Oil set for weekly decline as economic woes eclipse OPEC curbs

Image: Brian Zinchuk, Pipeline News

Oil is set for the biggest weekly decline since May as global demand concerns outweighed an OPEC+ pact to extend supply curbs into 2020 and worries that a renewed confrontation with Iran may threaten supplies.

Futures are down in New York from Wednesday’s close as anxieties over demand resurfaced this week following sluggish economic numbers from the U.S. to China. The bleak figures emphasize the market OPEC and its allies face as their supply action and the seizure of a tanker carrying Iranian crude to Syria by British special forces on Thursday failed to spur prices.

Oil slumped 4.8 per cent on Tuesday for its worst decline following a meeting by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in four years. The cartel’s decision to prolong curbs leaves the door open for U.S. shale producers to grab more market share, as the group will have to cut deeper to achieve inventory targets, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. American crude output resumed gains last week after dropping since the start of June, from a record high.

“If the state of the economy does not improve, demand alone is not likely to be able to slice potentially growing inventories,” Michael Poulsen, an analyst at Global Risk Management A/S wrote in a report. “The Middle East tensions are also potentially bullish for oil prices and any new development in the area could spur fears of oil disruptions.”

West Texas Intermediate oil for August delivery dropped 61 cents, or 1.1 per cent, from Wednesday’s settlement to $56.73/bbl on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 11:01 a.m. in London. There was no settlement Thursday due to a holiday in the U.S. and all transactions will be booked Friday. Prices are down three per cent so far this week.

Brent for September rose 24 cents to $63.54/bbl on the ICE Futures Europe Exchange. Futures are down 1.8 per cent this week. The global benchmark crude traded at a $6.66 premium to WTI for the same month.

Iran said the seizure of the tanker off Gibraltar was illegal and summoned the British ambassador to the Foreign Ministry in Tehran to explain. The diplomatic row heightened tensions just as the U.K., France and Germany try to keep the Islamic Republic from walking away from an international deal to prevent the country developing nuclear weapons.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney this week warned of dangers from rising protectionism around the world and said there could be a “widespread slowdown” that may require a major economic-policy response. In the U.S., a gauge of factory activity fell to the weakest level since October 2016, while the Caixin China PMI Manufacturing measure dipped below 50 for the first time in four months.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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