Oil steadies after Friday’s falls, but trade dispute weighs

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—Photo by Reuters


SINGAPORE: Oil markets stabilized on Monday after slumping around 2 percent last Friday on the back of concerns of an intensifying trade dispute between the United States and China, as well as increased U.S. drilling activity.

U.S. WTI crude futures CLc1 were at $62.24 a barrel at 0230 GMT, up 18 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their previous settlement.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 were at $67.33 per barrel, up 22 cents, or 0.3 percent.

Oil prices fell about 2 percent on Friday after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened new tariffs on China, reigniting fears of a trade war between the world’s two largest economies that could hurt global growth.
With Chinese markets closed last Thursday and Friday, Shanghai crude futures ISCc1 played catch-up on Monday, dropping 0.6 percent to around 400 yuan ($63.43) per barrel.

“While it’s possible an escalating trade war could dent global growth sentiment, the real fear is that China, if pushed hard enough, could slap a tax on U.S. oil imported into China,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage OANDA in Singapore.

Beyond crude prices, analysts said an extended trade spat between China and the United States would also hurt oil servicing companies, which have only recently started recovering from years of crisis as the industry deferred spending on new production due to low prices.

“For an oil and gas industry looking to rebound in a higher oil price environment, these tariffs necessitate monitoring. More specifically, oilfield service companies must now take pause,” said Matthew Fitzsimmons, vice president for oilfield service research at consultancy Rystad Energy.

In physical oil markets, OPEC’s number two producer Iraq said on Monday that it is keeping prices for its crude supplies in May steady.

In the United States, drillers added 11 rigs looking for new production in the week to April 6, bringing the total count to 808, the highest level since March 2015, General Electric’s (GE.N) Baker Hughes energy services firm said on Friday.

As a result, U.S. exports have soared in recent months, “more than offsetting the Venezuelan supply disruption” as a result of the economic crisis in the South American OPEC-member, Innes said.

Despite this, oil prices have generally been supported by healthy demand as well as by supply restraint led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which started in 2017 in order to rein in oversupply and prop up prices. —Reuters

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