​WTI drops to $52 as U.S. stockpiles rise while trade war hurts demand

Image: Joey Podlubny/JWN

Oil fell again on signs that U.S. crude inventories jumped last week, worrying investors that supplies are swelling at the same time a trade war is threatening demand.

Futures slipped as much as 1.7% in New York to under $53 a barrel, not far from the four-month low touched on Monday. The American Petroleum Institute reported U.S. crude stockpiles rose by 3.55 million barrels last week, according to people familiar with the data. That suggests government statistics due later Wednesday may show a bigger decline than the 2 million barrels analysts have predicted.

Oil is on the edge of a bear market after falling almost 20% from a peak in late April as an aggressive U.S. trade policy stokes fears the global economy is heading for a sharp slowdown. The price drop has also made it likely that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies will extend production curbs beyond June.

“Selling pressures are returning to the fore,” said Stephen Brennock, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd. in London. “Swelling U.S. oil inventories represent a major headache for those of a bullish disposition.”

WTI for July delivery fell 78 cents, or 1.5%, to $52.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 8:53 a.m. local time. As of Tuesday’s close, it had lost about 19% from a high reached on April 23.

Brent for August settlement dropped 45 cents, or 0.7%, to $61.52 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange, after climbing 69 cents on Tuesday. The global benchmark crude was trading at a premium of $8.65 to WTI for the same month.

The API data also showed a combined 9 million barrel increase in distillates and gasoline stockpiles. If the rise in U.S. crude inventories is confirmed by Energy Information Administration figures, that will be the third increase in four weeks.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.