Oil is headed for a third weekly drop, the longest run of declines this year, on concerns over weaker US gasoline demand and a global slowdown.
West Texas Intermediate was little changed above $96 a barrel in early Asian trading, with the benchmark more than 1% lower this week after swinging in a $10 range. US gasoline futures are on course for their fourth weekly loss after data showed rising stockpiles and stalling consumption, while average retail pump prices have dropped for 37 days straight to Wednesday.
While crude remains more than a quarter higher this year, the bulk of the gains triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have been reversed. Central banks including the Federal Reserve — which meets next week to set policy — have been raising interest rates to quell inflation, triggering concerns of a slowdown that’ll sap commodity demand. That’s hurt investor interest in raw materials.
The retracement in oil and gasoline prices will be welcome news for US President Joe Biden, who earlier this year ordered a massive release of crude from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Still, Biden’s efforts to get oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia to pump more have met with little success.
WTI for September delivery was 5 cents higher at $96.40 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 8:25 a.m. in Singapore.
Brent for September settlement rose 0.2% to $104.07 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange.
In a phone call on Thursday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed continued cooperation within OPEC+, the broad group that comprises the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies. “It was emphasised that a further coordination within OPEC+ is important,” according to a statement from the Kremlin.
To ramp up the pressure against Russia, the US is aiming to get an agreement on a price cap for the country’s crude. The market hasn’t yet priced in the impact of European Union sanctions aimed at Russian supplies, which adds impetus to the price-cap plan, a US Treasury Department official said.