Oil Futures Rebound on Trump's Recovery, Norway Disruption

Liubov Georges
By  Liubov Georges , DTN Energy Reporter

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Nearby delivery month oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange and Brent crude on the Intercontinental Exchange rallied in early trade Monday as traders monitored news regarding U.S. President Donald J. Trump's health following his admission into Walter Reed's hospital over the weekend and potential disruption of some 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) in Norway's oil production after unions there escalated a strike that have shut-in four oilfields.

"The President has continued to improve," was the message from Trump's physician on Sunday, while suggesting he could be discharged from the Walter Reed hospital as soon as Monday. Hope that the President's COVID-19 episode would be short-lived provided some relief for markets that were hit with a wave of selling late last week sparked by news Trump and the First Lady contracted the virus.

Some investors raised concerns over the transparency from the White House after weekend reports indicated Trump received supplemental oxygen and high-performance steroids that are typically prescribed to very ill patients. Monday should shed some light on just how sick the president is, on the number of people around him that have contracted the virus, and whether Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would come to an agreement on another relief package as the U.S. economy slows due to the pandemic.

Sunday afternoon, the second largest movie chain the United States announced indefinite closure of all locations just two months after reopening in August. Several major employers including airlines, theme parks and restaurants, have announced layoffs in the past week, heightening concern that a delayed relief package from Congress would accelerate job losses and economic growth in the fourth quarter. The President while undergoing treatment for the coronavirus put pressure on Congress to pass relief legislation. In a tweet sent from the Walter Reed hospital, Trump wrote, "OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULS."

A slowing recovery was seen in the Department of Labor's nonfarm employment report released Friday, with the U.S. economy adding a lower-than-expected 661,000 new jobs in September, down sharply from August job growth of 1.37 million. The number of permanent job losses increased to 3.8 million people last month.

On the economic calendar today, ISM Services Purchasing Managers Index is due out 10:00 a.m. ET, with consensus calling for a 56.3 reading, little changed from the prior month.

Oil futures were also boosted by further disruption in Norway's oil production after an expanding workers' strike threatened 330,000 bpd or 8% of the country's production on Sunday, according to the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association. Energy major Equinor shut four of its Norwegian offshore oil and gas fields on Monday, with two more fields operated by Neptune Energy and Wintershall Dea also facing likely shut-ins on Monday because of the strike. Analysts estimate Norwegian oil production could be cut by as much as 900,000 bpd, which would represent 22% of the country's total output, if the strike deepens.

In early trading, November West Texas Intermediate futures jumped $1.66 or more than 4% to trade near $38.72 per barrel (bbl), with the December Brent contract just below $41 bbl at $40.88 bbl. November ULSD futures clawed back Friday's losses, up 4.1 cents to $1.1261 gallon and November RBOB futures surged 5.71 cents or 5% to $1.1803 gallon.

U.S. Dollar Index slumped 0.3% against a basket of foreign currencies to trade near 93.605 as global stocks rallied, further lending upside support for WTI futures early Monday.

Liubov Georges can be reached at liubov.georges@dtn.com

Liubov Georges