Oil prices fell slightly on Friday as they traded in a narrow range ahead of a meeting of consuming nations to discuss a new release of emergency oil reserves alongside a huge planned release by the United States.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dipped 50 cents, or 0.50% to $100.63 a barrel after trading as high as $101.75. The contract slumped 7% on Thursday.
The planned U.S. release caused Thursday’s falls. On Friday the two benchmark contracts were each headed for a weekly loss of about 13%, their biggest in two years.
Member nations of the International Energy Agency (IEA) will meet at 1200 GMT on Friday to discuss a further emergency oil release that would follow their March 1 pact to release about 60 million barrels.
On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a release of 1 million barrels per day for six months, starting in May. That will be the largest release ever from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).
The aim is to make up for disrupted oil supplies from Russia, hit by sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation” to disarm its western neighbour.
Oil prices could reverse course, however, if the release is scaled back or delayed or if delivered volumes are less than those in the White House announcement, consultancy Eurasia Group said in a note.
Traders are waiting to see how much oil the IEA countries agree to release but do not expect it to have much long-term effect on the market.
“Previous releases from the SPR have taken time to reach the market and have had little impact on prices,” ANZ Research analysts said in a note.
While Biden called for U.S. producers to step up output, ANZ analysts said the massive SPR release could actually backfire and discourage producers from drilling more.
“The scale of the proposed release is large enough to mostly, or even completely, fill the supply deficit in the crude oil market for a period,” Commonwealth Bank commodities analyst Tobin Gorey said.
“The action would likely cap prices for that period, after which the market would then be relying on OPEC+ to increase production.”
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia, together called OPEC+, stuck to plans to add a modest 432,000 barrels per day of supply in May, despite western pressure on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to use their spare capacity to boost output further.
Further weighing on oil futures, China’s commercial hub of Shanghai extended late on Thursday an existing lockdown in its eastern districts, while the western portions were shut down as scheduled. That prompted concerns of continued weak fuel demand.