Crude oil prices, Toronto stock market reach highest levels since summer 2015

TORONTO – The price of oil and Toronto’s main stock index both settled Wednesday at highs not seen in more than 15 months, buoyed by signs that Saudi Arabia foresees an end to the downturn in crude prices.

December contracts for crude, which are the most heavily traded, soared $1.20 to US$51.82 per barrel. The last time oil futures contracts hit such levels was on July 14, 2015, when they settled at US$53.04 per barrel.

The settlement price Wednesday was nearly double the lows seen earlier this year, when a barrel of crude settled at US$26.21 in mid-February.

“Definitely we’ve got a commodity-driven market today,” said Peggy Bowie, a senior equity trader at Manulife Asset Management.

Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Khalid Al-Falih, spoke at a conference Wednesday in London, where he said the balance between supply and demand is improving.

He said that situation is further strengthened by an OPEC agreement made several weeks ago in Algiers, Algeria, to trim production.

The 14 OPEC members, including Saudi Arabia, agreed to cut production to between 32.5 million and 33 million barrels per day — down from current levels of about 33.2 million barrels daily.

Details of the deal will be finalized during an OPEC meeting next month. Al-Falih said at the conference that many of his colleagues have been discussing production cut targets behind the scenes and some non-OPEC nations are showing a willingness to join those efforts.

That meeting will be closely watched, said Bowie, adding that often announced production targets are ignored.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration also released its weekly petroleum status report, showing a drop in production.

In the week ending last Friday, U.S. commercial crude inventories fell by 5.2 million barrels from the week before, according to the report.

The price of gold also received a lift with December gold contracts rising $7 to US$1,269.90 an ounce.

The energy and gold sectors both helped boost the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index by 88.24 points to 14,840.49 — its highest close since June 25, 2015, when it reached 14,897.50.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average advanced 40.68 points at 18,202.62, the S&P 500 index was up 4.69 points at 2,144.29, and the Nasdaq composite gained 2.57 points at 5,246.41.

The rise in oil prices wasn’t enough to lift the loonie, as the Canadian dollar fell 0.05 of a U.S. cent to 76.18 cents US.

Elsewhere in commodities, December copper contracts were relatively unchanged at US$2.10 a pound and November natural gas contracts fell 9.3 cents at US$3.17 per mmBTU.

— With files from the Associated Press

Follow @AleksSagan on Twitter.