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Oil down with market uncertain over US inflation, employment data

oil fuel gas station petrol
File photo

Oil prices ticked down in Asian trade on Friday as bullish sentiment about Chinese demand and potential Middle Eastern supply disruptions was tempered by uncertainty over US economic data to be released later in the day.

Brent futures, which have risen nearly 6 per cent this week, were down 33 cents, or -0.42 per cent, at $78.94 a barrel at 0630 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell by 22 cents, or -0.3 per cent, to $74.15, having gained about 8 per cent this week.

Markets are now waiting for US spending and inflation data on Friday and the resulting impact on the US dollar.

“The market may maintain its rebound if today’s US PCE offers positive signals to the markets that US inflation is expected to cool further,” said Tina Teng, an analyst at CMC Markets in Auckland.

“Disappointing data may cause concerns about Fed policy again and cap the recent gains,” she added.

Prices have ticked up this week over optimism surrounding China’s economic recovery. China’s manufacturing activity rose in March at a slower pace compared with a record-breaking expansion in February, but still exceeded expectations by economists in a Reuters poll.

Industrial activity in China has become a key determinant of prices in recent weeks after its ending of coronavirus-related restrictions, amid weaker global demand.

Oil prices are set to cap a second straight week of gains after the largest bank failure after the 2008 financial crisis spooked traders and roiled markets. Worries about a full-blown global banking crisis have abated after two banks, in the US and Europe, were rescued.

Prices rose more than 1 per cent on Thursday because of lower US crude stockpiles and a halt to exports from Iraq’s Kurdistan region, offseting pressure from a smaller-than-expected cut to Russian supplies.

Producers have shut in or reduced output at several oilfields in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq following a halt to the northern export pipeline. More outages are on the horizon.

The US Energy Information Administration said US crude oil stockpiles fell unexpectedly in the week to March 24 to a two-year low.

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