Oil prices steady, trade deal and US inventories eyed

Reuters SINGAPORE | Updated on January 14, 2020 Published on January 14, 2020

Oil prices steadied on Tuesday, after recent declines, as investors focused on the signing of a preliminary trade deal between the US and China, the world's top oil consumers, and on expectations of a drawdown in US stockpiles.

However, price gains were capped by receding West Asian Middle East tensions, with both Tehran and Washington desisting from any further escalation after this month's clashes.

Brent crude was up 2 cents at $64.22 per barrel by 0738 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 4 cents at $58.04 a barrel. The benchmarks lost about 5 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively, last week.

“Oil prices are modestly rebounding, following four days of intense selling,” Edward Moya, analyst at brokerage OANDA, said pointing to trade-deal optimism and fading concerns over the US-Iran conflict.

“Oil prices are tentatively rebounding after seller exhaustion kicked in as investors await the next developments on the trade front and as earnings season begins.”

Oil prices were supported ahead of the signing at the White House on Wednesday of a Phase 1 US-China trade deal, which marks a major step in ending a dispute that has cut global growth and dented demand for oil.

China has pledged to buy more than $50 billion in energy supplies from the US over the next two years, according to a source briefed on a trade deal.

Still, with traders already pricing in the signing of the deal, there is more downside risk to prices, said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

“Regardless whether the deal is signed, we might have a buy the rumours, sell the fact scenario unfolding,” he added.

Separately, US crude oil inventories were expected to have fallen last week, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday.

The poll was conducted ahead of reports from the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group, and the Energy Information Administration, an agency of the US Department of Energy.

China's crude oil imports in 2019 surged 9.5 per cent from a year earlier, setting a record for a 17th straight year, as demand growth from refineries built last year propelled purchases by the world's top importer, data showed on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia's energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said his country will work for oil market stability at a time of heightened US-Iranian tension and wants to see sustainable prices and demand growth.

Oil prices surged to their highest in almost four months after a US drone strike killed an Iranian commander on January 3 and Iran retaliated with missiles launched against US bases in Iraq. But they slumped again as Washington and Tehran retreated from the brink of direct conflict last week.

Prince Abdulaziz said it was too early to talk about whether the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, would continue with production curbs set to expire in March.


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Published on January 14, 2020
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