World Bulletin/News Desk
Oil surged on Friday in heavy trading to the fourth biggest daily gain on record, as a deal by European leaders to shore up euro zone banks triggered frantic short-covering by funds that had been riding crude's price collapse over the last quarter.
Despite the day's sharp gains, both international benchmark Brent and U.S. oil futures posted their biggest quarterly declines since the fourth quarter of 2008.
On the day Brent crude oil futures rose more than $6 a barrel to near $98 while U.S. crude jumped by more than $7 to settle just below $85 a barrel -- the fourth largest daily gains in dollar terms since the contracts were launched.
Oil rallied along with the euro and world stocks after euro zone leaders agreed on measures to cut soaring borrowing costs in Italy and Spain and recapitalize regional banks. Crude drew further support from a strike in Norway that cut production of oil and natural gas liquids by 230,000 to 250,000 barrels per day, or up to 13 percent of the capacity of the world's No. 8 crude exporter.
"The NYMEX just went wild. It never looked back. Just up, up and away." said John Troland, an independent energy advisor in Houston, referring to the New York Mercantile Exchange where benchmark U.S. crude oil futures trade.
Throughout the second quarter, hedge funds and other speculators had bet big on lower oil prices. Speculators cut their net long positions by more than half over the quarter, according to data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
In addition to mounting worries euro zone, oil prices came under pressure in recent months from weaker demand and swelling global inventories as Saudi Arabia boosted output to quell concern about the drop in exports from sanction-hit Iran.
"We had significant second-quarter trends that may all be in the process of reversing, including the risk off trade triggered by the EU instability," said Tim Evans, energy analyst for Citi Futures Perspective, adding oil demand is normally seasonally stronger in the second half of the year.
"What has changed today is the market sentiment, the fundamentals may evolve at a more glacial pace."
Brent crude oil rose $6.44 to settle at $97.80 a barrel, a gain of 7.05 percent and the biggest one day rise since April 2009. Brent started the second-quarter at $122 a barrel.
U.S. crude rose $7.27 to settle at $84.96 a barrel, a gain of 9.36 percent - the biggest since March 2009. U.S. crude started the second-quarter at $103 a barrel.
Brent volume was almost 16 percent above the 30-day average, while U.S. crude futures saw turnover 29 percent above the 30-day average.
Front-month U.S. July RBOB gasoline rallied 4.3 percent while heating oil surged 5.7 percent. Both contracts expired on Friday.
Analysts said Friday's move could portend better fundamentals for oil for the rest of the year as sanctions against Iran cut the OPEC member's output.
"Given it's the last day of the quarter we might be seeing some rebalancing and short-covering (by funds) after the falls we've seen," said Katherine Spector, commodity strategist at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in New York.
"The supply-and-demand balance looks better for the second half of this year, so we expect to see prices move higher from here. We think there will be further reductions in Iran's exports and at the same time other OPEC members are likely to reign in production slightly."
OPEC's oil output has remained close to its highest since 2008 in June as extra oil from Saudi Arabia and Iraq has compensated for a drop in Iranian supply to its lowest level in more than two decades, a Reuters survey found on Friday.
Saudi Arabia, OPEC's largest producer, has increased its output to 10.1 million bpd to help make up for the shortfall from Iran.
Volatility eased as traders focused on the world economy and corporate earnings after a week dominated by the dramatic spike in tensions over North Korea, which triggered a global sell-off before prices bounced back Monday.
Investors greeted the more conciliatory tone after US stocks dropped three days in a row last week on President Donald Trump's vow of "fire and fury" if North Korea continued to pursue its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The ultra-conservative kingdom has moved to diversify its traditionally oil-dependent economy following a sharp fall in crude prices.
In its monthly report on the global oil market, the International Energy Agency said, however, that it believes the supply glut is easing, partly because demand is growing faster.
US stocks have been in retreat since President Donald Trump Tuesday issued a fiery warning to North Korea to halt its nuclear program.
The move by one of Japan's best-known firms greatly reduces the chance of an embarrassing delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index weakened by 0.5 percent to 7,503.39 points.
The approval by the European Commission comes just over two months after the European Central Bank -- which took on the role of the eurozone's banking supervisor in 2014 -- allowed the sale to go ahead for a symbolic fee of one euro.
BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total have all published results in recent days, showing they pocketed $23 billion in net profit in the first half fo the year.
Higher cereal, sugar and dairy prices pushed food price index by 10.2 percent annually in July
HSBC was also a big riser, gaining three percent at £7.65 ($10, 8.5 euros) in late morning trade after the British banking giant announced a share buyback plan alongside a rise in first-half profits.
Both main crude contracts made strong gains, with WTI testing $50 a barrel for the first time since late May and Brent heading towards $53, while mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto saw their share price rise as commodities strengthened.