July 26 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices were relatively unchanged Thursday ahead of the start of U.S. trading on concerns that easing trade and supply tensions may be fading.
U.S. President Donald Trump eased back on his tough trade policy in a joint press conference Wednesday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker by announcing both sides would work to eliminate trade barriers.
That comes after the president was considering strict measures on auto imports, and after imposing duties on imported aluminum and steel.
The implied easing of trade tensions would add confidence in a global economy the International Monetary Fund said may be handicapped by protectionism. On Wednesday, further support for the price of oil emerged when Saudi Arabia announced a temporary halt to oil shipments through the key Bab El-Mandeb waterway after two of its crude oil carriers were attacked in the Red Sea by the Houthi militia in Yemen.
But Ole Hansen, the head of commodity strategy at Danish investment firm Saxo Bank, said in response to questions from UPI the market wasn't moving on news headlines.
"The trade war truce is minor as long it fails to involve China while the shipping halt reminds us that a geopolitical event is never far away in the oil market," he said. "Overall support remains given the belief that the current overhang of supply from recent ramp up from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates will be temporarily considering what awaits when sanctions against Iran begin to bite."
Crude oil prices lacked direction ahead of the start of U.S. trading. The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, was up 0.18 percent as of 9:20 a.m. EDT to $74.06 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was down 0.04 percent to $69.27 per barrel.
Juncker during a speech late Wednesday at the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies said there were still concerns about U.S. trade policy, but those concerns may be fading.
"We will always keep dialogue open -- with this administration and with all of our partners in the United States," he said. "And I strongly believe that instead of being distracted by measures and counter-measures, we should focus on the real issues in global trade, of which there are many."
U.S. trade policies are impacting the U.S. energy sector, and tariffs on steel make oil and gas infrastructure more expensive. The chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, told UPI the president should consider the broader implications of his actions.
For the broader economy, the U.S. Commerce Department reported new orders for manufactured durable goods increased 1 percent in June, showing the sector wasn't slowed much by trade policies.
"This increase, up following two consecutive monthly decreases, followed a 0.3 percent May decrease," Thursday's report read.