WTI falls below $60 on rising U.S. inventories and trade tension

Oil in New York fell below $60 a barrel for the first time since March after a surprise jump in American crude inventories alleviated concerns over a supply crunch, while fears of a full-blown trade war between the U.S. and China weighed on the outlook for demand.

Futures fell as much as 2.4% in New York, and in London Brent crude fell below $70 a barrel. American stockpiles rose by 4.7 million barrels last week to the highest level since mid-2017, despite expectations for a decline, while fuel inventories also climbed. Global equities weakened after the White House was considering cutting off the flow of vital U.S. technology to five Chinese surveillance companies.

Oil is on course for its first monthly loss this year after a dramatic escalation in the trade dispute between the world’s two biggest economies jeopardized the outlook for global growth. While there’s no shortage of supply risks -- including the possibility that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will extend its output curbs or that rising tension in the Middle East will disrupt energy flows -- swelling U.S. stockpiles are mitigating those concerns.

“Neither renewed Middle East tensions nor the possibility of extending OPEC+ output cuts has managed to bump crude oil from its tight range,” said Ole Sloth Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank A/S in Copenhagen. “Worries about the impact of the trade war on global economic growth as well as a stubbornly strong dollar” are capping prices.

West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery fell $1.39 to $60.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 1:29 p.m. London time. Earlier it slipped to $60.79, the lowest since May 14. The contract dropped 2.7% on Wednesday, the biggest drop in almost three weeks.

Brent for July settlement declined $1.76 to $69.23 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. It’s the first time the contract has fallen below $70 since May 14. The global benchmark crude was at a $9.40 premium to WTI.

Along with the increase in U.S. crude inventories, Energy Information Administration data released Wednesday showed gasoline and distillate stockpiles also defied forecasts to rise last week. American crude production climbed by 100,000 barrels a day to 12.2 million barrels a day, near the record-high reached last month.

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