Oil rally stalls as growth worries vex markets

LONDON: Oil’s rally stalled after six straight weekly gains as unnerving economic reports from Europe stoked investor concerns.

Futures hovered just below $64 a barrel in New York on Thursday and were down 0.4% for the holiday-shortened week. A surprise drop in a key gauge of private-sector activity in the euro-area fanned economic growth concerns while factory orders in Europe’s largest economy were lower than forecast.

Oil has climbed about 40% this year as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied producers curbed output. But uncertainty about the coalition’s ability to sustain output cuts and the impacts of US sanctions on Iran have muddied the outlook, even as fighting in Libya adds to supply threats.

“Volatility has been a lot more muted recently and we’ve kind of been stuck in this $1 range” for US oil prices, said Keybanc Capital Markets Inc. analyst Leo Mariani.

WTI for May delivery was 11 cents lower at $63.65 a barrel at 11:25 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent for June settlement gained 6 cents to $71.68 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The global benchmark price was at a premium of $7.99 to WTI for the same month. Oil markets in New York and London will be shuttered Friday ahead of the Easter holiday.

May could be a pivotal month for crude markets as the US decides whether to extend waivers allowing some countries to buy Iranian crude. Asian buyers were said to be putting purchases on hold while awaiting a White House decision.

A meeting of OPEC and its allies in Saudi Arabia next month, meanwhile, may provide clues on future production levels. ‘‘I think the rumblings out of Russians about their commitment or lack thereof to the OPEC+ deal this week really weighed on things,’’ said John Kilduff, founding partner at Again Capital.

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