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World oil prices rise before Norway lockout

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Minister of Petroleum and Energy Ola Borten Moe (File photo: Marit Hommedal/Scanpix)
13:51 CEST+02:00
World oil prices advanced on Monday, rebounding from recent losses ahead of a looming lockout of Norwegian production.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in August increased by 81 cents to $99.00 per barrel in late morning deals in London.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for August rose 66 cents to $85.11 a barrel.

"A factor providing particular upside support for oil prices (on Monday) is the failed negotiations between the Norwegian oil industry association and employees of the industry," said analysts at the Vienna-based JBC Energy consultancy.

Norway confirmed that oil and gas production would be halted from Tuesday as a result of an industry lockout, after talks between employers and unions failed to end a prolonged strike.

"As the situation stands now, the lockout will be enforced from midnight (2200 GMT Monday)," petroleum and energy ministry spokesman Håkon Smith-Isaksen said on Monday.

"The consequence of the lockout is a controlled close-down of all Norwegian petroleum production and exports" when stocks are exhausted, he said.

The lockout in western Europe's top producer was announced by Norway's state oil giant Statoil on Friday in response to the strike launched on June 24th by more than 700 North Sea oil workers over pensions.

Employers group OLF says the strike has cost the industry tens of millions of euros a day.

The lockout will affect all production on Norway's continental shelf, where about 50 companies operate, including Statoil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell.

The oil market also inched higher on Monday as traders bought up cheap crude following a price plunge late last week caused by disappointing US jobs figures, analysts said.

WTI and Brent crude had on Friday slumped more than $2.50 a barrel due to dismal US jobs data, which yet again raised fears that the economy of the world's largest oil consumer was faltering.

"Oil is holding relatively steady, it has edged up a tiny bit," said Victor Shum, senior principal for Purvin and Gertz energy consultants in Singapore.

"Oil declined substantially last Friday... Perhaps because of the sharp decline, we are seeing some buying this morning," he told AFP.

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The US economy added only 80,000 jobs in June, well below forecasts, leaving the unemployment rate stubbornly stuck at 8.2 percent, according to Labor Department statistics released on Friday.

The figures sparked deep concern in the oil market because the United States is the world's biggest crude-consuming nation.

Shum warned that the numbers would continue to affect the crude market in the near term.

"I expect that concerns about the US economy downshifting will continue to put downward pressure on oil," he said.

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