Brent, NYMEX gain in Asia with Iran-U.S.tensions eyed

Investing.com – Crude oil posted gains in Asia on Friday with U.S. tension with Iran in focus for any spillover into the oil markets from sanction or other actions, while U.S. rig count data is ahead.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil for delivery in March rose 0.54% to $53.83 a barrel, while on the Intercontinental Exchange in London, Brent oil for March delivery gained 0.42% to $56.80 a barrel. Markets in China reopened on Friday after a week-long break.

Ahead on Friday, oilfield services firm Baker Hughes will report data on U.S. drilling activity at the end of last week that will be closely watched. Last week, Baker Hughes said the number of rigs drilling for oil in the U.S. increased by 15 last week, the 12th gain in 13 weeks. That brought the total count to 566, the most since November 2015.

Overnight, crude prices settled lower in U.S. trade on Thursday as investors waited for end of the week rig count data and took profits on what are seen as so far adequate compliance with coordinated cuts to global oil production of almost 1.8 million barrels per day for the first six months of the year by OPEC and non-OPEC nations.

On Thursday, Russia’s energy ministry said January output fell by 100,000 bpd, less than hoped for but in the right direction, and Iraq has also moved to trim output at least in spirit. At the same time, rising tension between Iran and the U.S. over a ballistic missile test by Tehran this week has led to some sharp words from the White House. Investors are watching for any signs of wider sanctions on Iran from the U.S. that would impact a deal to curb a deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

As well, the gains came even after crude oil inventories in the U.S. showed a higher than expected 6.5 million barrels build at the end of last week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Thursday, well above the 2.6 million barrels build seen while stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, hub rose by 530,000 barrels.

Gasoline stocks rose by 3.87 million barrels and distillate supplies rose by 1.57 million barrels.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) said late Tuesday that crude inventories jumped 5.8 million barrels at the end of last week, while distillate stocks rose 2.3 million barrels and gasoline supplies by 2.9 million barrels and stocks at Cushing fell by 900,000 barrels.

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