Oil falls as US inventories rise

US-China Phase One deal bolsters 2020 demand outlook


SINGAPORE/LONDON/NEW YORK: Oil prices fell on Wednesday after US industry data showed a surprise build up in crude inventories but losses were kept in check by expectations for an uptick in demand next year on the back of progress in resolving the US-China trade row.

Brent crude futures dropped 41 cents, or 0.6 per cent, to $65.69 a barrel by 0940 GMT on Wednesday. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 52 cents, or 0.9 per cent, to $60.42 per barrel.


Prices had risen more than 1 per cent in the previous session after the announcement last week of the so-called Phase One of a US-China trade deal, which lifted global economic prospects and improved the outlook for energy demand. “The sizzling oil market rally came to a grinding halt after an unexpected climb in the weekly US crude inventory report,” said Stephen Innes, market strategist at AxiTrader, although he said figures for stocks were “unlikely to be a game-changer.”

“Investors have transcended the trade deal-inspired relief rally euphoria, and are now banking on a fundamental demand-driven shift that could quicken the pace of the oil market rebalancing in the first quarter of 2020,” he said. US crude inventories climbed 4.7 million barrels in the week to December 13 to 452 million, compared with analysts’ expectations for a draw of 1.3 million barrels, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed.


Data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) is due later on Wednesday.

“As much as the API has taken the wind out of bulls’ sails, the lull in upside is expected to be short-lived. After all, recent positive developments have given oil fundamentals for next year a supportive shot in the arm,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.


Deeper production cuts coming from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, such as Russia, which make up a group known as Opec+, also continued to offer some support and prevented a further slide in prices. Opec+, which has cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) since January 1 this year, will make a further output cut of 500,000 bpd from January 1, 2020, to support the market.

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