Oil prices surge: Biden focussing on keeping costs ‘down’ as OPEC+ output increases

Russian state TV host taunts Europe over high gas and oil prices

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Oil prices rose on Thursday as supply concerns triggered a rebound from multi-month lows plumbed in the previous session after US data signalled weak fuel demand. Brent crude futures rose 42 cents, or 0.4 percent, at £79.98 ($97.20) a barrel by 0250 GMT, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were last up 49 cents, a 0.5 percent gain, at £75 ($91.15).

Both benchmarks fell to their weakest levels since February in the previous session after US data showed crude and gasoline stockpiles unexpectedly surged last week and as OPEC+ agreed to raise its oil output target by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), equal to about 0.1 percent of global oil demand.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a news briefing when asked about the OPEC+ decision: “What we’re focused on is keeping those prices down.”

Mr Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia in July was aimed at persuading OPEC’s leader to pump more oil to help alleviate high prices in the United States and the global economy.

For weeks, experts have speculated that OPEC+ would pump more oil after the trip and Washington’s clearance of missile defence system sales to Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates.

The Saudi trip was scheduled only after OPEC+ announced in early June that it would increase output each month by 50 percent in July and August, Jean-Pierre said.

She said: “We wanted to see some increases in the production before we announced the trip and we actually saw that in the first week of June.”

Pressed on whether the relatively small increase was an insult to Biden, Jean-Pierre repeatedly said “prices are coming down”.

Amos Hochstein, a top administration energy security adviser, called the increase “a step in the right direction” in an interview on CNN on Wednesday.

He acknowledged the move would not have a significant impact on fuel costs for Americans.

He said: “Our main focus is not about the numbers of barrels.

“Our main focus is on bringing prices down.”

Oil’s demand outlook has been clouded by rising fears of an economic slump in the United States and Europe, debt distress in emerging market economies, and a strict zero COVID-19 policy in China, the world’s largest oil importer.

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US crude oil inventories had also rose unexpectedly last week as exports fell and refiners lowered runs, while gasoline stocks also posted a surprise build as demand slowed, the Energy Information Administration said.

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