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Oil slips as demand fears outweigh strong U.S. stocks draw

Oil prices eased on Wednesday on concerns that U.S. fuel demand may not recover as quickly as expected amid stalled talks on an economic stimulus…

Oil prices eased on Wednesday on concerns that U.S. fuel demand may not recover as quickly as expected amid stalled talks on an economic stimulus package.

The stimulus package is overshadowing a bigger-than-expected drawdown in U.S. crude stocks.

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With investors keeping one eye on a key producer countries’ ministerial meeting later in the day, Brent crude futures fell 33 cents or 0.7 per cent to $45.13 a barrel by 0418 GMT, having edged up nine cents on Tuesday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 21 cents or 0.5 per cent at $42.68 a barrel, having ended unchanged the previous day.

“Demand concerns weighed on oil prices, with U.S. economic stimulus still nowhere in sight and U.S.-Sino trade talks being postponed,’’ said Hiroyuki Kikukawa, General Manager of research at Nissan Securities.

U.S. President Donald Trump, on Tuesday, said he postponed trade talks with China, adding that he does not want to talk to China right now.

“But losses were limited by positive news such as a drop in U.S. crude stocks,’’ Kikukawa said, predicting prices will stay within a tight range amid the mixed signals.

On the positive side, U.S. crude inventories fell by 4.3 million barrels to about 512 million barrels, more than analysts’ expectations for a 2.7 million-barrel drawdown, while gasoline stocks rose, industry data from the American Petroleum Institute showed after the markets closed on Tuesday.

Oil also gave ground due to the disconcerting increase in gasoline inventories, said Stephen Innes, Chief Global Market Strategist at AxiCorp.

“It’s challenging to make heads or tails out of the oil market these days,’’ he said in a note.

“The market is struggling to make new highs as demand concerns remain tethered to the hip of the coronavirus worries as OPEC returns more barrels to market this month.’’

Investors are keenly awaiting news from Wednesday’s meeting of a ministerial panel of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies including Russia, a grouping known as OPEC+, which is set to review adherence to a previously agreed deal on oil output cuts.

Compliance with the cuts stood at 95-97 per cent in July, according to OPEC+ sources and a draft report reviewed by Reuters on Monday.

Russian Energy Minister, Alexander Novak, is set to join the video meeting despite having tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

OPEC+ eased their cuts in August to 7.7 million barrels per day (bpd) from 9.7 million bpd previously. (Reuters/NAN)