Oil Trades Near 2015 High on Signs U.S. Shale Boom Is Easing

By Ben Sharples

(Bloomberg) — Oil traded near the highest price this year amid speculation a slowdown in the U.S. shale boom will ease the biggest supply glut since 1930.

Futures slid 0.2 percent in New York after a 5.8 percent gain on Wednesday that capped a five-day rally. Crude production declined by 20,000 barrels a day to 9.4 million last week, according to the Energy Information Administration. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reassured world powers that a nuclear deal with Iran would hold up to congressional scrutiny.

Oil has surged almost 12 percent since April 8 on signs that a slump in the number of active U.S. rigs is leading to a production slowdown that may alleviate the global surplus. Output from shale formations will fall in May, the EIA said Monday, the first time the agency forecast a drop since it began publishing a monthly drilling report in 2013.

“The EIA data is suggesting a contraction in supply from oil shale,” Jonathan Barratt, the chief investment officer at Ayers Alliance Securities in Sydney, said by phone. “The trend is for prices to continue to gain.”

West Texas Intermediate for May delivery was at $56.26 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 13 cents, at 1:34 p.m. Sydney time. The contract rose $3.10 to $56.39 on Wednesday, the highest close since December. Total volume was about 55 percent below the 100-day average. Prices have climbed 5.6 percent in 2015.

U.S. Supplies

Brent for June settlement was 37 cents lower at $62.95 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The May contract expired Wednesday after advancing $1.89 to $60.32. The European benchmark crude traded at a premium of $5.42 to WTI for the same month.

Crude inventories in the U.S., the world’s largest oil consumer, expanded by 1.29 million barrels to 483.7 million through April 10, the EIA reported Wednesday. That’s the highest level in weekly data compiled by the Energy Department’s statistical arm since August 1982. Monthly records dating back to 1920 show supplies haven’t been this high since 1930.

A median stockpile increase of 3.6 million barrels was projected in a Bloomberg survey of analysts.

Drillers in the nation reduced the number of active machines seeking oil to 760 last week, the fewest since December 2010, according to Baker Hughes Inc., an oilfield services company. The rig count has decreased 52 percent since December.

Iran Deal

In the northern German city of Luebeck, Kerry briefed fellow foreign ministers from the Group of Seven industrial nations Wednesday after President Barack Obama accepted a compromise with Congress on the Iran nuclear deal. A preliminary accord announced April 2 could offer the Persian Gulf nation relief from economic sanctions that have cut its oil exports by half since mid-2012.

Iran will only accept an agreement that lifts sanctions and its negotiating partners are the six world powers, not the U.S. Congress or “American hard-liners,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech broadcast on state television.

India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. is retaining a plan to pump 11 trillion rupees ($176 billion) into a search for reserves, setting the country’s biggest explorer apart from global producers such as Chevron Corp., which are tightening budgets.

Oil prices “will continue to trend higher” as cuts to drilling expenditure worldwide have trimmed supply growth, Gordon Kwan, the Hong Kong-based head of regional oil and gas research at Nomura Holdings Inc., said in an e-mail Thursday.

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