Oil pauses ahead of U.S. rig data, but 7% weekly gain in sight

Published: July 28, 2017 5:44 a.m. ET

Baker Hughes rig count on deck

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Oil futures edged slightly lower Friday as investors widely moved to the sidelines in commodities and equities after this week’s strength.

Light, sweet crude futures for delivery in September CLU7, +0.41%  were down 3 cents at $49.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. But September Brent crude LCOU7, +0.76%  on London’s ICE Futures exchange turned up 22 cents, or 0.4%, to $51.73 a barrel.

Reformulated gasoline RBU7, +0.66%  was down 0.1% to $1.644 but ICE gasoil rose $1.50, or 0.3%, to $476.75 per metric ton.

Crude has risen every day this week, gaining 7% in the process to hit two-month highs amid a raft of positive data points and a renewed commitment from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to rein in production and exports.

Analysts have said Friday’s weekly report on U.S. oil-rig activity will be an important factor in determining how producers there are coping with prolonged soft prices. After strong growth in the first half of this year, increases have largely stopped this month.

“What we will be looking for is if the growth has plateaued,” said Gao Jian, an energy analyst at Shandong-based SCI International.

More market watchers are getting upbeat about the market, saying falling U.S. and European inventories along with still-robust demand from Asia means oil prices should hold up near-term.

London-based Energy Aspects noted Thursday that in Europe, daily crude demand rebounded strongly in May as “solid vehicle sales, a stronger euro, low retail prices and a booming construction sector (including roadbuilding) mean European demand growth will be well-supported,” the firm said.