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Oil slips on signs of build-up in supplies

If confirmed, expectations from Platts on a slight increase in U.S. crude oil inventories would break a long streak of a drain on the surplus.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
Crude oil prices pull further away from recent highs on the possibility of the first gain in U.S. crude oil inventories this year. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
Crude oil prices pull further away from recent highs on the possibility of the first gain in U.S. crude oil inventories this year. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices continued to pull back from recent highs Tuesday on signs that supply-side pressures were catching up with much-watched inventory metrics.

Crude oil prices reversed their long march upward on Monday following reports of hundreds of thousands of new Canadian barrels of oil flowing on the market from a project run by Suncor and French energy major Total. North American energy markets have been accelerating on the back of higher crude oil prices and Monday's announcement followed reports of increased exploration and production activity in Canada and the United States.

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Oil prices got a jolt in the arm last week on a weaker U.S. dollar, whose strength has an inverse relationship with commodities. That pressure eased last week, however, when U.S. President Donald Trump talked up the importance of a strong greenback.

Traders shifted focus back to data on the levels of oil and gasoline in storage in the United States, the world's leading economy. The American Petroleum Institute reports industry data after the market closes on Tuesday. Ahead of that, commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts said its survey of analysts revealed a slight gain of 325,000 barrels was expected.

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"If confirmed, that would snap the streak of consecutive declines, but fall short of the average 6.5-million-barrel increase seen for the same reporting period from 2013-17," the emailed report read.

In a tightened market, a few hundred thousand barrels makes a difference. The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, was down 0.43 percent as of 9:10 a.m. EST to $68.90 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was down 0.95 percent to $64.94 per barrel.

Phil Flynn, the senior market analyst for the PRICE Futures Group in Chicago, said he remained optimistic in general, but said the "first crude oil supply build this year" could be pulling the price of oil back from the $70 threshold, though there was a general positive sentiment building throughout the U.S. economy.

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U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen leads her final meetings for the Federal Open Market Committee before Jerome Powell takes over. Meetings begin Tuesday, with a final statement expected late Wednesday afternoon.

U.S. gross domestic product slipped during the fourth quarter, but continued to show acceleration. In the European Union, data show GPD increased for both the 19 countries that use the euro and all 28 members during the fourth quarter.

"Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, seasonally adjusted GDP rose by 2.7 percent in the euro area and by 2.6 percent in the EU 28 in the fourth quarter of 2017, after a gain of 2.8 percent in both zones in the previous quarter," the EU's statistics office stated.

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The U.S. Commerce Department reported Friday that fourth quarter GDP grew at an annual rate of 2.6 percent, against 3.2 percent for the third quarter.

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