Oil steady ahead of OPEC meeting, pressured by China tariffs

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Oil prices steadied on Monday ahead of an OPEC meeting that is widely anticipated to increase global crude supply and as investors assessed the impact of a trade conflict between the United States and China.

U.S. light crude oil CLc1 hit a two-month low of $63.59 a barrel before recovering to trade at $64.76, down 30 cents, by 0950 GMT. North Sea Brent LCOc1, meanwhile, was up 60 cents at $74.04 a barrel.

Brent hit a 3-1/2-year high above $80 a barrel in May but has since fallen on reports that top suppliers Saudi Arabia and Russia will increase production.

“Oil prices have sold off over the past three weeks on concerns over higher OPEC production,” said U.S. bank Goldman Sachs on Monday, adding that weaker demand from emerging economies and the escalating trade dispute, as well as rising inventories had further weighed on prices.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, de facto led by Saudi Arabia, and some allies including Russia have been withholding output since the start of 2017.

They will meet in Vienna on June 22 to decide forward production policy, with Russia and Saudi Arabia pushing for higher output.

All oil market eyes are now focused on OPEC, Commerzbank commodities analyst Carsten Fritsch said:

“That production will be increased in the second half of the year is considered certain – the only question is by how much.”

Despite this, Goldman Sachs said “the oil market remains in deficit … requiring higher core OPEC and Russia production to avoid a stock-out by year-end”.

The bank said it expected OPEC and Russian output to rise by 1 million barrels per day (bpd) by year-end and by another 0.5 million bpd in the first half of 2019.

Adding extra pressure is a trade dispute between the United States and other major powers.

U.S. President Donald Trump last week pushed ahead with tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports, starting on July 6.

China retaliated by imposing import duties on U.S. products, including crude oil.

Benjamin Lu of brokerage Phillip Futures said Beijing’s retaliation had spooked oil investors: “These punitive measures on bilateral trade have unnerved investors as it hurts global economic growth.”

U.S. bank Morgan Stanley said in a note to clients that the trade spat meant that economic “downside risks have risen”.

U.S. oil exports have boomed in the last two years as shale oil production has surged, with China becoming one of the biggest buyers.

Source: Reuters