U.S. crude-oil futures settled nearly where they began Thursday, as traders spent another session weighing rising oil supplies against concerns about slumping demand growth.
Light, sweet crude for November delivery settled 2 cents lower at $92.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after swinging as low as $90.66 a barrel earlier in the session.
Futures have settled between $91 and $93 a barrel for the past eight sessions, showing a surprising consistency after big price swings that brought futures to nearly triple digits in mid-September before tumbling almost $10.
For some analysts, the pause suggests further declines may be ahead.
"It's just sitting there and not rebounding and not rebounding. The longer this goes by, just sitting here, the more it resembles a bear-market correction," said Walter Zimmermann, a technical analyst at brokerage United-ICAP.
On Thursday, oil prices began the session lower after a report from the Labor Department shows a larger-than-expected increase in weekly U.S. jobless claims, raising fresh concerns about the sluggish economic recovery.
But prices pared losses after TransCanada Corp. said its Keystone pipeline, which brings oil from Western Canada to the U.S., will be down for three days to deal with an anomaly found in a Missouri section of the pipeline.
Meanwhile, Europe's Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange fell 80 cents to close at $112.42 a barrel, helping to narrow the wide gap between Brent and Nymex-traded WTI.
Goldman Sachs on Thursday lowered its Brent oil-price forecast for 2013 to $110 a barrel from $130 a barrel on signs that supplies from the U.S. and other regions are helping to balance the oil market.
But the bank warned that the price members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries require to balance their budgets will rise to $100 a barrel by 2015, which may result in OPEC becoming "more aggressive in trying to defend a relatively high price," Goldman analysts said in a research report.
Supply problems in the North Sea had pushed Brent's premium over Nymex-traded WTI to nearly $24 earlier this month, but the gap has narrowed to under $21 as analysts have forecast a resumption of supplies through the end of 2012.
Front-month November reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled 3.66 cents lower at $2.7451 a gallon. November heating oil settled 0.28 cents lower at $3.1866 a gallon.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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