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Brent slips below $103, narrows spread with WTI

* Brent/WTI spread settled under $10 on Thurs; 1st time since Jan 2012

* Global oil inventories tightened in March-April -EIA

* Syria’s possible use of chemical weapons stirs Gulf concerns

* Coming up: U.S. Q1 GDP advance data at 1230 GMT

By Florence Tan

SINGAPORE, April 26 (Reuters) – Brent crude eased below $103 a barrel on Friday after rising $3 in the past two sessions, with investors cautious over the tepid outlook for growth in the world’s two largest oil consumers, the United States and China.

Brent is set for its biggest weekly gain since November, but is still 7 percent off levels at the start of April after a string of disappointing data stoked fears of global economic slowdown.

Brent had slipped 44 cents to $102.97 a barrel by 0222 GMT, after touching a low of $102.89, while U.S. crude for June delivery stood at $93.32, down 32 cents.

“We’re going to see more caution in the commodities market in the coming week,” said ANZ analyst Natalie Rampono.

“We know what is happening in Europe but we’re uncertain about growth prospects in China and the U.S and that’s probably also why Brent is underperforming WTI (West Texas Intermediate).”

Brent’s premium to U.S. crude futuresĀ settled on Thursday at below $10 for the first time since January 2012.

Weak economic data from China and the euro zone have weighed on Brent, while better-than-expected U.S. data and the easing of a supply glut at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for U.S. crude futures, have buoyed the U.S. marker.

Technical charts showed that Brent is expected to retrace to $102.06 per barrel, as it faces resistance at $103.07, said Reuters market analyst Wang Tao.

U.S. crude is on track for its largest weekly rise since July 2012 and prices could climb further if first quarter GDP, due for release later on Friday, growth meets expectations.

Economists are expecting a 3.0 percent annualized pace of growth in the previous quarter, a Reuters survey showed.

“It’s quite a big jump and if it comes in line with expectations that will be supportive for markets,” ANZ’s Rampono said.

Oil was also supported by a tightening of global spare inventories over the last two months, according to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as well as by ongoing tensions in the Middle East.

Members of the U.S. Congress are calling for action on Syria after a report showed the likely use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.

“The Syria situation has been ongoing and the market has priced in to a certain extent,” Rampono said.

(Reporting by Florence Tan)

Source: Reuters

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