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Oil ends up just slightly, awaiting U.S. inventory and inflation data

Oil ends up just slightly, awaiting U.S. inventory and inflation data
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By Barani Krishnan

Investing.com — Crude prices edged higher for a second straight day on Tuesday as traders awaited U.S. oil inventory data and a much-anticipated government report on inflation scheduled later in the week.

New York-traded West Texas Intermediate, or WTI, crude settled up 49 cents, or 0.7%, at $75.12 per barrel, after a session high at $75.92.  

London-traded Brent crude settled up 45 cents, or 0.6%, at $80.10, after an intraday high at $81.37. 

Both the U.S. and U.K. crude benchmarks fell more than 8% last week for their biggest weekly decline since Dec. 2, weighed by China’s coronavirus crisis and fears of a global recession. Beijing fully reopened its borders to international trade since the weekend to eliminate the last vestiges of the draconian COVID rules that shaped much of its social policies over the past three years.

“Oil seems like it wants to waver right now until we get a better handle on China’s COVID surge,” Ed Moya, analyst at online trading platform OANDA, said. “As China battles an unprecedented surge in Covid cases, everyone wants to see if travel continues to rebound.”

Demand for oil in China typically rises each year after the Lunar New Year, which, this year, is due at the end of January. But with Beijing pivoting from a COVID-zero to a “COVID-anything” policy, there’s no telling yet how its oil demand will fare. Data last week showed Chinese manufacturing activity shrank for a fifth straight month in December, as the country grappled with an unprecedented spike in coronavirus cases.

Despite this, Beijing is pressing forth with enthusiasm on its reopening, with officials saying they expected about 2 billion trips domestically during the Lunar New Year season, nearly double last year’s and 70% of 2019 levels.

Market participants are awaiting the release of the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, report, due on Thursday.

The CPI grew at a rate of 7.1% during the year to November, slowing from a four-decade high of 9.1% during the 12 months to June. 

It is expected to have slowed even further to 6.5% during the year to December, according to the consensus of Wall Street and economists polled by the media. In line with those expectations, the Federal Reserve is eyeing a 25-basis point rate hike for its policy meeting concluding on Feb. 1, a climb down from the 50-bp hike in December and four back-to-back 75-bp increases between June and November.

The chances for the Fed to slow rates further are relatively high, with Investing.com’s Fed Rate Monitor tool assigning an 84.4% probability for a 25-bp hike in February. The last time the central bank had such a low rate hike was in March 2022, when it kicked off its series of rate hikes to curb runaway inflation in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic that broke out in 2020.

Traders are also on the lookout for U.S. weekly oil inventory data, due after market settlement from the American Petroleum Institute, or API.

The API will release at approximately 16:30 ET (21:30 GMT) a snapshot of closing balances on U.S. crude, gasoline and distillates for the week ended Jan. 6. The numbers serve as a precursor to official inventory data on the same due from the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday.

For last week, analysts tracked by Investing.com expect the EIA to report a crude stockpile drop of 2.243 million barrels, versus the 1.694-M barrel build reported during the week to Dec. 30.

On the gasoline inventory front, the consensus is for a rise of 1.186M barrels over the 346,000-barrel decline in the previous week.

With distillate stockpiles, the expectation is for a drop of 472,000 barrels versus the prior week’s deficit of 1.427M barrels.

Source: Investing.com

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