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Oil Edges Higher On Last-Minute Turnaround

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Crude oil futures on Monday staged a last-minute comeback, ending modestly higher as traders weighed evidence of lagging demand for the commodity in China and the likelihood of potential stimulus in the United States. Investors also parsed out comments by Saudi Arabia’s oil minister that supply and demand fundamentals do not justify the current high price of oil. In the absence of key macroeconomic reports and ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s meeting and the supplies report later in the week, there was “lack of commitment” from traders, according to Matt Smith, an analyst with Summit Energy.

Crude futures for October delivery (US:CLV2) advanced 12 cents, or 0.1%, to $96.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil traded as low as $95.34 a barrel earlier. That was oil’s highest settlement in two weeks and the fourth consecutive day of gains. Investors “are trying to balance up if the economic picture is bad enough to justify” more stimulus by the Fed, Smith said. Big price moves in either direction are unlikely until the market sorts out that equation, and the lack of data on Monday only exacerbated that lack of conviction, he added. Oil on Friday ended nearly 1% higher on hopes the poor U.S. jobs report would hasten easing. On the week, however, prices were flat.

Earlier Monday, Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi said Saudi Arabia is concerned about the rising price of oil, not supported “by market fundamentals,” a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency said. “Saudi Arabia will, as always, take all necessary steps to ensure the market is well supplied and to help moderate prices — and we will meet any additional demand from our customers,” Naimi remarked in the statement. The country is the world’s top exporter of crude.