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Oil falls on uncertainty over fuel demand recovery

oil rises fuel gas prices

Oil prices fell on Friday as investors worried that weakening global economic growth and tighter central bank monetary policy could curb a recovery in fuel demand.

Brent futures for July fell 59 cents, or 0.53 per cent, to $111.45 a barrel by 0648 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for June fell 56 cents, or 0.5 per cent, to $111.65 on its last day as the front-month.

The more actively traded WTI contract for July was down 0.8 per cent at $109.01 a barrel.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged Asian economies to be mindful of spillover risks from monetary tightening.

Asian economies faced a choice between supporting growth with more stimulus and withdrawing it to stabilise debt and inflation, IMF Deputy Managing Director Kenji Okamura said.

While Bank of Japan policy runs counter to a global shift towards monetary tightening, central banks in the United States, Britain and Australia raised interest rates recently.

Crude gains have been limited this week, with Brent and WTI mostly trading in a range due to the uncertain path of demand. Investors, worried about rising inflation and more aggressive action from central banks, have been reducing exposure to riskier assets.

Open interest in WTI futures fell to 1.722 million contracts on May 18, the lowest since July 2016.

“If US growth data continues to sour, oil prices could get caught up in the negative stock market feedback loop,” SPI Asset Management Managing Director Stephen Innes said in a client note.

In the United States, Americans were getting back behind the wheel, despite higher fuel prices, according to a report from the Federal Highway Administration on vehicle miles.

On the gasoline supply side, South Korea’s third-largest refiner S-Oil halted production at its No. 2 alkylation unit and related processes at its Onsan refinery due to a blast.

The shutdown following Thursday night’s blast that killed one person is expected to affect already tight gasoline supplies in Asia.

Citi analysts expect S-Oil’s gasoline output to be “severely impacted” in the near term, although it could buy alkylate to maintain production.

Iran, meanwhile, is having a tougher time selling its crude now that more Russian barrels are available.

Iran’s crude exports to China have fallen sharply since the start of the Ukraine war as Beijing favoured heavily discounted Russian barrels, leaving almost 40 million barrels of Iranian oil stored on tankers at sea in Asia and seeking buyers.

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