Picture: BLOOMBERG/DANIEL ACKER
Picture: BLOOMBERG/DANIEL ACKER

LONDON — Oil prices jumped on Friday on prospects for a co-ordinated production cut sparked by comments from the energy minister of Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) member United Arab Emirates.

Still, analysts said such a move remained unlikely, and prices for Brent and US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude were on track for weekly losses of more than 7% and 11% respectively, weighed down by oversupply.

Brent gained as much as 6% against the previous day’s settle, and was up 4.5% at $31.42 per barrel at 3.10pm GMT.

"The comments by the UAE oil minister are pushing prices up ... but we’re still in a long-term downturn. That hasn’t changed," said ABN AMRO’s senior energy economist Hans van Cleef.

Friday’s spike was "an indicator that it’s not a one-way price movement anymore," he said. "We will see a period of high volatility".

UAE Energy Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazrouei said Opec was willing to co-operate on an output cut, but that cheap oil was forcing supply reductions that would help rebalance the market.

WTI futures gained as much as 6% and were up 5% at $27.53 per barrel at 3.10pm GMT, after hitting lows not seen since 2003 in the previous session.

Traders said the jump in WTI could have been a result of US producers unwinding hedges they had locked in at higher prices in order to generate cash to service debt and costs.

Despite the UAE comments, analysts said they saw little chance of a common policy from Opec producers.

Ayham Kamel, Middle East and North Africa director at Eurasia Group, said it was unlikely there would be any deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia until there was clarity on Iran’s post-sanctions output.

"Even then, the fact that US shale production is responsive to prices on a much shorter timeframe than other oil production also means that there is less of an incentive to work to transcend geopolitical tensions and come to an agreement within Opec, or even one including Russia," Mr Kamel said.

Oil prices have tumbled over 70% since mid-2014 as producers pump between 1-million and 2-million barrels of crude every day in excess of demand as economic growth stalls, led by China’s slowdown.

"Oil is highly volatile," said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB in Oslo. "It’s very clear that we’re still running in a surplus situation and stocks are building."

Reuters