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Markets

Oil drops on demand worries after US gasoline inventories swell

  • Brent crude futures fall $2.81 or 3.5% to $74.39 a barrel
  • US WTI crude futures drop by $2.74 or 3.8% to $69.58 a barrel
Published December 6, 2023
Photo: REUTERS
Photo: REUTERS

HOUSTON: Oil prices fell by 4% on Wednesday, and touched their lowest levels since June, as a larger-than-expected rise in U.S. gasoline inventories exacerbated worries about fuel demand.

Brent crude futures fell $2.81, or 3.5%, to $74.39 a barrel by 12:33 p.m. ET (1733 GMT).

U.S. WTI crude futures fell by $2.74 , or 3.8%, to $69.58 a barrel.

“There is demand destruction coming in from the fuel side. The market is more demand focused than supply focused right now,” Dennis Kissler, senior vice president of trading at BOK Financial.

Concerns over China’s economic health also weighed on prices, a day after rating agency Moody’s lowered the outlook on China’s A1 rating to negative from stable.

Putin lands in Abu Dhabi on Middle East visit

U.S. gasoline stocks rose by 5.4 million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration said, more than quintuple the 1 million-barrel rise that analysts had expected.

Crude inventories fell by 4.6 million barrels, far exceeding the 1.4 million-barrel drop analysts had expected.

Brent fell below $75 a barrel for the first time since early July. U.S. crude dipped below $70 for the first time since July. On Tuesday, both benchmarks settled at their lowest since July 6, a fourth straight session of losses.

OPEC+, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies such as Russia agreed late last week on voluntary output cuts of about 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first quarter of 2024. This week, Saudi and Russian officials said the cuts could be extended or deepened beyond March.

Oil falls on demand fears and doubts over OPEC+ cuts

On Wednesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin traveled to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to meet with the UAE’s President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Oil and OPEC+ were on the agenda.

In the U.S., a drop in exports caused the trade deficit to widen in October, which could drag economic growth in the fourth quarter.

“Clearly traders were already feeling bearish and now oil is back at a five-month low and heading for a fifth day of losses,” OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said.

The U.S. dollar also touched a two-week high, which pressures demand by making oil more expensive for holders of other currencies.

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