87 on Thursday.

Elsewhere, gasoline futures inched up 0.4 cents, or 0.2%, to $1.651 a gallon, while natural gas futures rallied 3.3 cents, or 1.1%, to $2.923 per million British thermal units.

Irma hit Florida on Sunday morning as a dangerous Category 4 storm, the second highest level on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, but by afternoon as it barreled up the west coast, it weakened to a Category 2 with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour (177 kph).

It is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm over northern Florida or southern Georgia later on Monday.

Prices received another boost amid reports that the Saudi oil minister discussed possibly extending a pact to cut global oil supplies beyond March 2018 with his Venezuelan and Kazakh counterparts on Sunday.

OPEC and other producers, including Russia, have agreed to reduce output by about 1.8 million barrels per day until next March in a bid to reduce global oil inventories and support oil prices.

A further extension for at least three more months beyond March is now being discussed before OPEC meets again in November.

In the week ahead, market participants will eye fresh weekly information on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products on Tuesday and Wednesday to further weigh what the impact of recent storm activity was on supply and demand.

Oil traders will also focus on monthly reports from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties and the International Energy Agency to assess global oil supply and demand levels. The data will give traders a better picture of whether a global rebalancing is taking place in the oil market.

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