Oil gains despite mounting US-China trade tensions

Reuters Tokyo | Updated on May 10, 2019 Published on May 10, 2019

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Higher US tariffs kick in on some Chinese goods

Oil prices rose on Friday despite the start of U.S. President Donald Trump's tariff hike on $200 billion of Chinese goods, stoking the trade dispute between the world's two biggest economies.

China on Friday said it “deeply regrets” the U.S. move, adding that it would take necessary countermeasures, without elaborating.

Prices were supported by tighter supply amid ongoing production cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela.

The Brent crude oil benchmark was at $70.73 a barrel at 0643 GMT, up 34 cents, or 0.5%, from its last close, after rising as far as $71.23 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 39 cents at $62.09 per barrel, having earlier hit $62.49 a barrel.

Brent is down slightly on the week, on course for its second weekly loss, while U.S. crude is set for a weekly gain of 0.2% in what would be its first gain in three weeks.

Growing trade between the world's two largest oil consumers could impact oil demand. The two countries combined to make up 34 per cent of global oil consumption in the first quarter of 2019, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

“(Still) crude prices are likely to be supported on geopolitical risks,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at futures brokerage OANDA.

“We could see the Iran situation be the biggest bullish catalyst for oil prices,” he said. “With the ending of the U.S. sanction waivers becoming effective this month, Iranian shipments are falling sharply.”

The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in November after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and six world powers last year, although it allowed Tehran's biggest buyers to continuing buying some crude oil via waivers for another six months.

But those exemptions ended at the beginning of May, as Washington aims to cut Iran's oil exports to zero.

Meanwhile, efforts by OPEC to crimp supply to reduce global inventories have also supported prices.

Markets have been buoyed further by expectations oil demand will rise in 2019. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects global appetite for oil to rise by 1.4 million barrels per day this year.

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Published on May 10, 2019
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