Oil falls but remains set for weekly gain on US-China diplomacy

CNBC

Reuters
Reusable: Idled oil drilling rigs North Dakota
Stacked rigs are seen along with other idled oil drilling equipment in Dickinson, North Dakota, June 26, 2015.
Andrew Cullen | Reuters

Oil prices fell on Friday as U.S.-China trade tensions continued to weigh on sentiment despite recent diplomatic progress.

Brent crude was down 94 cents, or 1.6%, at $60.01 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down $1.08, or 1.9%, at $55.22.

Brent is still set to register its fourth consecutive weekly gain while U.S. crude is on track for a second weekly rise.

Beijing and Washington on Thursday agreed to hold high-level talks in early October. The news cheered investors hoping for an end to a trade war that has brought tit-for-tat tariffs between the world’s two biggest economies, chipping away at economic growth.

The prolonged dispute has had a dampening effect on oil prices, though they have risen over the year thanks partly to production cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia to drain inventories.

However, analysts warn that market fundamentals remain bearish and depend heavily on a resolution to the U.S.-China trade saga.

“If trade tensions escalate further, oil demand growth may soften even more, requiring much lower prices,” UBS oil analyst Giovanni Staunovo said in a note analysing oil market trends for 2020.

“On the other hand, unexpected supply disruptions in the Middle East or a surprise production cut by OPEC and its allies may push oil prices higher.”

U.S. crude and product inventories fell last week, with crude drawing down for a third consecutive week despite a jump in imports, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.

Crude stocks dropped 4.8 million barrels, nearly double analyst expectations, to 423 million barrels, their lowest level since October last year.

Oil prices on Thursday soared more than 2% after the EIA report, though they gradually trimmed gains on investor doubts over the chances that the trade talks will yield results.

“There is still no getting away from lingering demand-side concerns,” said Stephen Brennock, of oil broker PVM.

“Consequently, any looming upside potential will be built on wobbly foundations so long as the U.S. and China continue to do battle on the trade front.”

In another sign of a possible global economic slowdown, data released on Friday showed German industrial output fell unexpectedly in July, putting Europe’s biggest economy at risk of falling into recession in the third quarter.

European markets slipped from one-month highs and the upbeat mood brought on by potential U.S.-China trade talks seemed to fade as markets awaited U.S. jobs data later on Friday.

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