Oil Slips on Cloudy US-China Trade Picture


Oil prices fell on Wednesday as worries about a possible delay in resolving the U.S.-China trade war, which has hurt global oil demand, competed with a price-supporting drop in United States crude inventories.

Brent crude fell 3 cents, or 0.05 per cent, to $61.56 a barrel by 12.32 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 22 cents, or 0.40 per cent, at $55.32 a barrel.

The United States and China were continuing to work on an interim trade agreement, but it may not be completed in time for US and Chinese leaders to sign it next month, a US administration official said.

“Selling came courtesy of the fading optimism over trade and a Fed rate cut. Risk assets were dealt a blow as market players worried that the US and China would delay settling their trade differences,” PVM analyst Stephen Brennock said.

However, US crude inventories fell by 708,000 barrels in the week ended October 25 to 436 million, compared with analysts’ expectations for an increase of 494,000 barrels, according to the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group.

Still, crude stocks at the delivery point for WTI at Cushing, Oklahoma were up 1.2 million barrels compared to the previous week, dragging on futures prices for the benchmark.

“Stocks at the WTI delivery hub have been trending higher since late September, which has put pressure on the prompt WTI time spreads, with the December/January spread this month having shifted from backwardation to a contango,” Dutch bank ING said in a note.

Investors are also awaiting the outcome of the Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting this week. The Fed looks set later on Wednesday to nudge along a US economy that is being hampered by slowing investment and weak growth overseas. It would be the third cut this year.

A rate cut would help support oil prices as a stronger economy typically implies higher demand for crude, while falling inventories suggest the market is coming into balance.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers including Russia have cut oil output since January to support prices.

The US government’s Energy Information Administration issues its weekly inventory report at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) on Wednesday. (Reuters/NAN)