HOUSTON: Oil prices gained on Monday (Feb 26) as European diesel demand, constrained by Russian sanctions and shipping disruptions, pulled prices higher in a market jittery with US refinery output limited by planned overhauls, analysts said.

Brent crude futures settled with a gain of 91 cents, or 1.11%, at US$82.53 (RM394.24) a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures (WTI) finished up US$1.09, or 1.43%, at US$77.58 (RM370.59).

“We’re all watching the diesel,” said John Kilduff, partner with Again Capital LLC.

A slump in US refining activity and disruptions to global trade have tightened diesel supplies in recent weeks, dampening historically high US diesel exports to Europe this month.

US diesel cracks briefly surged to a four-month high of more than US$48 a barrel this month, crimping arbitrage opportunities to ship the fuel to Europe.

Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen narrowly missed hitting a US-flagged tanker on Saturday, the US Central Command said. Another vessel hit by the rebels last week was abandoned and has been seen leaking fuel in the Red Sea.

Possible disruptions “are what’s haunting this market”, Kilduff said.

While early trade on Monday was driven by fears about persistent inflation limiting demand, the focus moved to a more basic issue, said Phil Flynn, analyst and Price Futures Group.

“We seem to be slipping back to the supply side issue,” he said. “Demand is very strong and at the end of the day, it’s about supply and demand.”

Refiners are also expected to begin restoring production in March following the completion of planned plant overhauls at US refineries, he said.

US refinery utilisation has been at 80.6% of national capacity for the past two weeks, the US Energy Information Administration said last week.

Oil prices have been trading between US$70 and US$90 a barrel since November, as rising US supply and concern over weak Chinese demand offset Opec+ supply cuts despite wars raging in Ukraine and Gaza. – Reuters

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