Oil Set for Weekly Loss
(Bloomberg) -- Oil is poised for a second weekly drop after a larger-than-expected gain in American crude stockpiles eclipsed tensions between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of a prominent critic of the kingdom.
Futures in New York headed for a 3.4 percent loss this week as government data showed U.S. inventories grew by more than double what analysts had forecast. Prices were little changed on Friday after President Donald Trump said it “certainly looks” like missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead and warned of “very severe” consequences for the killing.
Also in oil markets, the front-month contract traded below the following month’s settlement in New York, flipping into negative territory this week in a condition known as contango. That signals oil traders are turning less optimistic on the near-term direction of the market.
The U.S. inventories data “was a complete shocker, sending oil markets spiraling lower,” said Stephen Innes, Singapore-based head of trading for Asia Pacific at Oanda Corp. “Price action and discovery suggests traders are no longer concerned about how high prices will go but rather how quickly they will fall. As for today, at least, the bid on dip mentality has run for cover.”
Crude’s rally has staggered since hitting a four-year high earlier this month as the growth in U.S. inventories for a fourth week added to concerns over the lingering trade war between America and China. In the midst of mounting tensions surrounding Saudi Arabia, data showed the world’s largest oil exporter boosted crude output in August as it sticks to its OPEC pledge to pump more.
West Texas Intermediate for November delivery traded 23 cents higher, or up 0.4 percent, at $68.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 7:32 a.m. in London. The contract declined 1.6 percent to $68.65 on Thursday. Total volume traded was about 25 percent below the 100-day average.
Brent for December settlement was at $79.60 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, up 31 cents. The contract fell 1 percent to $79.29 on Thursday, and is down 1.1 percent for the week. The global benchmark’s premium was at a $10.66 to WTI for the same month.
In the U.S., the Energy Information Administration said nationwide crude inventories rose by 6.49 million barrels last week, more than the 2.5 million-barrel increase predicted in a Bloomberg survey. Stockpiles have risen more than 22 million barrels over the past four weeks as domestic drillers ramp up production, while refineries halt operations for seasonal maintenance.
Front-month WTI crude futures traded 6 cents lower than those for December. The spread flipped into contango on Thursday for the first time since May.
While oil’s surge has subdued, the ongoing conflict between America and Saudi Arabia supported prices earlier this week. Trump told reporters Thursday that his administration is waiting for the result of investigations as it decides how to respond amid reports that U.S.-based journalist Khashoggi was ambushed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul more than two weeks ago.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also withdrew from an investment conference in Riyadh after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo briefed him and Trump following a hastily planned trip to Saudi Arabia and Turkey on Monday.
--With assistance from Tsuyoshi Inajima and David Marino.To contact the reporter on this story: Sharon Cho in Singapore at email@example.com To contact the editors responsible for this story: Pratish Narayanan at firstname.lastname@example.org Heesu Lee, Ovais Subhani
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