Oil prices fall on worries fuel demand to stall amid slowing global growth

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  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures slipped from their last settlement.

Oil tanker

Jean-Paul Pelissier | Reuters

Oil prices declined on Thursday amid lingering concerns over slowing global economic growth that may limit fuel demand and after a surprise build in U.S. crude inventories.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $60.89 a barrel at 0352 GMT, down 25 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last settlement, having closed down 0.6 percent in the previous session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52.40 per barrel, 22 cents lower from their last settlement.

“Crude oil came under further pressure as concerns of faltering global growth remained at the forefront in investor’s minds,” ANZ Bank said.

The prospects of future oil demand are getting clouded by the global growth worries, analysts said.

“With the IMF downgrading 2019/20 and the continued rhetoric from Davos reiterating that they expect global growth to slow down over the next two years, is providing selling pressure in oil,” said Hue Frame, portfolio manager at Frame Funds in Sydney.

Earlier this week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its world economic growth forecasts for 2019 and 2020, due to weakness in Europe and some emerging markets.

Meanwhile, world leaders and top executives are meeting in Davos, Switzerland, this week to discuss how to steer policy amid worries of slowing economic growth, damaging trade wars and Brexit.

Oil market sentiment was also weakened by an increase in U.S. crude inventories after refineries cut output, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed on Wednesday.

Crude inventories rose by 6.6 million barrels in the week ended Jan. 18 to 443.6 million, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 42,000 barrels, the API said. Refinery runs fell by 152,000 barrels per day.

“Sharp production cuts by OPEC+ have kept crude oil futures supported however as market reports indicate for a marked output reduction in Dec 2018,” said Benjamin Lu, analyst at Phillip Futures.

“Though oil prices have demonstrated for higher upside potential in the first quarter of 2019, mounting economic challenges will continue to impede exponential gains in the longer term,” Lu added.

Oil steady on hopes Chinese fiscal stimulus will stem economic slowdown

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  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures were mostly firm.
  • Chinese finance ministry officials said on Wednesday that the government would step up fiscal spending this year to support its economy.

A truck used to carry sand for fracking is washed in a truck stop in Odessa, Texas.

Getty Images
A truck used to carry sand for fracking is washed in a truck stop in Odessa, Texas.

Oil prices were steady on Wednesday on hopes that increased Chinese spending would stem an economic slowdown that is showing signs of spreading and has been weighing on financial markets.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $61.49 per barrel at 0314 GMT, virtually unchanged from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52.98 per barrel, 3 cents below their last settlement.

The steadier prices followed a 2-percent fall in crude futures and a slump in international financial markets on Tuesday as concerns over global growth spooked investors into looking for safe-haven assets such as government bonds or gold.

Japan on Wednesday reported that its December 2018 exports fell by 3.8 percent, the most in more than two years, dragged down by plummeting shipments to China and wider Asia as weak global demand and U.S.-Sino trade frictions take their toll on the trade-reliant economy.

A widespread economic slowdown is expected to also dent growth in demand for fuel, weighing on energy prices.

Steen Jakobsen, chief economist at Denmark’s Saxo Bank, said in a first quarter 2019 outlook that “the global economy is suffering”, but added that China’s government will do all it can for stability.

Chinese finance ministry officials said on Wednesday that the government would step up fiscal spending this year to support its economy.

Another key support would be for the United States and China to find a solution to their bitter trade dispute, Jakobsen said, but to prevent a sharp economic slowdown, a solution needs to show itself before Feb. 5, the Lunar New Year.

Should a deal be reached by then, “we will see powerful support for the Chinese economy”, he said, as well as the launch of strong stimulus programs to keep the economy growing.

Despite this, Jakobsen warned that stimulus programs could not keep the economy going forever, and there was a large risk of another downturn in 2020.

Providing oil prices with support in 2019 have been production cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), aimed at reining in an emerging supply overhang.

Whether OPEC’s efforts will be successful will also depend on the development of oil production in the United States, where crude output jumped by 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2018 to an unprecedented 11.9 million bpd.

The boom was largely fueled by onshore shale oil drilling. And while the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Tuesday that it expected shale output to rise further, it said that production growth would slow in the coming years.

Oil prices edge down as global growth worries threaten demand

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  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures slipped.
  • The International Monetary Fund trimmed its global growth forecasts on Monday.

Oil pumpjacks in the Permian Basin oil field are getting to work as crude oil prices gain.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images
Oil pumpjacks in the Permian Basin oil field are getting to work as crude oil prices gain.

Oil prices edged lower on Tuesday as concerns over global economic growth stoked fears over future demand.

International Brent crude oil futures were down 10 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $62.64 by 0106 GMT. They closed down 0.1 percent on Monday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $53.70 per barrel, down 0.1 percent, or 4 cents.

“Trade war concerns have reduced global growth expectations and with it comes a lower demand for energy,” said Alfonso Esparza, senior analyst, OANDA.

The International Monetary Fund trimmed its global growth forecasts on Monday and a survey showed increasing pessimism among business chiefs, highlighting the challenges facing policymakers as they tackle an array of actual or potential crises, from the U.S.-China trade war to Brexit.

Also clouding the outlook was data showing a slowdown in growth in China, the world’s second biggest economy.

However, oil prices were offered some support in the wake of recent data that indicated major exporters were beginning to curtail production.

In the United States, energy services firm Baker Hughes said that energy companies cut the number of rigs drilling for oil by 21 last week, the biggest decline in three years and taking the count down to the lowest since May, 2018 at 852.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)on Friday published a list of oil output cuts by its members and other major producers for the six months to June, an effort to boost confidence in a move designed to avoid a supply glut in 2019.

Oil firms as China’s economic slowdown was not as big as some expected

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  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures saw gains.
  • In an expected cooling, China’s economy grew by 6.6 percent in 2018, its slowest expansion in 28 years and down from a revised 6.8 percent in 2017, official data showed on Monday.

Oil tanker

Jean-Paul Pelissier | Reuters

Oil prices firmed on Monday after data showed China’s economic slowdown was not as big as some analysts had expected, with supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries also offering support.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $62.83 per barrel at 0259, up 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $53.92 a barrel, up 12 cents, or 0.2 percent.

Both oil price benchmarks had dipped into the red earlier in the session on fears that China’s 2018 economic growth figures would be weaker.

In an expected cooling, China’s economy grew by 6.6 percent in 2018, its slowest expansion in 28 years and down from a revised 6.8 percent in 2017, official data showed on Monday. China’s September-December 2018 growth was at 6.4 percent, down from 6.5 percent in the previous quarter.

Although the slowdown was in line with expectations and not as sharp as some analysts had expected, the cooling of the world’s number two economy casts a shadow over global growth.

“The global outlook remains murky, despite emerging positives from a dovish Fed (now boosting U.S. mortgage applications), faster China easing (China credit growth stabilizing) and a more durable U.S.-China truce,” U.S. bank J.P. Morgan said in a note.

Despite this, analysts said supply cuts led by OPEC would likely support crude oil prices.

“Brent can remain above $60 per barrel on OPEC+ compliance, expiry of Iran waivers and slower U.S. output growth,” J.P. Morgan said.

It recommended investors should “stay long” crude oil.

Researchers at Bernstein Energy said the supply cuts led by OPEC “will move the market back into supply deficit” for most of 2019 and that “this should allow oil prices to rise to U.S. $70 per barrel before year-end from current levels of U.S.$60 per barrel.”

In the United States, energy firms cut 21 oil rigs in the week to Jan. 18, taking the total count down to 852, the lowest since May 2018, energy services firm Baker Hughes said in a weekly report on Friday.

It was biggest decline since February 2016, as drillers reacted to the 40 percent plunge in U.S. crude prices late last year.

However, U.S. crude oil production still rose by more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2018, to a record 11.9 million bpd.

With the rig count stalling, last year’s growth rate is unlikely to be repeated in 2019, although most analysts expect annual production to average well over 12 million bpd, making the United States the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Record U.S. crude production weighs on oil prices

CNBC

  • Oil prices dipped on Thursday as U.S. crude production quickly approached an unprecedented 12 million barrels per day (bpd) just as worries about weakening demand emerge.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52 per barrel at 0140 GMT, down 31 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their last settlement.
  • International Brent crude oil futures were down 34 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $60.98 per barrel.

Men work for Iraqi Drilling Company at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, Iraq,

Essam Al-Sudani | Reuters
Men work for Iraqi Drilling Company at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, Iraq,

Oil prices dipped on Thursday as U.S. crude production quickly approached an unprecedented 12 million barrels per day (bpd) just as worries about weakening demand emerge.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52 per barrel at 0140 GMT, down 31 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their last settlement.

International Brent crude oil futures were down 34 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $60.98 per barrel.

American crude oil production reached a record 11.9 million bpd in the week ending Jan. 11, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday, up from 11.7 million bpd last week, which was already the highest national output in the world.

U.S. output has soared by 2.4 million bpd since January 2018, stoking fears of a supply glut.

The EIA also said gasoline stockpiles climbed 7.5 million barrels last week, far exceeding analyst expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.8 million-barrel gain. At 255.6 million barrels, gasoline stocks were at their highest weekly level since February, 2017.

“While (U.S. crude) inventories fell slightly more than expected, there was a large build in gasoline inventories. This stoked fears of weak demand in the U.S.,” ANZ Bank said in a note.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 3.0 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.6 million-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.

U.S. exports surge, OPEC cuts

Along with the surge in U.S. crude output, exports from the United States are also rising, hitting a record 3.2 million bpd by the end of last year.

“Crude oil exports from the U.S. have strongly increased during the last few years and the trend is expected to remain positive,” shipping brokerage Banchero Costa said in a note.

Norbert Ruecker, head of commodity research at Swiss Julius Baer, said “the United States is moving forward towards energy independence and is set to become a petroleum net exporter next year thanks to rising shale output”.

Soaring U.S. supply comes amid concerns over stuttering demand-growth due to a global economic slowdown, which some analysts believe will turn into a recession.

To stem a lurking petroleum glut, the Middle East-dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producer Russia are leading efforts to cut supply.

This has prevented crude prices from falling much lower despite softening demand and the surge in U.S. output.