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Slower growth signs drag on oil prices

Amid higher oil prices for the year, the OECD signals there were signs of a slowdown in the world's advanced economies.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Crude oil prices turned lower early Wednesday after a report of slowdowns in the world's advanced economies. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/fac8a6c091b1010fddbf635d0cbaa894/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Crude oil prices turned lower early Wednesday after a report of slowdowns in the world's advanced economies. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

May 23 (UPI) -- A forecast of slower growth in the world's advanced economies and signs of a possible OPEC blink contributed to a downturn in crude oil prices early Wednesday.

The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, again flirted with $80 per barrel in the Tuesday session in response to increased U.S. pressure on Iran and Venezuela, both members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

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OPEC is in its second year of an effort to drain a surplus from the five-year average in crude oil inventories held by the world's advanced economies. That surplus is now largely gone, meaning any additional losses from countries such as Iran and Venezuela have dramatic market consequences.

Crude oil prices gave up most of their gains Tuesday, however, on signs of hiccups in U.S.-Chinese trade talks. Any trade tensions between the world's leading economies could have significant demand implications.

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Adding to the demand concerns was a Wednesday report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development that showed member-state growth in gross domestic product slowed for the third quarter in a row.

For Japan, one of the world's leading economies, GDP contracted by 0.2 percent. Only Italy reported growth among OECD member states.

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"Year-on-year GDP growth for the OECD area slowed marginally to 2.6 percent in the first quarter of 2018, compared with 2.7 percent in the previous quarter," the group's report read.

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The price for Brent crude oil was down 0.69 percent as of 9:15 a.m. EDT to $79.02 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was down 0.44 percent to $71.88 per barrel.

Negative pressure emerged late Tuesday when OPEC members said they would consider easing up on compliance with their production cut deal. Citing sources in the Middle East, energy reporting agency Argus reported that OPEC is taking a cautious approach to figuring out the implications of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

"So OPEC and non-OPEC (members) want to judge the situation to get a better picture of what is really going on," the source was quoted as saying. "But if there is a need to relax compliance, they will."

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Elsewhere, the American Petroleum Institute reported a mixed bag for petroleum inventories in the U.S. market. API data show crude oil inventories last week dropped by 1.3 million barrels, but gasoline inventories swelled by 980,000 barrels.

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Gasoline data could be indicative of a consumer reaction to higher retail gasoline prices. Markets will move later in the day when the U.S. Energy Information Administration releases its weekly data report. Deviance from API figures would swing the market in either direction.

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