Oil set for biggest monthly fall since November as trade conflicts spread

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Reuters

KEY POINTS
  • Front-month Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $66.28 at 0311 GMT, down by 59 cents, or 0.9%, from last session’s close.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $56.08 per barrel, down 51 cents, or 0.9%, from their last settlement. WTI earlier marked its lowest since March 8 at $55.66 a barrel.
Reusable: Oil pump jack leased by Devon Energy 150922
A pump jack operates at a well site leased by Devon Energy Production Co. near Guthrie, Oklahoma.
Nick Oxford | Reuters

Oil prices fell on Friday and were on track for their biggest monthly fall since November as trade conflicts spread and U.S. crude output returned to record levels.

Front-month Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $66.28 at 0311 GMT, down by 59 cents, or 0.9%, from last session’s close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $56.08 per barrel, down 51 cents, or 0.9%, from their last settlement. WTI earlier marked its lowest since March 8 at $55.66 a barrel.

The drops mean that crude oil futures are on track for their biggest monthly loss since last November.

U.S. President Donald Trump ramped up trade tensions globally by vowing to slap tariffs on all goods from Mexico, firing up fears over economic growth and appetite for oil.

The Mexico trade dispute adds to a trade war between the United States and China, which many analysts expect to trigger a recession.

“All is not well with the economic world, at least according to bond and commodity traders,” Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at futures brokerage CMC Markets in Australia, wrote in a note published on Friday.

“These (price) moves signal deteriorating sentiment about the outlook for global growth,” he said.

US output back to record

Crude prices have also been under pressure from a much smaller-than expected decline in U.S. stockpiles and U.S. crude oil production’s return to its record 12.3 million barrels per day.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said U.S. crude stocks fell by around 300,000 barrels last week, to 476.49 million barrels.

That was much less than the 900,000-barrel decline analysts forecast in a Reuters poll and well below the 5.3 million-barrel drawdown the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, top oil exporter Saudi Arabia has raised production in May, a Reuters survey found, but not by enough to compensate for lower Iranianexports which collapsed after the United States tightened the screws on Tehran.

Washington will sanction any country which buys oil from Iran after the expiration of waivers on May 2, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said on Thursday.