Mixed commodity performance

Company News

by Glenn Dyer

Gold trailed behind as oil surged and iron ore declined sharply, while copper saw an increase. Nickel and zinc also had a noteworthy week.

However, the unexpected news came from the sudden surge in oil drilling rig numbers in the US.

This marks the third time in the past four weeks that there has been an unexpected rise in rig numbers.

The numbers had been on the rise for a couple of weeks leading up to the first week of this month when they, along with gas rig numbers, dropped.

Yet, on Friday, Baker Hughes reported the largest increase in oil and gas rig numbers in six months.

In fact, Baker Hughes stated that the oil rig count rose to its highest in six months.

The report revealed that US oil rig numbers rose by six to 510 last week, reaching their highest since September, while gas rigs rose by one to 116. In late February, oil rig numbers hit their highest since November, now surpassing September's figures.

Despite this week's increase in rigs, Baker Hughes mentioned that the total count was still down by 125 rigs or 16.6% compared to this time last year. However, rig usage so far this year is up by 10 from the 500 figure at the end of 2023.

The news did not impact crude oil futures significantly, as they eased a touch on Friday but gained for the week.

US West Texas Intermediate crude for April fell by 22 cents, or 0.27%, settling at $US81.04 a barrel. May Brent lost 8 cents, or 0.09%, settling at $US85.34 a barrel.

WTI and Brent saw a rise of more than 3.5% last week.

The oil and gas rig count dropped by about 20% in 2023 after rising by 33% in 2022 and 67% in 2021, due to various factors including declining oil and gas prices, higher labor and equipment costs, and companies focusing on debt reduction and shareholder returns rather than output increase.

Several takeovers, mergers, cost-cutting measures, and consolidations have been announced for onshore US oil and gas areas in the past nine months.

WTI futures have seen a 13% increase so far in 2024 after a decline of 11% in 2023. US gas futures, however, are down about 33.7% so far in 2024 after plunging by 44% in 2023.

Despite lower prices, spending, and rig counts, US oil and gas output is still on track to reach record highs in 2024 and 2025, thanks to efficiency gains and completion of work on already drilled wells - and it seems like there's an inclination to drill a few more holes for 2024 and 2025.

As for gold, Comex gold for April delivery closed down $US6.00 to settle at $US2,161.50 per ounce. It dipped under $US2,160 in after-hours trading.

The metal's price dropped off from another record high early in the week following higher-than-expected US consumer price index and producer price inflation in February.

This resulted in a stronger US dollar and higher US Treasury bond rates, which affected gold. The metal fell by 1.3% for the week.

"Gold... remains resilient, holding onto most of its recent strong gains despite dollar and yield strength following stronger-than-expected CPI and PPI prints this week. Earlier this month, speculators amassed a major long position which is now being defended," Saxo Bank said in a note on Friday.

Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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