Oil slips on economic worries, but still set for strong weekly gain

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  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures slipped.
  • Despite Friday’s price falls, Brent and WTI are set for weekly gains of more than 7 and 8 percent respectively.

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 slipped on Friday amid concerns over the outlook for the global economy, but output cuts agreed by major exporters underpinned crude prices and kept markets on track for a strong weekly climb.

International Brent crude futures were at $61.55 per barrel at 0333 GMT, down 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dropped 7 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $52.52 per barrel.

Traders said the declines came on lingering concerns over the health of the global economy.

“If we experience an economic slowdown, crude will underperform due to its correlation to growth,” said Hue Frame, portfolio manager at Frame Funds in Sydney.

Most analysts have downgraded their global economic growth forecasts below 3 percent for 2019, with some even fearing a looming recession amid trade disputes and spiralling debt.

For now, however, there is hope that the trade war between Washington and Beijing may be resolved as global markets, including oil, took heart from talks between the two sides this week.

Despite Friday’s price falls, Brent and WTI are set for weekly gains of more than 7 and 8 percent respectively.

Beyond global economics, oil markets are receiving support from supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) aimed at reining in a glut that emerged in the second-half of 2018.

A key reason for the emerging glut was the United States where crude oil production soared by more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2018 to a record 11.7 million bpd.

Consultancy JBC Energy this week said it was likely that U.S. crude oil production was already “significantly above 12 million bpd” by January 2019.

Given the overall supply and demand balance, Swiss bank Julius Baer said it was “price neutral” in its oil forecast.

“We see the oil market as well balanced into the foreseeable future, as the petro-nations make space for further U.S. shale production growth,” said Norbert Ruecker, head of commodity research at the bank.

Oil rises on US-China trade talks, supply cuts

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  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures gained more than 1 percent.
  • Financial markets were being lifted on Monday on expectations that face-to-face trade negotiations between delegates from Washington and Beijing, due to start on Monday, would lead to an easing in tensions between the two biggest economies in the world.

Oil refinery and storage Australia

Jason Reed | Reuters

Oil prices rose by more than 1 percent on Monday, lifted by optimism that talks could soon resolve the trade war between the United States and China, while supply cuts by major producers also supported the market.

Brent crude futures were at $57.75 per barrel at 0404 GMT, up 69 cents, or 1.2 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $48.67 per barrel, up 71 cents, or 1.5 percent.

Financial markets were riding a relief rally on Monday on expectations that face-to-face trade negotiations between delegates from Washington and Beijing, due to start on Monday, would lead to an easing in tensions between the two biggest economies in the world.

The United States and Beijing have been locked in an escalating trade spat since early 2018, raising import tariffs on each other’s goods. The dispute has weighed on economic growth.

Goldman Sachs said in a note on Monday it had downgraded its average Brent crude oil forecast for 2019 from $70 per barrel to $62.50 a barrel because of “the strongest macro headwinds since 2015.”

J.P. Morgan, another U.S. bank, said in a note late last week that “the 3 percent global growth pace we have been anticipating for the next two quarters looks increasingly challenging.

The bank also said that “bond and commodity markets appear to be pricing in on average close to a 60 percent chance of a U.S. recession over the coming year compared to a 40 percent chance by our economists and 27 percent chance by the consensus.”

Despite the likelihood of a slowdown, crude future prices were being supported by supply cuts started late last year by a group of producers around the Middle East-dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as non-OPEC Russia.

OPEC oil supply fell in December by 460,000 barrels per day (bpd), to 32.68 million bpd, a Reuters survey found last week, led by cuts from top exporter Saudi Arabia.

Potentially undermining OPEC’s efforts is swelling U.S. oil supply.

U.S. crude oil production stayed at a record 11.7 million bpd in the last week of 2018, according to weekly data by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released on Friday.

That makes the United States the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Record output is also swelling U.S. fuel stockpiles.

Crude oil inventories rose by 7,000 barrels in the week ending Dec. 28, to 441.42 million barrels.

Distillate and gasoline stocks, however, rose by a whopping 9.5 million and 6.9 million barrels, to 119.9 million and 240 million barrels respectively, the EIA data showed.

“The U.S. supply glut remains a bearish concern,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.

US oil prices rebound after tumbling to lowest since June 2017 on economy fears

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  • U.S. crude futures gained 0.68 percent, at $42.82 per barrel, at 0355 GMT.
  • Meanwhile, Brent crude oil futures slipped 0.22 percent at $50.36 per barrel.
  • Both Brent and U.S. crude futures plunged to their weakest levels in more than a year in the previous session.

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Andrew Burton | Getty Images

Oil prices were mixed in thin trading on Wednesday as the U.S. benchmark rebounded from steep losses in the previous session, even though concern over the health of the global economy continued to overshadow the market in the longer term.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures, were up 29 cents, or 0.68 percent, at $42.82 per barrel, at 0355 GMT, having at one point risen as high as 2 percent from the last close. They had slumped 6.7 percent in the previous session to $42.53 a barrel – the lowest since June 2017.

Meanwhile Brent crude oil futures were down 11 cents or 0.22 percent at $50.36 a barrel, having skidded 6.2 percent in the previous session to $50.47 a barrel, the weakest since August 2017.

“$50 is a psychological support level (for Brent),” said Margaret Yang, market analyst for CMC Markets in Singapore.

“But market confidence needs to be restored for oil price…that include an equity market rebound and/or a bigger production cut from major oil exporters,” Yang said, referring to an OPEC-led agreement to lower output from next month.

Broader financial markets have been under pressure on worries about a global economic slowdown amid higher U.S. interest rates and the U.S.-China trade dispute.

“U.S. equity futures are trading a bit firmer this morning triggering some little buying interest in the oil markets,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.

But Innes added macroeconomics fears will continue unless the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) “reassures markets the viability of their supply cuts and even impose deeper ones as some members have suggested”. OPEC and allies led by Russia agreed this month to cut oil production by 1.2 million barrels per day from January.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Tuesday that oil prices would become more stable in the first half of 2019, supported by OPEC and non-OPEC countries’ joint efforts to cut output.

Elsewhere, U.S. political turmoil triggered by the partial shutdown of the federal government is also adding to market concerns. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that shutdown could last until his demand for U.S.-Mexico border wall money is met.

Oil strengthens ahead of G20 meeting, but supply rise caps gains

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  • Oil prices ticked higher on Thursday on optimism that trade talks at the G20 meeting could aid the global economy and improve the demand outlook, while an increase in U.S. crude inventories to their highest in a year curbed gains.
  • U.S. crude futures rose 38 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $50.67 per barrel by 0338 GMT. The market ended the previous session down 2.5 percent at $50.29 a barrel, after hitting the lowest since early October last year.
  • International benchmark Brent crude rose 27 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $59.03 a barrel, having dropped 2.4 percent on Wednesday to $58.76 a barrel.

Oil prices ticked higher on Thursday on optimism that trade talks at the G20 meeting could aid the global economy and improve the demand outlook, while an increase in U.S. crude inventories to their highest in a year curbed gains.

U.S. crude futures rose 38 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $50.67 per barrel by 0338 GMT. The market ended the previous session down 2.5 percent at $50.29 a barrel, after hitting the lowest since early October last year.

International benchmark Brent crude rose 27 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $59.03 a barrel, having dropped 2.4 percent on Wednesday to $58.76 a barrel.

Both markets rose more than 1 percent in early Asian trade.

“We have seen huge increases in supply and the demand picture is in question. However, we might see some movement on global trade issues at the G20 meeting which starts on Friday,” said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets and Stockbroking.

“I think we are seeing some positioning ahead of those potential demand-positive events.”

Investors in commodity markets are looking ahead to the meeting of leaders of the Group of 20 nations (G20), the world’s biggest economies, on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, with the U.S.-China trade war at the top of the agenda.

U.S. President Donald Trump is open to a trade deal with China but is also prepared to hike tariffs on imports from the country if there is no breakthrough on longstanding trade issues during a dinner on Saturday with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Tuesday.

Xi said China will widen market access for foreign investors and step up protection of intellectual property rights.

Meanwhile, rising supplies are keeping a lid on prices.

U.S. crude inventories for the week to Nov. 23 added 3.6 million barrels to the most in a year at 450 million barrels, exceeding expectations, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

“WTI oil is now trading right around the $50 per barrel level, a price last seen well over a year ago, as the current oversupply situation has now manifested itself in 10 consecutive weekly increases in U.S. oil inventories,” said William O’Loughlin, Investment Analyst at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC members will meet in Vienna, Austria on Dec. 6 to discuss a new round of production cuts of 1 million to 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) and possibly more, OPEC delegates told Reuters earlier this month.

Oil prices edge up, but set for weekly loss on stock build, trade row

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  • The U.S. crude futures and Brent crude futures contracts both increased on Friday but were on track for a second consecutive weekly decline.

Oil prices nudged higher on Friday on signs of surging demand in China, the world’s second-biggest oil user, though prices are set to fall for a second week amid concerns of the ongoing Sino-U.S. trade war is limiting overall economic activity.

Brent crude oil futures were trading at $79.51 per barrel at 0521 GMT, up 22 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 19 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $68.84 a barrel.

For the week, Brent crude was 1.1 percent lower while WTI futures were down 3.5 percent, putting both on track for a second consecutive weekly decline.

Refinery throughput in China, the world’s second-largest oil importer, rose to a record high of 12.49 million barrels per day (bpd) in September as some independent plants restarted operations after prolonged shutdowns over summer to shore up inventories, government data showed on Friday.

The refinery consumption may rise through the fourth quarter as several state-owned Chinese refiners return to service after maintenance.

Undermining the strong refinery data, China did on Friday report its weakest economic growth since 2009 in the third quarter, with gross domestic product expanding by only 6.5 percent, missing estimates.

The weak economic data raised concerns that the country’s trade war with United States is beginning to have an impact on growth, which may limit China’s oil demand.

The trade war concerns combined with surging U.S. oil stockpiles reported on Thursday are capping the day’s price gains.

U.S. crude stocks last week climbed 6.5 million barrels, the fourth straight weekly build, almost triple the amount analysts had forecast, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

“EIA Weekly Petroleum Status Report was a complete shocker sending Oil markets spiralling lower amidst some concerning development for oil bulls,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading APAC at OANDA in Singapore.

Inventories rose sharply even as U.S. crude production slipped 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 10.9 million bpd last week due to the effects of offshore facilities closing temporarily for Hurricane Michael.

Meanwhile, Iranian oil exports may have increased in October when compared to the previous month as buyers rush to lift more cargoes ahead of looming U.S. sanctions that kick in on Nov. 4.

An unprecedented volume of Iranian crude oil is set to arrive at China’s northeast Dalian port this month and in early November before U.S. sanctions on Iran take effect, according to an Iranian shipping source and data on Refinitiv Eikon.

So far, a total of 22 million barrels of Iranian crude oil loaded on supertankers owned by the National Iranian Tanker Co (NITC) are expected to arrive at Dalian in October and November, the data showed. Dalian typically receives between 1 million and 3 million barrels of Iranian oil each month, according to data that dates back to January 2015.