U.S. crude oil snaps three-week losing streak as forecasts point to tighter market

U.S. crude oil broke a three-week losing streak Friday as analysts see a tighter market heading into the third quarter.

Oil prices fell for the day, but finished out the week nearly 4% higher as summer fuel demand is expected to reduce inventories in the coming weeks, even though the season has gotten off to a tepid start.

Here are Friday’s closing energy prices:

  • West Texas Intermediate July contract: $78.45 per barrel, down 17 cents, or 0.22%. Year to date, U.S. oil is up 9.5%.
  • Brent August contract: $82.62 per barrel, down 13 cents, or 0.16%. Year to date, the global benchmark is ahead 7.2%.
  • RBOB Gasoline July contract: $2.40 per gallon, down 0.66%. Year to date, gasoline is up 14%.
  • Natural Gas July contract: $2.88 per thousand cubic feet, down 2.64%. Year to date, gas has climbed 14.6%.

Matt Smith, lead oil analyst at Kpler, said the risk is to the upside for oil prices, though gains will be fairly limited.

“You kind of got the bullish argument that we’re going into summer, refinery runs are going to be super strong drawing down inventories,” Smith told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday.

“We could get up to $90, but we’ll come back down again,” Smith said. “We’re not going to $95, by no means are we going to $100 per barrel here.”

Though the market has largely shrugged off geopolitical risk and refocused on fundamentals, RBC Capital Markets cautioned investors to keep a close eye on an increasingly precarious situation on the Israel-Lebanon border.

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WTI vs. Brent

“We are closely watching whether Benny Gantz’s departure from the Israeli wartime cabinet will tip the scales in favor of a ground operation aimed at pushing Hezbollah back from the border,” Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy, told RBC clients in a note Thursday.

Oil remains well below annual highs set in April but has regained ground after a sell-off last week that pushed prices to four-month lows after OPEC+ unveiled plans to increase production in the fourth quarter.

Still, the cartel is keeping all output cuts in place until October, and has rolled two tranches of reductions over until the end of 2025.

“We stay with our tactical long crude recommendation, as our expectations for rising seasonal summer demand and lesser step-up in supply remain intact,” Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Hsueh told clients in a note Thursday.

Deutsche sees the oil supply deficit expanding to nearly 1 million barrels per day in the third quarter, which should support Brent prices rising to the mid-to-upper $80s per-barrel range.

“It would only take a minor overshoot to bring Brent to around USD 90/bbl at some point during the second half,” Hsueh told clients.

Citigroup also sees a tighter market in the third quarter, though it will likely enter a surplus in 2025 on solid production growth and slowing demand, according to the bank.

“When we’re looking at the fundamental picture going into 3Q whether its oil, copper or gold, it looks very solid driven by seasonal increases in demand,” Jeff Currie, an energy analyst at Carlyle, told “Squawk Box” Thursday.

“The supply situation given the recent OPEC meeting points to a tighter 3Q,” Currie said.

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