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Tue 13 Mar 2012 08:39 AM

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Brent rebounds towards US$126 ahead of Fed meet

Outlook improves for US economy amid tensions with Iran

Brent rebounds towards US$126 ahead of Fed meet
Brent crude rebounded 66 cents to US$126 by 0303 GMT. (Bloomberg Images)

Brent crude rebounded towards US$126 on Tuesday as investors awaited comments from the US central bank after the outlook improved for the world's largest economy amid simmering tension between the West and Iran that could threaten oil supply.

The Federal Reserve could later on Tuesday reinforce a view prompted by recent data that the US economy is recovering, buoying the demand outlook for the world's largest oil consumer, but it is unlikely to kick off further quantitative easing.

Brent crude rebounded 66 cents to US$126 by 0303 GMT, after settling down on Monday for the first time in four sessions. The April Brent contract expires on Thursday. US April crude was up 63 cents at US$106.97.

"The FOMC could recognise that the economy has improved and this will have a positive impact on the market," said Tetsu Emori, a Tokyo-based commodities fund manager at Astmax Investments.

Oil also partly gained from a weaker dollar as investors took profit, causing the greenback to retreat from a seven-week high against a basket of major currencies. A weaker greenback makes dollar-denominated oil more attractive for holders of other currencies.

"The market appears to be lowering its expectations of a further round of quantitative easing given the generally positive tone of recent US data," Natalie Robertson, an ANZ analyst, said in a note.

"This could generate some volatility in commodities, and potential downside risks."More positive news also emerged from the euro zone as finance ministers gave their final approval to a second bailout for Greece on Monday and turned their fire on Spain, demanding it aim for a tougher deficit target this year in order to get back on target in 2013.

Escalating tensions between the West and Iran over Tehran's nuclear programme and supply disruption from Syria, South Sudan and Yemen have underpinned oil prices.

The West is expected to reinforce its tough stance against Iran's nuclear programme this week when US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron meet.

The top officials are expected to send a strong message to Iran to "meet its international obligations or face the consequences".

"Prices remain supported by the uncertainty as negotiations continue," Astmax's Emori said.

The conflict in Syria appeared to inch closer to civil war even as the West clashed with Russia at the United Nations Security Council over the country, with activists and the Damascus government trading blame for a massacre of civilians in the city of Homs.

In the United States, the American Petroleum Institute will release weekly stockpile data later in the day. US crude oil inventories are expected to have increased 2.2m barrels last week, a preliminary Reuters survey of analysts showed.

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