Crude oil prices retreat in sell-off action

Prices pull back after a two-day rally put more than $3 per barrel on the price for Brent.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  March 22, 2018 at 9:51 AM
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March 22 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices retraced steps Thursday after two consecutive days of gains as traders cashed in with a focus on the Bank of England's static rate decision.

By Thursday morning, the price for Brent crude oil was up about 6 percent from the start of a week burdened by geopolitical risk and concerns of a trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday is expected to add to the pressure with an announcement on new multi-billion dollar tariffs on China.

Economists for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said last week the global economy is projected to grow by 3.9 percent for both this year and 2019. Acting Chief Economist Alvaro Pereira, however, added that an escalation of trade tensions would be damaging for growth and jobs.

The Bank of England said Thursday it was keeping its bank rate stable at 0.5 percent, saying it was necessary to sustain growth and employment. British gross domestic product is expected to accelerate by about 1.8 percent annually this year.

"The latest activity indicators suggest that the underlying pace of GDP growth in the first quarter of 2018 remains similar to that in the final quarter of 2017," the bank stated.

Fourth quarter GDP was revised lower to 0.4 percent, though the bank said export levels and investments painted a better picture for the British economy.

Crude oil prices jumped by as much as 3 percent in Wednesday trading after the U.S. Energy Information Administration confirmed a drain on U.S. crude oil inventories, suggesting the pace of demand was improving. Prices retreated early Thursday, however, in a sign of profit taking.

The price for Brent crude oil was down 0.83 percent to $68.89 per barrel as of 9:16 a.m. EST. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was down 0.72 percent to $64.70 per barrel.

In testimony before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said federal policies are meant "to build a better, fairer system of global trade that will lead to higher living standards for all Americans."

Steel and aluminum tariffs announced by the Trump administration were viewed as prohibitive by the upstream oil and gas sector, an industry he's trying to support. U.S. steel manufacturing targets the automotive industry, leaving energy infrastructure like pipelines dependent on foreign products.

The United States is on pace to become the largest oil producer in the world, surpassing Russia, later this year. That's balancing efforts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to drain the surplus on the five-year average in global crude oil stocks through coordinated production cuts. The OPEC effort counts Russia among the participants.

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