Oil Endures Stormy Week
(Bloomberg) -- Oil struggled to sustain a rally as prices continued to get whipsawed by fears over the health of the global economy and OPEC’s progress in averting a market glut.
Futures in New York retreated nearly 1 percent on Friday, paring their advance for the week to about 0.7 percent. Concerns over demand is keeping investors wary, with the European Central Bank cutting its economic forecasts, China reducing its goal for expansion and the OECD lowering its global outlook over the past few days. However, global crude producers are showing unusual discipline in curbing output that risks exacerbating a supply squeeze.
The lingering concerns over growth have put a dampener on an oil rally that’s lifted prices over 30 percent since Christmas Eve, with a long-running U.S.-China trade war also contributing to uncertainty. A U.S. jobs report due Friday will provide more clues on the health of the economy. Meanwhile, American sanctions on Iran and Venezuela are curbing their output at a time when Saudi Arabia is leading voluntary supply cuts by a coalition of producers.
“Oil prices have been moving in a pretty tight range this week,” said Howie Lee, a Singapore-based economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. “U.S. payroll data due tonight and an OPEC monthly report next week have the potential to move the oil market in a deeper manner than we have seen this entire week. Also, markets are yet to fully price in the optimism about a U.S.-China trade agreement.”
West Texas Intermediate for April delivery declined as much as 60 cents to $56.06 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was trading at $56.15 a barrel at 3:32 p.m. in Singapore. Prices are up 36 cents this week, after slumping $1.46 in the previous one.
Brent for May settlement was down 66 cents at $65.64 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Prices have gained about 0.9 percent for the week. The global benchmark crude’s premium over WTI for the same month narrowed to $9.12 a barrel.
The ECB cut its euro-area growth forecast for the year by the most since the advent of its quantitative-easing program four years ago. Still, some of its policy makers thought the outlook was too optimistic. Earlier this week, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development had slashed its estimate for world economic growth to 3.3 percent in 2019, downgrading almost every Group of 20 nation’s economy.
Meanwhile, reflecting the economic toll of the ongoing trade war, China’s exports fell in February and imports weakened as well, according to customs data. Days earlier, the world’s biggest oil importer had lowered its economic growth target for the year. The U.S. payroll report due Friday will probably show wages shot up and the jobless rate fell, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will release its production estimates and demand outlook in a monthly market report on Thursday. Output from the 14 members of the group fell by 560,000 barrels a day in February, according to a Bloomberg survey of officials, analysts and ship-tracking data.
“Worries over global economic growth prospects continue to be a big cap on oil prices,” said Vandana Hari, founder of Vanda Insights, a Singapore-based provider of oil market analysis. OPEC’s monthly report will “help shape market sentiment next week, with the market paying particular attention to any changes in global demand-growth forecasts.”
--With assistance from James Thornhill.To contact the reporter on this story: Saket Sundria in Singapore at firstname.lastname@example.org To contact the editors responsible for this story: Pratish Narayanan at email@example.com Ovais Subhani
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