Oil Rises on Demand Hopes as Banking Fears Ease

Cam White | March 17, 2023

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By Rowena Edwards

LONDON (Reuters) -Oil prices firmed on Friday as a meeting between Saudi Arabia and Russia calmed markets and after support measures stabilised a banking crisis that set oil prices on course for their biggest weekly fall since December.

Brent crude futures firmed by $1.09, or 1.46%, to $75.79 a barrel by 1040 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude rose $1.20, or 1.76%, to $69.55.

Both benchmarks hit more than one-year lows this week and are on track for their biggest weekly falls since December at about 9%.

Oil and other global assets were pressured this week by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank and trouble at Credit Suisse and First Republic Bank.

But prices recovered some ground on Friday after support measures from the European Central Bank and U.S. lenders.

The dollar, meanwhile, is being kept under pressure by expectations of less aggressive increase to interest rates by the U.S. Federal Reserve next week. A weaker dollar makes oil cheaper for holders of other currencies and typically supports oil prices.

“The conditions for volatile trading remain intact. The oil price roller-coaster is pausing for breath but is by no means over,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

Further support came from OPEC+ members attributing this week’s price weakness to financial drivers rather than any supply and demand imbalance, adding that they expected the market to stabilise.

A meeting between oil producers Saudi Arabia and Russia on Thursday also calmed fears.

Meanwhile, WTI’s fall this week to less than $70 a barrel for the first time since December 2021 could spur the U.S. government to start refilling its Strategic Petroleum Reserve, boosting demand.

Analyst expectations on China’s demand recovery also supported the price rebound, with U.S. crude exports to China in March heading towards their highest in nearly two and a half years.

“This leaves sufficient (foreseeable) support for the oil price with OPEC+ having to convene an extraordinary meeting,” Commerzbank said on Friday.

An OPEC+ monitoring panel is due to meet on Apr. 3.

(Reporting by Rowena Edwards in LondonAdditional reporting by Florence Tan and Trixie Yapin SingaporeEditing by David Goodman)