Oil prices fall on China economy worries, but output cuts support

Madiha Shakeel December 14, 2018

SINGAPORE: Oil prices dipped on Friday amid concerns over slowing economic growth in China and as investors cashed in on gains of over 2 percent from the previous session, although supply cuts agreed last week by major crude producers offered some support.

International benchmark Brent crude oil futures were at $60.97 per barrel at 0740 GMT, down 48 cents, or 0.8 percent, from their last close. Brent is set for a drop of around 1 percent this week

China, the world’s No.2 economy and the largest crude importer, on Friday reported some of its slowest growth in retail sales and industrial output in years, highlighting the risks of the country’s trade dispute with the United States.

Chinese November oil refinery throughput fell from October, which was the second-highest month on record, suggesting an easing in oil demand, though runs were 2.9 percent above levels a year earlier.

“For the time being until the OPEC cuts start kicking in, the market is oversupplied in the short-term,” said Tony Nunan, oil risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo.

“If China is slowing down that’s definitely a concern, but the bright side is demand still remains relatively decent.”

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52.21 per barrel, down 37 cents, or 0.7 percent, from their settlement.

WTI’s current range suggests a buildup in market momentum, said Michael McCarthy, chief markets strategist at CMC markets.

“For WTI, a move down to $50 or a move up to $54 would give us a direction for the coming period. I’m biased towards the upside because of the shifts we’re seeing in both supply and demand scenarios.”

Supporting prices, the International Energy Agency said on Thursday that it expected a deficit in oil supply to materialise by the second quarter of next year, provided OPEC members and other key producers stick to last week’s deal to cut output.

“The OPEC cuts will have a substantial impact on 1Q19 balances compared with this quarter, but market observers may need to wait for the cuts to percolate to inventory data,” Barclays analyst Michael Cohen said in a note.

As part of the agreement, de facto OPEC leader Saudi Arabia plans to reduce its output to 10.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in January.

The Paris-based IEA kept its 2019 forecast for global oil demand growth at 1.4 million bpd, unchanged from its projection last month, and said it expected growth of 1.3 million bpd this year.

“Our market balance looks 0.5 million barrels per day (mb/d) tighter next year on reduced OPEC supply, such that the surplus is just 0.2 mb/d. Yet macro risks loom large,” Cohen said.

Copyright Reuters, 2018

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